Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Mitt. Bot. Staatssamml. München 1(8): 352 (1953).
Cissus gracilis Guill. & Perr. (1831).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cayratia gracilis is widespread in tropical Africa from Senegal to Sudan and Eritrea and south to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia; also in South Africa and Yemen.
The leaves of Cayratia gracilis are occasionally eaten as a vegetable in Sudan. Elsewhere use as a vegetable is limited. In Senegal it is considered a famine food that needs to be cooked together with Amorphophallus roots.
In Tanzania the pulped leaves are rubbed topically on slight incisions to treat lumbago. Crushed leaves mixed with Momordica foetida Schum. stop the irritation caused by the spittle of the spitting cobra when rubbed on the affected area. Fresh roots are chewed or boiled and the decoction used as a cough remedy.
The crushed leaves have a strong smell but no chemical data are known for Cayratia gracilis. The leaves of Cayratia trifolia (L.) Domin, as well as those of several other Asiatic species of the genus, were found to contain several flavonoids including cyanidin, delphinidin, kaempferol, myricetin and quercetin. The aerial parts of Cayratia trifolia contain the triterpene epifriedelanol, a compound with demonstrated antitumour activity, whereas the stem, leaves and roots contain cyanic acid.
Climbing or trailing perennial herb, with leaf-opposed, branched tendrils; stems slender, up to 7.5 m long. Leaves alternate, pedately (3–)5(–9)-foliolate; stipules oblong-triangular, up to 3 mm long, early caducous; petiole 4–6 cm long; leaflets ovate or elliptical, up to 10 cm × 6 cm, base broadly cuneate to cordate, apex acuminate. Inflorescence an irregular, lax, corymbose cyme 5–10 cm long. Flowers unisexual or bisexual, 4-merous; calyx cup-shaped, entire; petals whitish, yellow or pale green; stamens c. 1 mm long; ovary glabrous. Fruit a fleshy, globose or depressed-globose berry 6.5–10 mm in diameter, black, 2(–4)-seeded. Seeds strongly ridged, c. 5 mm × 4 mm.
Cayratia comprises about 50 species and is distributed in the tropics of the Old World. The closely related Cayratia debilis (Baker) Suess., a species with a partial overlapping distribution, can be distinguished from the otherwise very similar Cayratia gracilis by the larger inflorescences, larger seeds and oblong, rather than ovate, leaflets. The genus has quite a few species with medicinal uses.
Cayratia gracilis is found in various types of forests and woodlands from sea-level up to 1800 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of the wide distribution, genetic erosion does not seem a risk at present. There are no accessions known in accessible germplasm collections.
There is no information on the phytochemistry or pharmacological properties of Cayratia gracilis. In view of its use as a vegetable and many medicinal uses, as well as results from related Asiatic species, research is desirable.
• Burkill, H.M., 2000. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 5, Families S–Z, Addenda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 686 pp.
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Slamet Sutanti Budi Rahayu, 2001. Cayratia A.H.L. Juss. 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. 144–147.
• Verdcourt, B., 1993. Vitaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 149 pp.
• Descoings, B., 1972. Vitaceae. Flore du Cameroun. Volume 13. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. pp. 1–132.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2004. Cayratia gracilis (Guill. & Perr.) Suess. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.