Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Bot. Jahrb. 15: 420 (1893).
Origin and geographic distribution
Costus phyllocephalus has a relatively restricted distribution and has been recorded in southern DR Congo and northern Angola.
In Bas Congo (DR Congo) young leaves and shoots of Costus phyllocephalus are collected from the wild and eaten raw as a salad. They have a pleasant, refreshing and slightly acid taste.
Perennial herb with rhizome and terete, glabrous stem up to 50 cm long. Leaves arranged spirally, simple; sheath tubular, closed, with ligule up to 3 cm long; petiole up to 0.5 cm long; blade lanceolate to oblong-obovate, 8–17 cm × 4–6.5 cm, with an acuminate tip, glabrous. Inflorescence a terminal head c. 5 cm in diameter, with large bracts having a blade up to 7 cm long. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, 3-merous; calyx tubular, c. 1.5 cm long, toothed; corolla 3 -lobed, lobes fused at base, unequal, lower lobe (lip) c. 5 cm × 5 cm, pink with white throat; stamen 1, petaloid, c. 3 cm long; ovary inferior, 3-celled. Fruit a capsule crowned by the persistent calyx, many-seeded. Seeds with aril.
Costus comprises about 90 species and can be found throughout the tropics, tropical America being richest in species. In tropical Africa approximately 30 species occur. The leaves of Costus afer Ker-Gawl., Costus lucanusianus Joh.Braun & K.Schum. and Costus spectabilis (Fenzl) K.Schum. are also eaten in Bas Congo, but the former 2 are more important medicinally and the latter is preferred as an ornamental. The young shoots of Costus lucanusianus are cooked and eaten in Gabon and also have an acidulous taste.
Costus phyllocephalus can be found in the undergrowth of lowland forest, often in humid localities along streams.
Genetic resources and breeding
The range of distribution of Costus phyllocephalus is limited, rendering it susceptible to genetic erosion. However, there is insufficient information available to make any pertinent conclusions or recommendations.
Locally Costus phyllocephalus is a popular vegetable, and it merits further examination. It might be an interesting ornamental because of its attractive flowers and the comparatively small plant size.
• Latham, P., 2002. Some useful plants of Bas-Congo province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. DFID, London, United Kingdom. 142 pp.
• Daeleman, J. & Pauwels, L., 1983. Notes d’ethnobotanique de Ntandu (Kongo). Africana Linguistica 9, Annales du Musée Royal d’Afrique Centrale, Tervuren, Belgium, Série in-8, Sciences Humaines 110: 149–255.
• Konda, K., Mbembe, B., Bavukinina, N. & Itufa, Y., 1992. Contribution à l’inventaire des plantes alimentaires spontanées au Zaïre. Al Biruniya, Revue Marocaine de Pharmacognosie, d’Etude Ethnomedicales et de Botanique Appliquée 8(2): 97–109.
Correct citation of this article:
van der Burg, W.J., 2004. Costus phyllocephalus K.Schum. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.