Acalypha bipartita (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Acalypha bipartita Müll.Arg.

Protologue: Flora 47: 538 (1864).
Family: Euphorbiaceae


  • Ricinocarpus bipartitus (Müll.Arg.) Kuntze (1891).

Vernacular names

  • Mhacha (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Acalypha bipartita is widely distributed in Central and East Africa; it is found in DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.


Young leaves and shoots of Acalypha bipartita are eaten as a vegetable. They have a bland or slightly bitter taste and are chopped and added to cooking beans or peas and the mixture is served with a staple food. Acalypha bipartita is also useful as fodder and its stems are used to make baskets for winnowing and in construction of granaries. Several Acalypha species (e.g. Acalypha indica L.) are used in local medicine for a variety of complaints, but no medicinal uses have been reported for Acalypha bipartita.


No data on composition are available for Acalypha bipartita, but shoots of Acalypha indica contain per 100 g edible portion: water 80 g, energy 269 kJ (64 kcal), protein 6.7 g, fat 1.4 g, carbohydrate 6 g, fibre 2.3 g, Ca 667 mg, P 99 mg, Fe 17 mg and ascorbic acid 147 mg (Siregar, 2001).


  • Monoecious, scrambling subshrub, up to 3 m tall, with subquadrangular, sparsely to densely pubescent, green to red-brown stems.
  • Leaves alternate, simple; stipules subulate, up to 4 mm long; petiole up to 7 cm long; blade ovate to elliptical-ovate, 3–11 cm × 1–8 cm, base rounded and 5-veined, apex acuminate to rounded, margins serrate, sparingly pubescent, lateral veins 4–6 pairs.
  • Inflorescence spicate or subracemose, axillary, solitary, up to 14 cm long, bracteate, with a terminal male portion and 1–2 female units below the male portion.
  • Flowers unisexual, sessile, without petals; male flowers green-white, calyx 4-partite, stamens 8; female flowers enclosed by large, folded, dentate bracts 1–1.5 cm in diameter, sepals 3, triangular-ovate, ovary superior, 3-celled, globose to 3-lobed, styles 3, free, 3–6 mm long.
  • Fruit a 3-lobed capsule c. 2.5 mm × 3.5 mm, smooth, pubescent, 3-seeded.
  • Seeds subglobose, 1.5–2 mm in diameter, grey-brown.

Acalypha is a large genus comprising about 450 species, occurring mainly in the tropics but extending to warm temperate areas. Tropical Africa and Asia have about 25 species each, tropical America about 400. The following species are used as a vegetable in the same way as Acalypha bipartita: Acalypha ciliata Forssk. in Benin and Nigeria, Acalypha fruticosa Forssk. in Tanzania, Acalypha indica L. in India and Indonesia, Acalypha ornata Hochst. ex A.Rich. in Tanzania and Acalypha segetalis Müll.Arg. in Nigeria. However, the medicinal uses of these species are more important, except for the latter.


Acalypha bipartita grows in forest undergrowth and forest edges, extending into wooded grassland mainly in disturbed localities, at 1000–1500 m altitude. It prefers sandy loams, but grows on a wide range of soils, usually in areas with an annual rainfall of 900–1500 mm. It can be an invasive weed in grazing areas.


Acalypha bipartita is collected from the wild, usually in the rainy season but in riverine locations all year round.

Genetic resources

Acalypha bipartita is common in its distribution area and not in danger of genetic erosion.


Acalypha bipartita is without large commercial possibilities, but the use as a leafy vegetable and fibre plant will remain of local importance.

Major references

  • Katende, A.B., Ssegawa, P. & Birnie, A., 1999. Wild food plants and mushrooms of Uganda. Technical Handbook No 19. Regional Land Management Unit/SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 490 pp.
  • Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1987. Euphorbiaceae (part 1). In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 407 pp.
  • Ruffo, C.K., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 2002. Edible wild plants of Tanzania. Technical Handbook No 27. Regional Land Management Unit/ SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 766 pp.

Other references

  • Burkill, H.M., 1994. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 2, Families E–I. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 636 pp.
  • Gilbert, M.G., 1995. Euphorbiaceae. In: Edwards, S., Mesfin Tadesse & Hedberg, I. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 2, part 2. Canellaceae to Euphorbiaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 265–380.
  • Gilbert, M.G., Holmes, S. & Thulin, M., 1993. Euphorbiaceae. In: Thulin, M. (Editor). Flora of Somalia. Volume 1. Pteridophyta; Gymnospermae; Angiospermae (Annonaceae-Fabaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 267–339.
  • Keay, R.W.J., 1958. Euphorbiaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 364–423.
  • Léonard, J., 1962. Euphorbiaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 8, 1. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. 214 pp.
  • Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1996. Euphorbiaceae, subfamilies Phyllantoideae, Oldfieldioideae, Acalyphoideae, Crotonoideae and Euphorbioideae, tribe Hippomaneae. In: Pope, G.V. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 1–337.
  • Siregar, A.H., 2001. Acalypha L. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 31–36.


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

Correct citation of this article

Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Acalypha bipartita Müll.Arg. [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 12 April 2019.