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Origin and Habitat: Cyphostemma adenocaule is widespread in tropical Africa from Senegal east to Eritrea and south to Angola, Malawi and Mozambique. The plant is commonly cultivated in Ethiopia.
Altitude range: 35–1000(-2650) metres above sea level.
Habitat and ecology: This species is wide-spread in the savanna regions of tropical Africa and is also found in bushland, thickets, grassland with or without scattered trees, in rainy and gallery forests, secondary forest, sandy river-banks, granitic rocks and abandoned cultivations as well.
- Cyphostemma adenocaule (Steud. ex A.Rich.) Desc. ex Wild & R.B.Drumm.
Cyphostemma adenocaule (Steud. ex A.Rich.) Desc. ex Wild & R.B.Drumm.
Fl. Zambes. 2: 473 1966
- Cyphostemma adenocaule (Steud. ex A.Rich.) Desc. ex Wild & R.B.Drumm.
- Cissus adenocaulis var. articulata Kuntze
- Cyphostemma adenocaule var. chiovendae Lanza
- Cyphostemma adenocaule var. eglandulosum (Dewit) Desc.
- Cyphostemma adenocaule var. pubescens (Dewit) Desc.
- Cyphostemma loandense (Gilg & M.Brandt) Desc.
- Cissus loandensis Gilg & M.Brandt
- Cyphostemma pubescens var. eglanduloso-pubescens (Dewit) Desc.
- Cyphostemma serjanioides (Planch.) Desc.
- Cissus serjanioides Planch.
Cyphostemma adenocaule subs. pulverulentum Verdc.
Fl. Trop. Afr. [Oliver et al.] 1993
SWAHILI ( Kiswahili): Mwengele, Mwengere, Mwenjere
Description: Cyphostemma adenocaule is a herbaceous climber with annual stem thrown up from a large fleshy perennial rootstock (caudex) with slightly fleshy 5-foliolate leaves and branched tendril. Flowers are yellow green and red. Cyphostemma adenocaule is an extremely variable species, varying from glabrous to densely pubescent and from non-glandular to densely glandular. Several varieties of this species have been described by Dewit varying in the amount of indumentum and the presence or absence of glandular hairs. The plant is a popular vegetable in parts of Africa, where it is commonly harvested from the wild for local use. It is also used medicinally and is the source of a fibre, insecticide and construction material.
Rootock (caudex): Tuberous up to approx 20 centimetres in diameter.
Similar species: Sterile plants closely resemble Cayratia gracilis, but the stipules are caducous in the latter.
Annual stems: Slender, herbaceous, succulent, basal parts sometimes ± woody, glabrous or glabrescent but usually with a few scattered short glandular hairs up to (1.5-)3-6(-7.5) m long, scrambling, straggling, trailing, creeping, or climbing into the surrounding vegetation where they support themselves by means of tendrils.
Leaves: Alternate, pedately 5-7(-11)- foliolate, indumentum as for stems. Stipules ovate to oblong-ovate, up to 6-10 mm long, to 5 mm wide, sometimes falcate, glabrous with puberulous marginsoften red, persistent. Petiole 1-5.5(-9.5) cm long. Leaflets-lamina up to 10(15.5) cm long, 3-5(-7) cm wide, elliptical, ovate or broadly ovate, base cuneate to cordate, the median ones largest, cuneate to cordate at the base, apex acuminate or acute, margin serrate, glabrous or sparsely puberulous on both sides.
Tendrils: Leaf-opposed, long, slender and branched.
Inflorescences (corymbose cymes): Irregular, lax, 2-15 cm long. Peduncle 1–10 cm. long, puberulous. Pedicels 1–4 mm long,elongating up to 10 mm in fruit, densely puberulous. Bracts and bracteoles 1–2 mm. long, subulate, pubescent.
Flowers: Bisexual, 4-merous. Flower-bud 2-4.5 mm long, cylindric, swollen at the apex, slightly constricted at the middle, broadening to the base, puberulous. Calyx entire 0.5-1.5 mm wide. Petals narrowly oblong-triangular, usually greenish-yellow, 2.2-4 mm long, glabrous to pubescent.. Ovary densely pubescent; style up to 3 mm. long; stigma minutely capitate.
