Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1895: 220 (1895).
Asclepiadaceae (APG: Apocynaceae)
Edithcolea sordida N.E.Br. (1903).
Persian carpet flower (En). Tapis persan (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Edithcolea grandis has been found wild in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Yemen. Occasionally it is cultivated in ‘desert gardens’.
In Ethiopia and Somalia the stems are eaten as a vegetable. Edithcolea grandis has potential as an ornamental succulent with beautiful flowers. The flowers have been described as: ‘resembling a Tudor Rose in shape and with a colour more like a beautifully toned Persian carpet than anything else’.
Succulent, perennial, leafless, decumbent herb, up to 30(–75) cm tall; stem 2–3 cm in diameter, more or less branched, glabrous, 5-angled, angles armed with hard, brown, very acute, spinelike teeth. Flowers usually solitary at the apex of the branches, bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 1.5–2 cm long; calyx divided with ovate-lanceolate lobes 8 mm × 2 mm; corolla rotate, 8–12.5 cm in diameter, tube 6–8 mm × 3–9 mm, disk with concentric dark red ridges, usually white-yellowish with dark purple-brown spots confluent at the base of each lobe in an arc, lobes ovate-acute, up to 5 cm × 2.5–3 cm, bordered with long clavate purple hairs to about the middle where the borders incurve and form a broad hairy arc across each of the lobes, usually dark purple-brown above the hairy arc; outer corona consisting of oblong, acutely bifid lobes 1 mm long, inner corona of erect fleshy lobes 2 mm long, inflexed over the anthers; ovary superior, style not exceeding the anthers, stigma 5-lobed.
A form with profusely branching stems and a rather shrubby growth, and obtuse stem-angles which are often spirally twisted, has been separated as var. baylissiana Lavranos & Hardy.
In the wild Edithcolea grandis grows in desert-like, dry and hot localities, in full sun or sometimes in the light shade of rocks or other plants, on sandy soils.
Propagation is possible by seed and by cuttings. Stem cuttings root easily and best results are obtained at temperatures above 27°C in light shade; the soil has to be well drained because the plant rots extremely easily. Plants tolerate temperatures as low as 4°C, but the temperature should preferably not drop below 12°C. Established plants need much sun for growth, so cultivation is difficult in many temperate regions. Cultivated plants are offered for sale in Europe for € 7.5-11.
Genetic resources and breeding
In the wild, Edithcolea grandis is found very locally and it should be protected wherever it grows.
Although the stems of Edithcolea grandis are said to be edible, its commercial cultivation (possibly including tissue culture propagation) and trade as an ornamental may have more potential.
• Lavranos, J.J. & Hardy, D.S., 1963. A new variety of Edithcolea from Tanganyika. Journal of South African Botany 29: 21–23.
• Schlieben, H.J., 1963. Edithcolea – Decabelone. Der Palmengarten 27: 17–20.
• White, A. & Sloane, B.L., 1937. The Stapelieae. 3 volumes. 2nd Edition. Pasadena, California, United States. 1186 pp.
• Brown, N.E., 1902–1904. Asclepiadaceae. In: Thiselton-Dyer, W.T. (Editor). Flora of tropical Africa. Volume 4(1). Lovell Reeve & Co, London, United Kingdom. pp. 231–503.
• Westphal, E., 1975. Agricultural systems in Ethiopia. Verslagen van landbouwkundige onderzoekingen 826. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands. 278 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Edithcolea grandis N.E.Br. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.