Coccinia sessilifolia (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Coccinia sessilifolia (Sond.) Cogn.


Protologue: A.DC., Monogr. phan. 3: 534 (1881).
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 24

Synonyms

  • Cephalandra sessilifolia Sond. (1862).

Vernacular names

  • Wild cucumber, red gherkin (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Coccinia sessilifolia occurs in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.

Uses

The fruit of Coccinia sessilifolia is eaten both raw as well as boiled. The ripe fruit tastes sweetish but insipid. The unripe boiled fruit is similar to asparagus in texture and flavour. The root weighs up to 25 kg and is eaten raw, boiled or roasted. It is tasteless and fibrous. Several authors claim that the roots are toxic but at least in the Kalahari desert there are non-toxic plants.

Properties

The fruits contain per 100 g: water 82.3 g, energy 256 kJ (61 kcal), protein 2.1 g, fat 0.2 g, carbohydrate 13 g, fibre 1.3 g, Ca 38 mg, Mg 2 mg, P 24 mg, Fe 0.2 mg, thiamin 0.19 mg, riboflavin 0.13 mg, ascorbic acid 25 mg.

The roots contain per 100 g: water 84 g, energy 197 kJ (47 kcal), protein 1.0 g, fat 0.1 g, carbohydrate 11 g, fibre 2.7 g, Ca 351 mg, Mg 60 mg, P 40 mg, Fe 2.2 mg, thiamin 0.02 mg, riboflavin 0.01 mg, niacin 0.28 mg, ascorbic acid 6.7 mg (Arnold, T.H., Wells, M.J. & Wehmeyer, A.S., 1985). Nutritionally the roots compare favourably with carrot, potato and turnip.

Description

  • Dioecious, prostrate or scandent herb with deep perennial, fleshy root and annual stems; tendrils simple.
  • Leaves alternate, simple, sessile, amplexicaul; blade ovate, 3–9 cm × 4–13 cm, deeply palmately 3–5-lobed, cordate at base, lobes elliptical to lanceolate.
  • Flowers 5-merous, corolla pale yellow, sometimes tinged pink, lobes 2–3 cm × 1–1.5 cm, united to above middle; male flowers solitary or in small, pedunculate, axillary clusters or racemes with solitary flower at base, receptacle campanulate, 4–5.5 mm long, sepals up to 5 mm long, lanceolate, stamens 3; female flowers solitary, pedicel up to 1.5 cm long, receptacle narrowly campanulate, 3 mm long, sepals 3–4.5 mm long.
  • Fruit an ellipsoid-fusiform or cylindrical berry 5.5–10.5 cm × 2–2.5 cm, bright red when ripe, many-seeded.
  • Seeds asymmetrically ovoid, compressed, 6.5–7 mm × 3–3.5 mm × 1.4 mm.

Coccinia is placed in the tribe Benincaseae and comprises about 30 species. The genus is confined to tropical Africa, with the exception of Coccinia grandis (L.) Voigt (ivy gourd), which extends throughout the paleotropics.

The fruits of Coccinia sessilifolia ripen from December to February and perish fairly rapidly.

Ecology

Coccinia sessilifolia occurs in dry wooded grassland.

Management

Fruits and roots of Coccinia sessilifolia are exclusively collected from wild plants.

Genetic resources

Coccinia sessilifolia has a limited distribution but seems fairly common within its range and therefore is not likely to be threatened in the near future. Nothing is known about its genetic variation.

Prospects

In southern Africa Coccinia sessilifolia is considered a good candidate for domestication. Tranfer of genes for breeding of the economically more important species Coccinia grandis is possible.

Major references

  • Arnold, T.H., Wells, M.J. & Wehmeyer, A.S., 1985. Khoisan food plants: taxa with potential for future economic exploitation. In: Wickens, G.E., Goodin, J.R. & Field, D.V. (Editors). Plants for arid lands. Proceedings of the Kew international conference on economic plants for arid lands. Allen & Unwin, London, United Kingdom. pp. 69–86.
  • Jeffrey, C., 1978. Cucurbitaceae. In: Launert, E. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 4. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, London, United Kingdom. pp. 414–499.
  • Story, R., 1958. Some plants used by the bushmen in obtaining food and water. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa No 30. 113 pp.
  • van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.

Other references

  • Watt, J.M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G., 1962. The medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. 2nd Edition. E. and S. Livingstone, London, United Kingdom. 1457 pp.

Author(s)

  • C.H. Bosch, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Bosch, C.H., 2004. Coccinia sessilifolia (Sond.) Cogn. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands.

Accessed 26 September 2022.