logo of PROTA Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Record display

Cleome rutidosperma DC.

Prodr. 1: 241 (1824).
Capparaceae (APG: Brassicaceae)
Chromosome number
2n = 30
Cleome ciliata Schumach. & Thonn. (1827).
Vernacular names
Spiderplant, fringed spiderflower (En). Musambe (Po). Mgagani (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cleome rutidosperma is a pantropical weed of coastal regions. It is widely distributed from Senegal to Angola, particularly in the coastal regions, but often extending deeply into the interior. Occasionally it has also been found elsewhere in Africa, for example as a weed in East Africa (Uganda, Tanzania). In Nigeria it occurs as a weed in rice fields. In West Africa it is occasionally cultivated as a potherb.
The leaves of Cleome rutidosperma are collected from the wild and eaten as a cooked vegetable or added to soup. They have a bitter taste like mustard and in Uganda clarified butter (‘ghee’) is sometimes added to give it more flavour. It has similar medicinal uses as Cleome gynandra L. Leaf sap is applied in Ghana, Gabon and DR Congo to cure earache and deafness. In Ghana a leaf extract is used to treat irritated skin and in Nigeria it is used to treat convulsions. In Malaysia, planting of Cleome rutidosperma around field edges may be considered as part of an insect control programme, diverting oviposition of diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) away from cultivated plants. In some areas (e.g. the Philippines, Australia) Cleome rutidosperma is a troublesome weed.
Fresh leaves of Cleome rutidosperma contain per 100 g edible portion: water 81.0 g, energy 239 kJ (57 kcal), protein 5.5 g, fat 0.9 g, carbohydrate 10.1 g, fibre 1.7 g, Ca 454 mg, Mg 38 mg, P 59 mg, Fe 2.7 mg (Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968).
Erect annual herb up to 50 cm tall, branched from the base; stem finely pubescent or glandular pubescent, green-purplish. Leaves alternate, 3-foliolate; petiole up to 7 cm long; leaflets elliptical, 1–6 cm × 0.5–2.5 cm, glabrous to sparsely setulose-pubescent. Inflorescence racemose, lax and not clearly demarcated; bracts similar to leaves. Flowers bisexual, regular, 4 -merous; pedicel up to 3.5 cm long in fruit; sepals linear to lanceolate, 2–4.5 mm long, glandular puberulent; petals oblanceolate, 6–11 mm long, usually white, sometimes pinkish; stamens 6; ovary superior, cylindrical, 1-celled. Fruit a cylindrical capsule 3–6 cm × 3–4 mm, with stalk 5–13 mm long, subglabrous, dehiscing with 2 valves. Seeds globular-reniform, c. 2 mm in diameter, orange-brown-black, with fine longitudinal striations and low irregular transverse ridges.
Cleome comprises 150–200 species, with the majority in tropical America, whereas about 50 are known from tropical Africa. It is classified in the subfamily Cleomoideae, sometimes considered a separate family Cleomaceae. Cleome rutidosperma is often confused with Cleome iberidella Welw. ex Oliv., which occurs at higher altitudes (1000–1600 m) and is also occasionally used as a cooked vegetable. It has more clearly demarcated racemose inflorescences, its petals are darker coloured and the entire plant is much more pubescent. Both species are also close to a third African species with edible leaves occurring at higher altitudes (1000–2000 m): Cleome schimperi Pax. It is possible that these 3 taxa are in fact 1 complex species with different ecological expressions because intermediate specimens have been found.
Cleome rutidosperma grows principally at low altitudes in ruderal, humid, hot conditions. It occurs up to 400 m altitude, in areas with an annual rainfall of 1700–3000 mm. Occasionally it is found as a weed up to 1200 m altitude. Flowering and fruiting plants can be found throughout the year, although most abundantly in the rainy season.
Genetic resources and breeding
Cleome rutidosperma is widespread and is not in danger of genetic erosion.
Cleome rutidosperma will remain a vegetable of local importance only. Its nutritional and medicinal properties need more research, as does the taxonomy of the complex of which it is part.
Major references
• 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.
• 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.
• Elffers, J., Graham, R.A. & Dewolf, G.P., 1964. Capparidaceae. In: Hubbard, C.E. & Milne-Redhead, E. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 88 pp.
• Katende, A.B., Ssegawa, P. & Birnie, A., 1999. Wild food plants and mushrooms of Uganda. Technical Handbook No 19. Regional Land Management Unit/SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 490 pp.
• van der Zon, A.P.M. & Grubben, G.J.H., 1976. Les légumes-feuilles spontanés et cultivés du Sud-Dahomey. Communication 65. Département des Recherches Agronomiques, Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen, Amsterdam, Netherlands. 111 pp.
Other references
• Busson, F., 1965. Plantes alimentaires de l’ouest Africain: étude botanique, biologique et chimique. Leconte, Marseille, France. 568 pp.
• Hauman, L. & Wilczek, R., 1951. Capparidaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 2. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 454–521.
• Kers, L.E., 1986. Capparidaceae. Flore du Cameroun. Volume 29. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 141 pp.
• Kers, L.E., 2000. Capparidaceae. In: Edwards, S., Mesfin Tadesse, Demissew Sebsebe & Hedberg, I. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 2, part 1. Magnoliaceae to Flacourtiaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 74–120.
• Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968. Food composition table for use in Africa. FAO, Rome, Italy. 306 pp.
• Wild, H. & Conçalves, M.L., 1973. Capparaceae. In: Fernandes, A. (Editor). Flora de Moçambique. No 12. Junta de Investigações do Ultramar, Lisbon, Portugal. 64 pp.
• Wild, H., 1960. Capparidaceae. In: Exell, A.W. & Wild, H. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 1, part 1. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 195–245.
P.C.M. Jansen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

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:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Cleome rutidosperma DC. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.