Momordica angustisepala (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Momordica angustisepala Harms


Protologue: Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 58: 239 (1923)
Family: Cucurbitaceae

Synonyms

  • Momordica bracteata Hutch. & Dalziel (1927).

Origin and geographic distribution

Momordica angustisepala is distributed in the forest zone from Côte d’Ivoire to Cameroon.

Uses

The stem of Momordica angustisepala is used as washing and bathing sponge in Ghana, Benin and Nigeria. After maceration, the stem is also used as filter for palm oil and palm wine. In Nigeria the stem is used for making woven masks for masquerades. The decorticated and washed twigs are chewed in Ghana. The root extract of Momordica angustisepala is used as an abortifacient in traditional medicine in South Nigeria.

Production and international trade

The plant is sometimes cultivated in Ghana but no production or trade data are available.

Properties

A root extract of Momordica angustisepala produced contractions on isolated guinea pig ileum similar to those of acetylcholine and histamine.

Description

A dioecious climber; stem more or less puberulous; tendrils unequally branched, bifid, spirally coiled with a straight part 4–6 cm long. Leaves alternate, simple; petiole 1.5–3.5(–5) cm long, puberulous or almost glabrous; blade broadly ovate or ovate-oblong, 5–12 cm × 4–9 cm, unlobed or 3–(5)-lobed, base cordate, apex acuminate or mucronate, margin often coarsely and acutely dentate, membranous, scabrid-puberulous on both surfaces. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous; male flowers several together in more or less corymbose or subumbellate inflorescence; peduncle 3–6 cm long, puberulous or glabrescent, with a broadly ovate-cordate bract at the apex, bract 1.5–2.5 cm × 2–2.5 cm, margin entire or crenulate; pedicel 4–8 mm long; sepals lanceolate, 8–15 mm long, acuminate, brown or black; petals round, 5 mm in diameter, cream-coloured, yellow or orange, finely pubescent; stamens with bifid connectives, filaments 1 mm long, glabrous, anther 2.5 mm long with curved apex. Female flowers solitary; perianth similar to male flowers; ovary flask-shaped, pubescent. Fruit an ovoid berry up to 15 cm long, with a long beak, with ondulate ribs. Seeds black and slightly wrinkled.

The reproductive biology of the species is not well documented and requires further study. Reproductive organs are scarcely found and one may speculate that the plant preferentially reproduces vegetatively.

Momordica is a diverse genus comprising more than 47 species with most representatives in Africa. Common species in West and Central Africa thriving in the same distribution area include Momordica charantia L., Momordica cissoides Benth., Momordica gilgiana Cogn. and Momordica foetida Schum.

Ecology

Momordica angustisepala is usually found in closed, deciduous and semi-deciduous forest. It also occurs at the edge of secondary forest or in old plantations, disturbed areas and roadsides.

Management

The plant is sometimes cultivated, but stems are mainly harvested from the wild. Sponges are obtained by pounding the stem, washing out the impurities and drying.

Genetic resources

Momordica angustisepala is rare in West Africa. The species is threatened by land clearance for agriculture or infrastructural development. Few accessions are maintained at the Botanical Garden of the University of Ife (Nigeria). Recent collecting missions carried out by the author from 2005 to 2008 in eight countries of West Africa resulted in only few herbarium specimens for this species.

Prospects

If it can be more widely cultivated or sustainably harvested from wild stands, the plant is a good source of biological sponge for home use. The root contains oxytocic compounds which may be useful in the development of contraceptive methods in medicine.

Major 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.
  • 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.
  • Keay, R.W.J., 1954. Cucurbitaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 1. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 204–216.
  • Keraudren, M., 1967. Cucurbitacées (Cucurbitaceae). Flore du Cameroun. Volume 6. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 192 pp.
  • Okoli, B.E., 1984. Wild and cultivated cucurbits in Nigeria. Economic Botany 38(3): 350–357.

Other references

  • Abbiw, D.K., 1990. Useful plants of Ghana: West African uses of wild and cultivated plants. Intermediate Technology Publications, London and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 337 pp.
  • Achigan-Dako, E.G., 2008. Phylogenetic and genetic variation analyses in cucurbit species (Cucurbitaceae) from West Africa: definition of conservation strategies. Cuvillier Verlag, Göttingen, Germany. 154 pp.
  • Aguwa, C.N & Mittal, G.C, 1983. Abortifacient effects of the roots of Momordica angustisepala. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 7(2): 169–173.
  • Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.
  • Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
  • Jeffrey, C., 1965. Key to the Cucurbitaceae of West Tropical Africa, with a guide to localities of rare and little-known species. Journal of the West African Science Association 9: 79–97.
  • Jeffrey, C. & de Wilde, W.J.J.O., 2006. A review of the subtribe Thladianthinae (Cucurbitaceae). Botanicheskii Zhurnal (Moscow & Leningrad) 91: 766–776.
  • Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] http://mobot.mobot.org/ W3T/Search/ vast.html. September 2009.
  • Osemeobo J.G., 2005. Living on wild plants: evaluation of the rural household economy in Nigeria. Environmental Practice 7: 246–256.
  • Tuffour, K., 1997. The role of plant genetic resources in crop and forest improvement: forest genetic resources in Ghana and their potential for improvement. In: Bennet-Lartey, S.O., Akromah, R. & Gamedoagbao, D. (Editors). Biodiversity and plant genetic resources in Ghana. Proceedings of First national workshop, November 21–24, 1994, Koforidua, Ghana. pp. 21–33.

Author(s)

  • E.G. Achigan Dako, PROTA Network Office Africa, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), P.O. Box 30677-00100, Nairobi, Kenya

Correct citation of this article

Achigan-Dako, E.G., 2010. Momordica angustisepala Harms. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>.

Accessed 7 March 2020.