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Diplocyclos palmatus (L.) C.Jeffrey

Kew Bull. 15: 352 (1962).
Chromosome number
2n = 24
Vernacular names
Lollipop climber, striped cucumber, native bryony (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Diplocyclos palmatus is widely spread in the Old World tropics including Madagascar. It occurs throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but is absent in most of West Africa and Somalia.
The leaves of Diplocyclos palmatus are eaten as a vegetable in Kenya and in South-East Asia; young fruits and shoots are occasionally eaten as well in South-East Asia. In Kenya the roots are used as an antivenin and fruits and leaves to cure stomach-ache. In Thailand stems are used as an expectorant and fruits as a laxative, and in Nepal seeds as a febrifuge. Diplocyclos palmatus is grown in Kenya and Zimbabwe as a garden ornamental because of the decorative fruits.
Dried leaves caused death in calves and ewes in Kenya. Galactose specific lectin activity was detected in the mucilaginous coat surrounding the seeds of Diplocyclos palmatus. The lectin is a single polypeptide chain containing 2% carbohydrate. Punicic acid, a trans fatty acid that is rare in plants, was isolated from Diplocyclos palmatus.
Perennial, monoecious herb climbing by bifid tendrils; stem up to 6 m long, young stems spotted with darker green. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules absent; petiole 2–10 cm long; blade broadly ovate, palmately 5(–7)-lobed, up to 14 cm × 15 cm; base cordate; lobes narrowly elliptical or elliptical, margin sinuate-dentate. Inflorescence an axillary cluster, with usually both male and female flowers in same axil. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous, corolla white to greenish-yellow; male flowers pedicellate, with 3 free stamens; female flowers subsessile, with inferior, 1-celled ovary, stigma 3-lobed. Fruit a subglobose, indehiscent berry 1.5–2.5 cm in diameter, solitary or clustered, red with silvery white longitudinal stripes.
Diplocyclos comprises 4 species, 3 of which are confined to Africa.
Diplocyclos palmatus occurs in different types of vegetation, but usually in wet localities, e.g. swampy forest, flood-plains and valleys, at altitudes up to 1800 m.
Genetic resources and breeding
As Diplocyclos palmatus is widespread and hardly exploited, there seem to be no immediate threats of genetic erosion.
In view of the toxicity, promoting the consumption of Diplocyclos is hazardous. Further research into the chemical constituents is desirable.
Major references
• Anuradha, P. & Bhide S., 2002. Diplocyclos palmatus seed mucilaginous sheath lectin-purification and partial characterization. [Internet] http://plab.ku.dk/tcbh/interlec20Anuradha.htm. Accessed 21 May 2003.
• Jeffrey, C., 1995. Cucurbitaceae. In: Edwards, S., Mesfin Tadesse & Hedberg, I. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 2, part 2. Canellaceae to Euphorbiaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 17–59.
• Keraudren-Aymonin, M., 1983. Découverte du genre Diplocyclos (Cucurbitacées) à Madagascar: aspects biologiques et biogéographiques. Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France. Lettres Botaniques 129(4–5): 325–328.
• Mugura, G.M., 1970. Toxic and medicinal plants of Africa. Part 2. Bulletin of Epizootic Diseases of Africa 18: 389–407.
• Njoroge, G.N. & Newton, L.E., 2002. Ethnobotany and distribution of wild genetic resources of the family Cucurbitaceae in the central highlands of Kenya. Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter 132: 10–16.
• van den Bergh, M.H., 1993. Minor vegetables. In: Siemonsma, J.S. & Kasem Piluek (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 8. Vegetables. Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, Netherlands. pp. 280–310.
Other 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.
• Jeffrey, C., 1962. Notes on Cucurbitaceae, including a proposed new classification of the family. Kew Bulletin 15(3): 337–371.
• Jeffrey, C., 1979. The economic potential of some Cucurbitaceae and Compositae of tropical Africa. In: Kunkel, G. (Editor). Taxonomic aspects of African economic botany. Proceedings of the 9th plenary meeting of AETFAT. Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain. pp. 35–38.
C.H. Bosch
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:
Bosch, C.H., 2004. Diplocyclos palmatus (L.) C.Jeffrey In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.