Emilia lisowskiana (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Emilia lisowskiana C.Jeffrey

Protologue: Kew Bull. 52(1): 208 (1997).
Family: Asteraceae (Compositae)
Chromosome number: 2n = 10


  • Emilia coccinea auct. non (Sims) G.Don.

Origin and geographic distribution

Emilia lisowskiana occurs naturally in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Zambia and Angola, and is doubtfully reported for Guinea, Sudan and Uganda.


In West Africa and DR Congo the leaves are occasionally eaten as a vegetable, either fresh in salads or cooked. In Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon the leaves are used to treat eye disorders, and also filariasis. In Gabon the macerated leaves are used to treat heart problems and crushed leaves mixed with copper filings are used to dress ulcers. In Nigeria a leaf decoction is used as a febrifuge. In Congo the leaf sap is used to treat all kinds of skin troubles (breast abcesses, ulcers caused by yaws, leprous affections), as well as against mange, lice and ringworm. Hernia, backache, syphilis, gonorrhoea, sore throat, convulsions, enlarged spleen, vertigo, epilepsy and menstrual problems are all recorded as being treated traditionally with Emilia lisowskiana. Laxative and anti-abortifacient properties are also attributed to Emilia lisowskiana. The plants serve as fodder for rabbits and guinea pigs in Gabon.


The composition of fresh leaves per 100 g edible portion is: water 79.9 g, energy 268 kJ (64 kcal), protein 3.2 g, fat 0.7 g, carbohydrate 14.0 g, fibre 1.9 g, Ca 260 mg and P 52 mg (Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968). Toxic pyrrolyzidine alkaloids and flavonoids have been isolated from other Emilia species. Fresh leaf juice, methanolic and aqueous extracts of Emilia sonchifolia (L.) DC. and Emilia prenanthoidea DC. have shown antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.


  • Erect annual herb up to 90 cm tall; stem glabrous to slightly pubescent.
  • Leaves alternate, simple; lower leaves shortly petiolate, petiole winged, blade spatulate to elliptical, c. 3.5 cm × 3 cm; median and higher leaves sessile, blade ovate or sometimes lyrate, up to 9 cm × 6 cm.
  • Inflorescence a terminal, discoid head, 2–4 together in corymbs, 12–16-flowered; involucral bracts 12–16.
  • Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; corolla tubular, 7–8(–10) mm long, orange-yellow to orange; stamens with cohering anthers forming a tube; ovary inferior, 1-celled, style-arms apically truncate.
  • Fruit an achene 2 mm long, shortly hairy; pappus 6 mm long.

Other botanical information

Emilia comprises about 100 species and is indigenous in the Old World tropics. About 50 species are found in Africa, and several of these have become naturalized in the Americas. Emilia is closely related to Senecio. Vegetatively it resembles species of Sonchus but it can be distinguished by its solid stems and the absence of milky sap. Emilia lisowskiana and Emilia praetermissa Milne-Redh. have often been misidentified as Emilia coccinea (Sims) G.Don, and uses, properties and chromosome numbers reported for Emilia coccinea often refer to either of these 2 related species. The ranges of Emilia lisowskiana and Emilia coccinea overlap in DR Congo, Angola and Zambia, but are separated ecologically. Emilia praetermissa occurs within the range of Emilia lisowskiana. Emilia praetermissa has similar uses as Emilia lisowskiana, from which it can be distinguished by the pale (white or mauve with pinkish tinge) corolla and by less (c. 10) involucral bracts. Emilia praetermissa appears to be tetraploid and is found in unshaded localities.


Emilia lisowskiana occurs in dense, usually secondary forest, forest margins and plantations (e.g. banana, oil palm) up to 1700 m altitude.


Emilia lisowskiana is considered an obnoxious weed in pineapple plantations as it is an alternative host of the nematode Pratylenchus brachyurus.

Genetic resources

Emilia lisowskiana is widespread and common, and is not threatened by genetic erosion.


As a vegetable Emilia lisowskiana is likely to remain only locally important. In view of the local medicinal uses and interesting properties of its close relatives, pharmacological research is desirable.

Major references

  • Busson, F., 1965. Plantes alimentaires de l’ouest Africain: étude botanique, biologique et chimique. Leconte, Marseille, France. 568 pp.
  • Gnonhouri Goly, P. & Téhé, H., 1997. Effets des adventices de l'ananas sur Pratylenchus brachyurus en Côte d'Ivoire. Cahiers Agricultures 6(3): 199–202.
  • Jeffrey, C., 1997. What is Emilia coccinea (Sims) G. Don (Compositae)? A revision of the large-headed Emilia species of Africa. Kew Bulletin 52(1): 205–212.
  • Lisowski, S., 1990. Le genre Emilia (Asteraceae, Senecioneae) en Afrique Centrale (Congo, Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi). Polish Botanical Studies 1: 67–116.
  • Lisowski, S., 1997. Le genre Emilia (Cass.) Cass. (Asteraceae) dans la flore de Guinée (Afrique occidentale). Bulletin du Jardin Botanique National de Belgique 66(3–4): 201–206.

Other references

  • Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
  • Gill, L.S. & Omoigui, J.D., 1987. The incidence of polyploidy in family Asteraceae of southern Nigeria. Revue de Cytologie et de Biologie végétales, le Botaniste 10: 177–184.
  • Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968. Food composition table for use in Africa. FAO, Rome, Italy. 306 pp.
  • Morton, J.K., 1993. Chromosome numbers and polyploidy in the flora of Cameroons Mountain. Opera Botanica 121: 159–172.
  • Olorode, O., 1973. Meiotic studies on diploid hybrids between Emilia sonchifolia and E. coccinea (Compositae). Cytologia 38(4): 725–729.
  • Raponda-Walker, A. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon. Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.
  • Yuyu Suryasari Poerba, 2003. Emilia prenanthoidea DC. In: Lemmens, R.H.M.J. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(3). Medicinal and poisonous plants 3. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 185–186.


  • 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. Emilia lisowskiana C.Jeffrey. [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 29 January 2022.