But in laboratories in Shanghai and Hong Kong, scientists are poring over this cusped, wrinkly flower the size of an avocado, from which they hope to develop a new drug to treat irregular heartbeat, or atrial fibrillation, a serious disease that raises the risk of stroke.
In the quest for better and newer drugs, scientists in China are re-examining traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) -- roots and herbs that have been used for thousands of years -- to find and reproduce the active ingredients so they may be made into drugs that can be easily manufactured and consumed.
But unlike many Chinese drugmakers who already sell TCMs in powders and capsules, scientists are going a step further by putting these experimental medicines through rigorous clinical tests so that they may find wider acceptance globally.
"This flower has been used for thousands of years in Xinjiang, Tibet and India to treat a range of illnesses...For the Chinese, it was used for 'disorderly heartbeat,'" said Li Guirong, a cardiology professor at the University of Hong Kong.
"I have worked eight years on this. Our aim is to return an irregular heart rhythm to normalcy...with a drug that has fewer side effects," he said.
As Beijing shifts its growth engine to cleaner hi-tech industries, committing $1.7 trillion over the next five years to nurture them, Chinese scientists are enjoying unprecedented government support and access to funding to design better drugs and diagnostic tools for chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
Backed by government funding, Li and colleagues at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica began studying eight years ago the Tian Shan Xue Lian, or Herba Saussureae Involucratae, which thrives 3,000 meters above sea level in the Tibetan highlands.
They extracted its key ingredient, acacetin, created its synthetic twin and found success in experiments on dogs with atrial fibrillation.
While TCM has been used for thousands of years, it is far less understood and accepted outside of China. By subjecting TCM-derived compounds to clinical trials, experts hope to prove their efficacy and sell them into foreign markets.