logo of PROTA Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Record display


Corchorus asplenifolius Burch.

Protologue
Trav. S. Africa 1: 400 (1822).
Family
Tiliaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
Chromosome number
2n = 14
Vernacular names
Wild Jew’s mallow (En). Corète sauvage (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Corchorus asplenifolius is restricted to southern Africa, from Zambia southwards to South Africa and Swaziland. It is common at the fringes of the Kalahari desert.
Uses
The mucilaginous texture of the foliage makes it a popular leafy vegetable when consumed together with a coarse staple food. In the past, ashes from this plant were used as a substitute for salt. The ash is said to dispel ants.
Production and international trade
This vegetable is frequently collected from the wild during the rainy season for home consumption and for sale at local markets and urban centres (e.g. Bulawayo in Zimbabwe).
Properties
The composition of Corchorus asplenifolius is probably comparable to that of Corchorus olitorius.
Adulterations and substitutes
Corchorus asplenifolius can be replaced by okra or other Corchorus species found in the same region, especially Corchorus tridens L. and Corchorus trilocularis L.
Description
Perennial herb with prostrate or suberect annual stems from a woody rootstock; stems glabrous or with a line of short, curly hairs, sometimes also with spreading hairs all around. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules setaceous, up to 1 cm long; petiole up to 1 cm long; blade lanceolate to almost linear, 1.5–8 cm × 0.2–1.5 cm, rounded or broadly cuneate and without setaceous appendages at base, acute at apex, margin coarsely or finely serrate or crenate, glabrous to densely hispid. Inflorescence a 1–3-flowered leaf-opposed fasciculate cyme, bracteate. Flowers bisexual, regular, usually 5-merous, shortly stalked; sepals free, linear to linear-oblanceolate, 6–10 mm long; petals free, oblanceolate to obovate, 6–10 mm long, yellow; stamens numerous; ovary superior, 3-celled, style up to 7 mm long. Fruit a slender cylindrical capsule up to 4 cm long and c. 2 mm wide, attenuated to a blunt, undivided apex, dehiscing by 3 valves, usually on twisted stalk, many-seeded. Seeds shortly cylindrical, 1.3–2 mm long, dark brown.
Other botanical information
The genus Corchorus comprises an uncertain number of species, with estimates ranging from 40–100. Corchorus asplenifolius can be identified by its woody rootstock and often prostrate stems having narrow leaves and 3-valved capsules, often on twisted stalks. It resembles Corchorus confusus Wild, but this species usually has broader leaves and straight fruit stalks.
Growth and development
Corchorus asplenifolius is one of the few perennial Corchorus species. In the dry season, it is often burnt down to ground level, but it sprouts again when the rainy season starts. It flowers mainly in the mid-rainy season, between December and March.
Ecology
Corchorus asplenifolius occurs in open woodland and at the margins of seasonal swamps, usually on sandy soils.
Harvesting
Tops of leafy stems and leaves are collected from the wild.
Handling after harvest
Harvested leaves may be dried, made into powder and kept for use during the dry season.
Genetic resources
Although Corchorus asplenifolius is not very widespread, it does not seem to be liable to genetic erosion because it is variable in morphology, locally common and may resprout from its woody rootstock left behind after collecting leafy stems.
Prospects
Corchorus asplenifolius is a locally common and nutritious vegetable and as such a valuable wild plant. It only fetches low prices at markets, so there is little incentive to domesticate it and consider commercial production. The perennial habit may make it suitable for home garden planting for regular supply as a green vegetable for family consumption.
Major references
• Edmonds, J.M., 1990. Herbarium survey of African Corchorus L. species. Systematic and Ecogeographic Studies on Crop Genepools 4. IBPGR/IJO, Rome, Italy. 284 pp.
• Schippers, R.R., 2000. African indigenous vegetables. An overview of the cultivated species. Natural Resources Institute/ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, Chatham, United Kingdom. 214 pp.
• Tredgold, M.H., 1986. Food plants of Zimbabwe. Mambo Press, Gweru, Zimbabwe.153 pp.
• Wild, H., 1963. Tiliaceae. In: Exell, A.W., Fernandes, A. & Wild, H. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 2, part 1. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 33–91.
• Wild, H., 1984. Tiliaceae. In: Leistner, O.A. (Editor). Flora of southern Africa. Volume 21, part 1. Botanical Research Institute, Department of Agriculture, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa. 44 pp.
Other references
• Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968. Food composition table for use in Africa. FAO, Rome, Italy. 306 pp.
• Wild, H., Biegel, H.M. & Mavi, S., 1972. A Rhodesian botanical dictionary of African and English names. 2nd Edition. Government Printer, Salisbury, Rhodesia.
Sources of illustration
• Wild, H., 1984. Tiliaceae. In: Leistner, O.A. (Editor). Flora of southern Africa. Volume 21, part 1. Botanical Research Institute, Department of Agriculture, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa. 44 pp.
Author(s)
R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, 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
Illustrator
Iskak Syamsudin
PROSEA Network Office, P.O. Box 332, Bogor 16122, Indonesia
Photo Editor
E. Boer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Schippers, R.R., 2004. Corchorus asplenifolius Burch. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map wild


rootstock with flowering and fruiting branch.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin



plant habit