Cyphostemma adenocaule (PROTA)

From PlantUse English
Jump to: navigation, search
Prota logo orange.gif
Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

General importance Fairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Geographic coverage Africa Fairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Geographic coverage World Fairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Medicinal Fairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg
Ornamental Fairytale bookmark gold.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svgGood article star.svg

Cyphostemma adenocaule (Steud. ex A.Rich.) Wild & R.B.Drumm.

Protologue: Fl. Zamb. 2(2): 473 (1966).
Family: Vitaceae


  • Cissus adenocaulis Steud. ex A.Rich. (1847).

Vernacular names

  • Mwengele (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Cyphostemma adenocaule is widespread in tropical Africa from Senegal east to Eritrea and south to Angola, Malawi and Mozambique.


The leaves and fruits of Cyphostemma adenocaule are commonly eaten as a vegetable or in soup in Ghana, DR 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 Côte 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. Leaf sap is used to cure ophthalmia (DR Congo and Tanzania) and it is applied to cuts (Tanzania). Leaves are chewed to remedy a sore throat (Tanzania), and macerated leaves are mixed with honey as a cough treatment (Tanzania). Leaves heated over a fire are applied as a compress to reduce swellings (East Africa). Leaves are applied to the chest to cure pneumonia (East Africa) and an infusion of the leaves is taken as a purgative and to treat swollen abdomen. Macerated roots are taken against tapeworm (DR Congo). The root has been used to treat malaria. A paste made of the roots is applied topically to draw abscesses and reduce swellings in northern Ghana, Gabon and East Africa. Water in which roots have been boiled is drunk to treat syphilis, abdominal pain (related to pregnancy or not) and to prevent abortion. Root and leaf are prescribed against diarrhoea with blood.

Field tests were carried out in Uganda with Cyphostemma adenocaule as a trap crop for Taylorilygus vosseleri, an insect pest of cotton. When treated with insecticide to prevent the development of large populations of the pest, Cyphostemma adenocaule gave considerable protection to the cotton crop. Leaves crushed in water are used as an insecticide against chicken lice. In Kenya cattle like to browse it and people cut the stems to obtain drinking water. In Tanzania a fibre is obtained from the bark and string is made out of it. Dried stems are used for hut building in Uganda.


The root is said to contain tannin. Leaves and fruits contain oxalic acid that is responsible for the acrid taste. No details are available on the chemical composition of Cyphostemma adenocaule. Several other Cyphostemma species used in traditional medicine in South Africa have been investigated, revealing the presence of compounds with anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antitumour activities.


  • Perennial herb climbing or scrambling with leaf-opposed, branched tendrils; roots tuberous; stem slender, up to 3(–6) m long.
  • Leaves alternate, pedately 5–7(–11)-foliolate; stipules ovate to oblong-ovate, up to 6–10 mm long, often red, persistent; petiole 1–5.5(–9.5) cm long; leaflets elliptical, ovate or broadly ovate, up to 11.5 cm × 7.5 cm, base cuneate to cordate, apex acuminate or acute.
  • Inflorescence an irregular, lax, corymbose cyme 2–15 cm long.
  • Flowers bisexual, 4-merous; calyx entire; petals narrowly oblong-triangular, up to 4 mm long.
  • Fruit a fleshy berry up to 11 mm × 7 mm, usually deflexed, red to purplish black, 2–4-seeded.
  • Seeds ellipsoid to ovoid, very slightly reniform, up to 8 mm long.

The genus Cyphostemma is closely related to Cissus and comprises about 250 species, almost all of them restricted to sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. Many Cyphostemma species are used in traditional medicine. Cyphostemma adenocaule is very variable, especially in the density of the indumentum. Sterile plants closely resemble Cayratia gracilis (Guill. & Perr.) Suess., but the stipules are caducous in the latter.


Cyphostemma adenocaule is widespread in savanna and is found in gallery forests and fallow land as well.


Although it has been reported that Cyphostemma adenocaule is cultivated in Ethiopia, leaves and roots are normally collected from the wild. In Uganda leaves are collected during the rainy season. Dry roots can be stored for 1–2 months.

Genetic resources

Because it is widespread and in many regions common Cyphostemma adenocaule does not seem to be threatened by genetic erosion.


In view of the use as a vegetable and the wide range of medicinal uses, research into the phytochemistry and cultivation technology is desirable.

Major references

  • Burkill, H.M., 2000. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 5, Families S–Z, Addenda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 686 pp.
  • 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.
  • Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
  • Stride, G.O., 1969. Investigation into the use of a trap crop to protect cotton from attack by Lygus vosseleri (Heteroptera: Miridae). Journal of the Entomological Society of southern Africa 32(2): 469–477.
  • Verdcourt, B., 1993. Vitaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 149 pp.

Other references

  • Lin, J., Opoku, A.R., Geheeb-Keller, M., Hutchings, A.D., Terblanche, S.E., Jager, A.K. & van Staden, J., 1999. Preliminary screening of some traditional Zulu medicinal plants for anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial activities. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 68(1–3): 267–274.
  • Opoku, A.R., Geheeb-Keller, M., Lin, J., Terblanche, S.E., Hutchings, A., Chuturgoon, A. & Pillay, D., 2000. Preliminary screening of some traditional Zulu medicinal plants for antineoplastic activities versus the HepG2 cell line. Phytotherapy Research 14(7): 534–537.
  • Raponda-Walker, A. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon. Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.
  • Vollesen, K., 1989. Vitaceae. In: Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia. Volume 3. Pittosporaceae to Araliaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 399–418.
  • 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.
  • Zemede Asfaw & Mesfin Tadesse, 2001. Prospects for sustainable use and development of wild food plants in Ethiopia. Economic Botany 55(1): 47–62.


  • 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. Cyphostemma adenocaule (Steud. ex A.Rich.) Wild & R.B.Drumm. [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 6 February 2019.