Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Index sem. hort. petrop. 7: 41 (1841).
Reseda abyssinica Fresen. (1837).
Origin and geographic distribution
Caylusea abyssinica is distributed in eastern Africa, where it is found in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Malawi.
In Tanzania tender leaves and stems of Caylusea abyssinica are collected from the wild, washed, chopped, cooked and eaten mixed with other vegetables. Often pounded pumpkin, sunflower or hemp seed or groundnut paste are added and the mixture is eaten alone or with a staple food. In Ethiopia the leaves are also used as a cooked vegetable. Boiled leaves are also used to treat stomach-ache and to expel intestinal worms. Ash of the whole burnt plant or a root decoction is taken as a remedy for abdominal pain in East Africa. Caylusea abyssinica is also used as fodder for goats and rabbits, and occasionally it is planted as an ornamental.
In Ethiopia seeds of Caylusea abyssinica, which get among the tef (Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter) harvest, are said to make the tef pancake (‘injera’) bitter. Seed is said to be poisonous to livestock.
Erect herb up to 1.5 m tall, with slightly woody taproot and glabrous stem. Leaves alternate, sometimes upper leaves whorled, simple, sessile, axils often with clusters of smaller leaves or short branches; blade linear to lanceolate-elliptical, 2–9 cm × 0.5–2.5 cm, margin sometimes undulate, often rough or toothed. Inflorescence a dense spike-like raceme up to 40 cm long, rachis acutely ribbed, bracteate. Flowers bisexual, 5-merous, small; pedicel 1–2 mm long; sepals linear, 1.5–2.5 mm long; petals unequal, clawed, 3–4 mm long, white, 2 upper ones divided into 4–5 lobes, other ones entire or 2–3-lobed; stamens 10–13, filaments 3 mm long, anthers brightly reddish; ovary consisting of 5–7 free, boat-shaped carpels fused at base and rough at edges, each carpel bearing a short tooth-like style and stigma. Fruit consisting of stellately spreading mericarps splitting longitudinally. Seeds reniform, c. 1.5 mm × 1 mm, brown-black, wrinkled in a fine tiled pattern.
Caylusea comprises 4 species and is distributed in the Mediterranean region, and northern and eastern Africa.
Caylusea abyssinica is a non-aggressive weed and is found in open grassland, fields, roadsides and rocky areas, at 1500–2750 m altitude.
Caylusea abyssinica is usually collected from the wild, but people sometimes retain the plants when they grow in the garden or around the house.
Genetic resources and breeding
Caylusea abyssinica is widespread and not in danger of genetic erosion.
Caylusea abyssinica will remain a minor vegetable. Its nutritional composition and medicinal properties need investigation.
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Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Caylusea abyssinica (Fresen.) Fisch. & C.A.Mey. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.