Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Fl. Brit. India 4: 76 (1883).
Asclepiadaceae (APG: Apocynaceae)
2n = 22, 44
Caralluma longidens N.E.Br. (1892), Caralluma vittata N.E.Br. (1903), Caralluma mouretii A.Chev. (1934), Cryptolluma edulis (Edgew.) Plowes (1995).
Edible caralluma (En). Caralluma comestible (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Caralluma edulis has been reported from Mauritania, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India and possibly Iran and Afghanistan.
Caralluma edulis is used raw as a vegetable in Mauritania. In India fresh stems are sold as a vegetable in local shops (‘situn’). As a succulent herb it has ornamental value.
The stems are slightly acid. In a test in Pakistan to verify a possible hypoglycaemic effect of powdered Caralluma edulis roots, doses of 2–4 g/kg body-weight did not show any effect in normal or diabetic rabbits. There is no information on the phytochemistry of Caralluma edulis. Highly toxic glycosides have been found in several other Caralluma species (e.g. in Caralluma acutangula (Decne.) N.E.Br., Caralluma gracilipes K.Schum. and Caralluma penicillata (Defl.) N.E.Br.).
Slightly succulent herb with slender, much branched, subterete stem 20–30 cm tall, at apex tapering to a pointed tip. Leaves opposite, simple, small, caducous, sometimes prominent, semi-persistent and up to 1 cm long. Flowers 1–2 together, extra-axillary near the stem apex, bisexual, 5-merous, about 8 mm in diameter, on slender curved pedicels 4–6 mm long; calyx-lobes ovate-lanceolate, 3–4 mm long, glabrous; corolla tube campanulate-urceolate, 7–8 mm long and broad, subglabrous, yellow-green, longitudinally ridged inside, corolla limb dark purple with a narrow disk and erect, oblong-triangular lobes 5 mm × 2.5 mm; outer corona lobes bipartite, forming 10 filiform horns 5 mm long, inner corona lobes longer than the outer ones, strap-shaped, incumbent on the anthers; anthers short, truncated, without appendages.
The taxonomy of the genus and species is still in dispute. According to Plowes the correct name for this species is Cryptolluma edulis (Edgew.) Plowes and the first 3 synonyms mentioned here are considered to represent different, separate species.
Caralluma edulis occurs usually in dry sandy locations, from sea-level up to 1300 m altitude. In its distribution area it flowers and fruits year-round.
Caralluma edulis is occasionally cultivated as a vegetable and as an ornamental.
Genetic resources and breeding
Caralluma edulis is nowhere a common plant and it should be protected wherever it occurs naturally.
Because Caralluma edulis is able to grow in dry, sandy locations it deserves more research attention concerning its phytochemistry, nutritive properties and cultivation possibilities.
• Bruyns, P.V., 1989. Miscellaneous notes on Stapelieae (Asclepiadaceae). Bradleya 7: 63–68.
• 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.
• Gilbert, M.G., 1990. A review of Caralluma R. Br. and its segregates. Bradleya 8: 1–32.
• Plowes, D.C.H., 1995. A reclassification of Caralluma R. Brown (Stapelieae: Asclepiadaceae). Haseltonia 3: 49–70.
• White, A. & Sloane, B.L., 1937. The Stapelieae. 3 volumes. 2nd Edition. Pasadena, California, United States. 1186 pp.
• Bullock, A.A., 1963. Asclepiadaceae. In: Hepper, F.N. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 85–103.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 1996. African ethnobotany: poisons and drugs. Chapman & Hall, London, United Kingdom. 941 pp.
• Wadood, A., Wadood, N. & Shah, S.A., 1989. Effect of Acacia arabica and Caralluma edulis on blood glucose levels of normal and alloxan diabetic rabbits. Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association 39(8): 208–212.
Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Caralluma edulis (Edgew.) Benth. ex Hook.f. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.