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Cercestis mirabilis (N.E.Br.) Bogner

Protologue
Aroideana 8(3): 73 (1986).
Family
Araceae
Synonyms
Rhektophyllum mirabile N.E.Br. (1882), Nephtytis picturata N.E.Br. (1887), Rhektophyllum congense De Wild. & T.Dur. (1901).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cercestis mirabilis occurs from Benin to Uganda and Angola.
Uses
In Gabon the young leaves and inflorescences are eaten as a vegetable. The leaves are cooked in butter from moabi (Baillonella toxisperma Pierre) nuts together with an unspecified fungus, and eaten to treat liver complaints and stitch. The leaves may also be combined with the bark of various trees, the rhizome of Sarcophrynium species and seeds of chilli for the same ailments. In Congo leaf-sap is taken in draught with kaolin, melegueta pepper (Aframomum melegueta K.Schum.) and rock salt to treat heart troubles and to stop vomiting.
The long pendulous roots of Cercestis mirabilis are used in southern Nigeria as ties for yams, and in Gabon the central fibrous core of these roots is used as fishing line.
Botany
Large herbaceous climber; stem climbing by clasping roots, up to 5 cm in diameter, also with flagelliform shoots having long slender internodes and reduced leaves. Leaves alternate, simple; petiole up to 1 m long; blade hastate-sagittate in outline, up to 100 cm × 60 cm, deeply and irregularly pinnatifid with truncate trapezoid lobes. Inflorescence a spadix 7–17 cm × 1–2 cm, enclosed by a spathe 6–15 cm × 2–3 cm in diameter, dull green outside with reddish tinge at base, whitish green inside, 2–8 together in leaf axils; peduncle 2–4.5 cm long. Flowers unisexual, sessile; male ones in upper part of spadix, with 2–4 free creamy white stamens; female ones in basal part of spadix, with obovoid, 1-celled ovary, stigma discoid. Fruit a pyramid-shaped berry, c. 1 cm × 2 cm, red when ripe.
Cercestis comprises 13 species and is restricted to tropical Africa, from Gambia and Senegal to Uganda and Angola. Cercestis camerunensis (Ntépé) Bogner, occurring from Nigeria to Gabon, can easily be confused with Cercestis mirabilis. The uses described above may therefore be equally applicable to Cercestis camerunensis.
Ecology
Cercestis mirabilis occurs in lowland humid forest, up to 400 m altitude.
Management
The young leaves are taken from the extremities of side branches, leaving the main stem intact. Mature leaves and stems are harvested for medicinal purposes, but usually part of the main stem will remain, which then easily recovers with new shoots.
Genetic resources and breeding
No germplasm collections are known to exist. Cercestis mirabilis is harvested from the wild, but it is not used on a commercial scale. It is quite common in its range of distribution, and because the plant can recoup from partial harvesting, no special precautions for its protection need to be taken.
Prospects
Cercestis mirabilis is of limited importance as a vegetable and medicinal plant. Research on nutritive composition and active constituents is needed to evaluate its uses.
Major references
• Bouquet, A., 1969. Féticheurs et médecines traditionnelles du Congo (Brazzaville). Mémoires ORSTOM No 36. Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre-Mer. Paris, France. 282 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.
• Ntépé-Nyame, C., 1988. Araceae. Flore du Cameroun. Volume 31. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 140 pp.
• Raponda-Walker, A. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon. Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.
• Raponda-Walker, A., 1952. Usages pharmaceutiques des plantes spontanées du Gabon, 1. Bulletin Institut d'Études Centrafricaines, Nouvelle série 4: 181–186.
Other references
• Bogner, J., 1986. One new name and five new combinations in Araceae. Aroideana 8(3): 73–79.
• Bogner, J. & Nicolson, D.H., 1991. A revised classification of Araceae with dichotomous keys. Willdenowia 21(1–2): 35–50.
• Mayo, S.J., Bogner, J. & Boyce, P.C., 1997. The genera of Araceae. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 370 pp. Author(s)
W.J. van der Burg
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors
G.J.H. Grubben
Prins Hendriklaan 24, 1401 AT Bussum, Netherlands
O.A. Denton
National Horticultural Research Institute, P.M.B. 5432, Idi-Ishin, Ibadan, Nigeria
Associate Editors
C.-M. Messiaen
Bat. B 3, Résidence La Guirlande, 75, rue de Fontcarrade, 34070 Montpellier, France
R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
van der Burg, W.J., 2004. Cercestis mirabilis (N.E.Br.) Bogner In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.