Fruits (berries): Fleshy 6–8(–11) mm long, 4–6(–7) mm in diameter, usually deflexed, red to purplish black, 2-4-seeded puberulous or glabrescent.
Seeds: Ellipsoid to ovoid, very slightly reniform, up to 4–7(–8) mm long 3–6 mm broad, ventral ridge elevated, dorsal ridges obscure, transversal radial ridges sometimes evident, faintly tuberculate, often densely spiny or tuberculate.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) G. J. H. Grubben “Vegetables” PROTA, 2004
2) Umberto Quattrocchi “CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology” (5 Volume Set) CRC Press, 03/May/2012
3) Brian Morris “Wildlife and Landscapes in Malawi: Selected Essays on Natural History” Trafford Publishing, 2009
4) Burkill, H.M. “The useful plants of west tropical Africa” Vol 5 1985
5) H. Wild and R. B. Drummond “Flora Zambesiaca” 1966
6) M. Thulin “Flora Somalia” Vol 2, 1999 [updated by M. Thulin 2008]
7) Useful Tropical Plants Database 2012 by Ken Fern, web interface by Ajna Fern with help from Richard Morris. <http://tropical.theferns.info>. Downloaded on 01 August 2014
8) Gordon Rowley “Caudiciform and Pachycaul Succulents: Pachycauls, Bottle-,Barrel-And Elephant-Trees and Their Kin a Collector's Miscellany” Strawberry Press. June 1st 1987
9) Werner Rauh “The Wonderful World of Succulents: Cultivation and Description of Selected Succulent Plants Other Than Cacti” Smithsonian Institution Press, 1984
Cultivation and Propagation: Cyphostemma adenocaule is one of the smaller-growing adenias that creates an dense shrub if not manicured. It should make an interesting addition to a collection. It is suited to greenhouse culture, but does well out of doors outdoors in frost-free climates. It doesn't like a wet winter, but will survive.
Growth rate: It grows well, though very slowly, but it possible to increase the speed of growth to some extent by providing adequate amount of water, warmth, and fertilizer during the active growing season, but it’s susceptible to rotting if too wet.
Exposure: It needs Full sun to light shade, but the caudex should be in the shade, while the leaves prefer the sun. Avoid direct blasting sun in summer.
Soil: It needs a a rich, very well drained potting medium (add pumice, vulcanite, and perlite).
Waterings: It should be watered plentifully in Summer and kept drier in Winter. This species like all pachycaul succulent species of Cyphostemma, is sensitive to excess moisture, and should be kept on the dry side. It rot easily and do NOT like a lot of water when it has no leaves.
Frost tolerance: Due to its African origin keep warm in winter, the minimum safe average temperature is 12°C, although it can go lower for short periods. It can be grown outdoors in frost-free climates, need anyway to kept above 2°C and dry in winter. Can't stand any frost.
Manteinance: Repot every two years. It like pots with generous drain holes. Once this plant is established in its new pot, it should be cut back in height to encourage branching, to maintain an attractive shape and to ensure caudex habit. If pruned and kept somewhat pot bound, it can be maintained at a manageable size, depending on what ''manageable size'' means to you.
Uses: The leaves and fruits of Cyphostemma adenocaule are commonly eaten as a vegetable or in soup in Ghana, Congo, Kenya and Uganda. In Uganda the leaves are boiled with beans, pigeon peas, cowpeas, groundnut or sesame. Both fruits and leaves have an acid, slightly acrid taste. The fruit is eaten raw in Cote d'Ivoire and Tanzania. The boiled roots are eaten in Ethiopia, and in Uganda sliced, dried and pounded roots are stored for famine periods. There are many medicinal uses recorded for Cyphostemma adenocaule.
Propagation: The plants for decoration are grown from seed since they develop a perfect caudex. The seeds that must be prepared, aged and scarified, and even then germination is uncertain (cuttings are possible, but don't generally produce a caudex).
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