Pachycarpus spurius (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Pachycarpus spurius (N.E.Br.) Bullock

Protologue: Kew Bull. 1953: 338 (1953).
Family: Asclepiadaceae (APG: Apocynaceae)


  • Xysmalobium spurium N.E.Br. (1895),
  • Xysmalobium dolichoglossum K.Schum. (1900),
  • Schizoglossum dolichoglossum (K.Schum.) N.E.Br. (1902),
  • Schizoglossum spurium (N.E.Br.) N.E.Br. (1902).

Origin and geographic distribution

Pachycarpus spurius occurs in south-eastern DR Congo, southern Tanzania and Malawi.


The stem fibre is used for making twine and rope in Tanzania. The pounded leaves are mixed with water and drunk as a galactogogue, and the tuber is eaten by men to improve fertility.

Production and international trade

The fibre obtained from Pachycarpus spurius is only used locally.


Perennial herb with 1–5 annual stems 1–2 m long, arising from a long, cylindrical, vertical rootstock, sometimes with a few fusiform laterals; stems unbranched, erect, densely white hairy, containing white latex. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; petiole 3–10(–15) mm long, pubescent; blade lanceolate to broadly ovate, 6–13 cm × 3–8.5 cm, base rounded and slightly cordate, apex acute or obtuse, margin scabrid, both surfaces minutely pubescent, secondary veins numerous, parallel, prominent. Inflorescence a terminal or extra-axillary umbel, nodding or directed to one side, 4–9-flowered; peduncle 2–4.5 cm long, densely pubescent; bracts c. 10 mm long, filiform, pubescent. Flowers bisexual, 5-merous; pedicel 1.5–2.5(–3) cm long, densely pubescent; calyx lobes ovate to lanceolate, 6–11(–14) mm × 3–4(–7) mm, acute, pubescent; corolla globose-campanulate, glabrous or minutely papillate inside, pubescent outside, reddish purple or occasionally cream outside, white, cream or purple inside, often with darker veins; lobes oblong, ovate or obovate, (11–)14–22 mm × (6–)8–14 mm, acute or obtuse, recurved at the tip; stamens 5, united into a stipitate staminal column and adnate to the ovary; corona lobes arising from the base of the stipe, spreading below, erect or slightly recurved above, 10–20 mm × 4–8 mm, spathulate, apex acute to truncate or emarginate, entire or variously toothed; anthers sessile, with wings 3–4 mm × 1–1.5 mm, triangular and convex; anther appendages 1–2 mm × 1.5 mm, broadly ovate, acute and inflexed over stigma head; ovary superior, by abortion reduced to 1 carpel, stigma head flat, 3–4 mm in diameter, forming a raised circular cushion c. 1 mm above top of anthers. Fruit c. 7 cm × 3–3.5 cm, ovoid and somewhat inflated, with 4 or 6 broad, longitudinal, apically toothed wings, pubescent.

Pachycarpus comprises 37 species in sub-Sahara Africa.


Pachycarpus spurius occurs at (1200–)1500–2100 m altitude in grassland and Brachystegia or Protea scrubby woodland, sometimes in disturbed sites.


Pachycarpus spurius only occurs wild.

Genetic resources

Pachycarpus spurius has a large area of distribution and is probably not in danger of genetic erosion.


Too little is known about Pachycarpus spurius to assess its prospects as a fibre plant.

Major references

  • Bullock, A.A., 1953. Notes on African Asclepiadaceae 3. Kew Bulletin 8: 329–362.
  • Goyder, D.J., 1998. A revision of Pachycarpus E.Mey. (Asclepiadaceae: Asclepiadeae) in tropical Africa with notes on the genus in southern Africa. Kew Bulletin 53(2): 335–374.
  • Kirby, R.H., 1963. Vegetable fibres: botany, cultivation, and utilization. Leonard Hill, London, United Kingdom & Interscience Publishers, New York, United States. 464 pp.

Other references

  • Burrows, J.E. & Willis, C.K. (Editors), 2005. Plants of the Nyika Plateau. An account of the vegetation of the Nyika National Parks of Malawi and Zambia. [Internet] downloads/31_nyika/list/ b_nyikalist_p49–77.pdf. September 2009.
  • Watson, L. & Dallwitz, M.J., 1992–. The families of flowering plants: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. [Internet]. September 2009.


  • L.P.A. Oyen, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Oyen, L.P.A., 2010. Pachycarpus spurius (N.E.Br.) Bullock. [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. <>.

Accessed 7 March 2020.