Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Begonia auriculata auct. non Hook.f.
Oseille de la brousse, oseille de gorille, oseille de chimpanzé (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Begonia macrocarpa is widespread from Guinea to DR Congo and Angola.
In Gabon Begonia macrocarpa leaves are eaten as a cooked vegetable, as a substitute for sorrel (Rumex spp.). They are appreciated for their acidulous taste and combine well with fish or crocodile meat in stews.
Erect perennial herb up to 110 cm tall; stem succulent, swollen at the nodes, slightly hairy to glabrous. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules ovate, 2–8(–10) mm long, toothed, caducous; petiole (0.5–)1–4(–5.5) cm long; blade narrowly ovate, slightly asymmetrical, (2–)4–15(–19) cm × (1–)2.5–6(–7) cm, cordate at base, acuminate at apex, margin entire, slightly succulent, glabrous. Inflorescence an axillary scorpioid cyme with up to 17 male flowers and 1 female flower; peduncle 1–1.5(–2.5) cm long. Flowers unisexual, with 2 tepals, white, often reddish at base; male flowers with broadly ovate to circular tepals 0.5–1 cm long and up to 17(–23) stamens fused at base, all anthers facing into one direction; female flowers with ovate or obovate tepals 1–1.5 cm long, ovary inferior, 3-celled and 3-winged, styles 3, up to 6.5 mm long, fused at base. Fruit a 3-winged capsule 1.5–3 cm × 1.5–3 cm, many-seeded.
Begonia comprises about 1400 species, with about 160 in tropical Africa. Begonia macrocarpa belongs to section Filicibegonia and is closely related to Begonia auriculata Hook.f., which usually has larger leaves and stipules and a longer peduncle, and is endemic to Gabon.
In Central Africa several other Begonia species are eaten as a vegetable in a similar way to Begonia macrocarpa, e.g. Begonia elatostemmoides Hook.f., Begonia eminii Warb., Begonia fusialata Warb., Begonia hirsutula Hook.f., Begonia komoensis Irmsch., Begonia sciaphila Gilg ex Engl., Begonia scutifolia Hook.f. and Begonia sessilifolia Hook.f.
Begonia macrocarpa occurs in primary and secondary forest, especially along roads and rivers, up to 1000 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Begonia macrocarpa is widespread and even occurs in disturbed habitats, and is consequently not liable to genetic erosion.
Begonia macrocarpa and other Begonia species will probably remain minor vegetables, which are locally popular because they impart an acidulous flavour to meat and fish.
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• Raponda-Walker, A. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon. Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.
• Sosef, M.S.M., 1994. Refuge begonias. Taxonomy, phylogeny and historical biogeography of Begonia sect. Loasibegonia and sect. Scutobegonia in relation to glacial rain forest refuges in Africa. Wageningen Agricultural University Papers 94–1. Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands. 306 pp.
• Arends, J.C., 1992. The biosystematics of Begonia squamulosa Hook.f. and affiliated species in section Tetraphila A.DC. PhD thesis, Wageningen Agricultural University, Wageningen, Netherlands. 223 pp.
• 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.
• Doorenbos, J., Sosef, M.S.M., & de Wilde, J.J.F.E., 1998. The sections of Begonia including descriptions, keys and species lists (Studies in Begonia VI). Wageningen Agricultural University Papers 98–2. Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands. 266 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2004. Begonia macrocarpa Warb. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.