Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Repert. Bot. Syst. 6: 168 (1846).
Origin and geographic distribution
Bidens schimperi is found throughout eastern Africa from southern Egypt to South Africa. It is particularly common in the highlands of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
The leaves are eaten as a vegetable in Tanzania. They are chopped and cooked alone or with other vegetables such as peas or pumpkin leaves. Coconut milk, groundnut paste, tomatoes and onions are often added to improve the palatability. In Malawi the young shoots are broken up into small pieces and cooked as a vegetable, often together with black jack (Bidens pilosa L.). The product is very bitter and not much liked.
In Tanzania the roots are used to treat chest pains, coughs and colds, and Bidens schimperi is also valued there as an ornamental, fodder and bee forage.
Annual, erect herb up to 1(–1.5) m tall, with 4-angled stems, sometimes branched. Leaves opposite, rarely alternate towards the upper part of the plant, usually tripartite, 20(–30) cm × 10(–15) cm; leaf segments ovate or narrowly oblong-ovate, margins entire, lobed, incised -dentate or crenate-serrate. Inflorescence a head 2.5–4 cm in diameter, arranged in lax cymes; outer involucral bracts 8, 2.5–10 mm long. Ray flowers 6–8, sterile, corolla 6–20 mm long, yellow; disk flowers tubular, bisexual, with c. 4 mm long, yellow corolla. Fruit a linear achene up to 16 mm long, 4-ribbed, with (1–)2 retrorsely barbed bristles up to 4 mm long.
The genus Bidens in Africa comprises 63 species. The African species, formerly considered to belong to the genus Coreopsis, are now all placed in Bidens.
In Tanzania Bidens schimperi is common in dry grassland, on black cotton soil, in abandoned fields and overgrazed or recently burnt grassland, from sea-level up to 2400 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
As it is widespread and locally common, Bidens schimperi is not at risk of genetic erosion.
Bidens schimperi is likely to remain a locally important vegetable in areas where it is common during periods when other vegetables are scarce. Because of its weedy nature it should not be promoted as an ornamental outside the area of distribution. Traditional medicinal uses will continue to be important locally.
• Alonzo, D.S. & Hildebrand, J.W., 1999. Bidens L. In: de Padua, L.S., Bunyapraphatsara, N. & Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(1). Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 150–155.
• Mesfin Tadesse, 1984. The genus Bidens (Compositae) in NE tropical Africa. Symbolae Botanicae Upsalienses 24(1). 138 pp.
• Ruffo, C.K., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 2002. Edible wild plants of Tanzania. Technical Handbook No 27. Regional Land Management Unit/ SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 766 pp.
• Williamson, J., 1955. Useful plants of Nyasaland. The Government Printer, Zomba, Nyasaland. 168 pp. (Reprint: Williamson, J., 1975. Useful plants of Malawi. University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi).
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Mesfin Tadesse, 1994. An account of Bidens (Compositae: Heliantheae) for Africa. Kew Bulletin 48(3): 437–516.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2004. Bidens schimperi Sch.Bip. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.