Drymaria cordata (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Drymaria cordata (L.) Willd. ex Schultes

Protologue: Roemer & Schultes, Syst. veg. 5: 406 (1819).
Family: Caryophyllaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= 24, 36

Vernacular names

  • Chickweed (En)
  • Indonesia: jukut ibun (Sundanese), angleng (Javanese), si rempas bide (Batak)
  • Papua New Guinea: lukumuaia (Fore, Eastern Highlands), iyalo (Fane, Central Province)
  • Philippines: bakalanga (Bukidnon)
  • Thailand: yaa klet hoi (Chiang Mai)
  • Vietnam: dơn xương, tù tì.

Origin and geographic distribution

D. cordata is pantropical and occurs throughout tropical Asia, but was originally introduced from tropical America.


There are some records on medicinal uses in South-East Asia. In Papua New Guinea, chopped leaves baked in bamboo are prescribed to treat swollen limbs, possibly caused by malaria. In Indonesia, the sap is used as a laxative and to treat fever, whereas a poultice of leaves rubbed with lime is applied to boils.

D. cordata is used in many countries in Africa for respiratory chest-ailments: to treat colds and bronchitis, often as an inhalation. It is also used to treat eye-troubles. The sap has an aromatic pungency and is laxative and antifebrile. Vesicant properties have also been found, and the plant is applied externally to oedemas of the feet, leprosy, injuries, yaws, sores and tumours. However, prolonged treatment may cause burning. In India, the entire plant is used as febrifuge, antivenin and to treat inflammation.

In India, D. cordata has been found effective as a ground cover to prevent erosion on steep slopes. It is also a useful fodder, although it has been associated with poisoning of cattle.


In a test with guinea-pigs, a methanolic extract of D. cordata caused a decrease of contractions induced by acetylcholine in isolated rings trachea. In a cough model induced by sulphur dioxide gas in mice, the methanol extract exhibited significant antitussive activity in a dose-dependent manner, comparable to codeine phosphate, a prototype antitussive drug. A methanol extract showed significant anti-inflammatory activity against carrageenin, histamine, serotonin and dextran-induced rat hind paw oedemas. Methanol extracts also showed significant antibacterial activities against Bacillus pumilis, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.

Poisoning of cattle fed with Drymaria has been observed, particularly with D. arenarioides Schultes in Mexico. The toxic activity has been attributed to saponins. In Sumatra, D. cordata has also been mentioned in connection with poisoning of cattle. However, saponins have not been demonstrated, or have only been found in very low concentration in D. cordata. In fact, very little chemical research has been done for this species; only the isolation of the alkaloid 4-methoxy-canthin-6-one has been mentioned in the literature.


  • An annual herb; stems prostrate or ascending, up to 100(-150) cm long, striate, internodes longer than the leaves, rooting at nodes, glabrous to glandular.
  • Leaves opposite, deltoid-ovate to suborbicular or cordate, 0.5-2.5 cm × 0.3-2 cm, subtruncate to obtuse at base, often apiculate at apex, 3-7-veined; petiole 2-8 mm long; stipules lacerate with filiform segments.
  • Inflorescence a terminal cyme, 3-many-flowered, peduncle up to 12 cm long; bracts lanceolate, 2-5 mm long.
  • Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, greenish or yellowish-green; pedicel up to 8 mm long; sepals free, 2-4.5 mm long, inflexed, strongly carinate, 3-veined; petals free, 1.5-3 mm long, bifid up to the middle or more, base clawed; stamens 2-3(-5), filaments connate at base; ovary superior, 1-celled, style short, 2-3-fid.
  • Fruit an oblong capsule 1.5-2.5 mm long, 2-3-valved, 1-2-seeded.
  • Seeds orbicular or reniform, 1.5-2 mm in diameter, densely tuberculate.

D. cordata can be found flowering and fruiting throughout the year. The fruits with the persistent calyx adhere easily to the fur of animals, and are thus dispersed.

Drymaria comprises about 50 species, all except 2 exclusively American. Two subspecies have been distinguished within D. cordata. In South-East Asia, subsp. diandra (Blume) J.A. Duke is found, which occurs in tropical Asia, Australia and Africa but not in America. It differs from subsp. cordata by the flowers being broadest above the middle (at or below the middle in subsp. cordata), inflexed sepals and slightly broader seeds, and is sometimes considered as a distinct species (D. diandra Blume). However, intermediates between the 2 subspecies do occur, especially in Africa. Other Drymaria species to be found in South-East Asia includes D. villosa Cham. & Schlechtendal, which is often associated with D. cordata.


D. cordata is a common weed of gardens, plantations (e.g. tea, coffee, sugar cane, cinchona, upland rice), ditches, roadsides and riversides, usually in shady locations, in Java up to 1700 m altitude, in New Guinea up to 2700 m. It occurs locally abundantly, but is uncommon in some regions, e.g. in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.


D. cordata can be a noxious weed, particularly in upland rice, because it may form a dense cover. Herbicides such as paraquat and 2,4-D amine are often used as a foliar spray to control D. cordata as a weed.

Genetic resources

D. cordata is still expanding its area of distribution, and efforts are directed more towards its eradication as a weed than towards protection.


Several pharmacological properties deserve more attention, particularly the anti-inflammatory, antitussive and antibacterial properties. These make D. cordata a promising medicinal plant, which is easy to cultivate if necessary.


250, 334, 347, 652, 653, 651.

Other selected sources

120, 121, 225, 380, 453, 782.

Main genus page


Juliana Jonathan