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Barleria opaca (Vahl) Nees

A.DC., Prodr. 11: 230 (1847).
Justicia opaca Vahl (1805).
Vernacular names
Child’s vegetable (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Barleria opaca occurs in western and central tropical Africa, from Côte d’Ivoire to Gabon.
The leaves of Barleria opaca, collected from the wild, are eaten as a cooked vegetable, e.g. in Ghana and Gabon. The leaves are also used to treat children for piles by squatting in a warm decoction. In Nigeria the whole plant is used in treating jaundice, rheumatism and paralysis, and the leaf sap is applied against catarrh.
The composition of fresh leaves of Barleria opaca is per 100 g: moisture 81 g, energy 230 kJ (55 kcal), protein 3.6 g, fat 0.5 g, carbohydrate 11.7 g, fibre 2.7 g, Ca 874 mg , Mg 104 mg, P 38 mg and Zn 0.6 mg (Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968).
Scrambling shrub with hairy stems, sometimes rooting at the nodes. Leaves opposite, simple; petiole up to 0.5 cm long; blade elliptical, c. 7.5 cm × 3.5 cm, tapering at both ends, margin entire, with scattered simple hairs at both surfaces. Inflorescence cymose, 1–3-flowered, close together in the upper leaf axils, at apex of branches ending in a dense spike-like structure. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, up to 4 cm long; calyx 4-lobed, 2 outer lobes lanceolate, 13–17 mm long, 2 inner ones smaller, shortly bifid at apex; corolla bell-shaped, 2-labiate, white to very pale blue; stamens 2, anthers blue, staminodes 3; ovary superior, 2-celled, glabrous, style terete, glabrous, stigmas 2-lobed. Fruit a spindle-shaped, compressed capsule c. 1 cm long, 2-seeded. Seeds discoid, densely covered by brownish hygroscopic hairs.
Barleria comprises about 300 species and occurs in the Old World tropics except one species, which is found in Central America. The eastern and southern parts of Africa are richest in species. Barleria opaca belongs to section Fissimura. The leaves of the closely related Barleria brownii S.Moore are used similarly as a vegetable, e.g. in Gabon.
Barleria opaca occurs usually in the forest undergrowth in the lowland.
Genetic resources and breeding
Barleria opaca is rather widespread and there are no indications that it is in danger of genetic erosion.
Barleria opaca will remain a vegetable of minor importance. Its nutritional and medicinal properties need more investigation.
Major references
• Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
• Busson, F., 1965. Plantes alimentaires de l’ouest Africain: étude botanique, biologique et chimique. Leconte, Marseille, France. 568 pp.
• Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
• Sillans, R., 1953. Plantes alimentaires spontanées d'Afrique centrale. Bulletin de l'Institut d'Etudes Centrafricains 5: 77–99.
Other references
• Aguilar, N.O., 2001. Barleria L. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 98–101.
• Balkwill, M.J. & Balkwill, K., 1996. Problems with generic delimitation and subdivision in a large genus, Barleria (Acanthaceae). In: van der Maesen, L.J.G., van der Burgt, X.M. & van Medenbach-de Rooy, J.M. (Editors). Proceedings 14th AETFAT Congress, 22–27 August 1994, Wageningen, Netherlands. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht,Netherlands. pp. 393–408.
• Balkwill, M.-J. & Balkwill, K., 1997. Delimitation and infra-generic classification of Barleria (Acanthaceae). Kew Bulletin 52(3): 535–573.
• Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968. Food composition table for use in Africa. FAO, Rome, Italy. 306 pp.
P.C.M. Jansen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

G.J.H. Grubben
Prins Hendriklaan 24, 1401 AT Bussum, Netherlands
O.A. Denton
National Horticultural Research Institute, P.M.B. 5432, Idi-Ishin, Ibadan, Nigeria
Associate Editors
C.-M. Messiaen
Bat. B 3, Résidence La Guirlande, 75, rue de Fontcarrade, 34070 Montpellier, France
R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Barleria opaca (Vahl) Nees In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.