Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Fl. trop. Afr. 1: 300 (1868).
2n = 14
Impatience d’Irving (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Impatiens irvingii occurs from Guinea east to Gabon, the Central African Republic, DR Congo, south-western Sudan, Rwanda and southern and western Tanzania, and south to Angola, Malawi and northern Zambia.
The leaves of Impatiens irvingii are eaten as a vegetable in Liberia. The plant is used in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Sudan to produce a high quality vegetable salt. The young leaves are used in Côte d’Ivoire as a treatment for schistosomiasis. It is occasionally grown as an ornamental pot plant.
The flavonoids procyanidin and prodelphidin have been isolated from the stems, sepals and petals of Impatiens irvingii.
Sprawling or more or less erect perennial herb; stem succulent, up to 1.5 m long. Leaves arranged spirally, simple; petiole up to 1.5 cm long; blade lanceolate to oblong-elliptical, up to 18 cm × 4.5 cm, base cuneate, apex acute, subacute or acuminate, margin serrate-denticulate. Flowers axillary, solitary or in fascicles of 2–3, bisexual, zygomorphic, 5-merous, rose violet or pale purple; lower sepal spurred, c. 5 cm long; lateral petals paired, dorsal petal sub-orbicular or slightly obovate, up to 15 mm × 18 mm. Fruit a fleshy, explosive, 5-valved, fusiform capsule 14–18 mm × 4–6 mm.
Impatiens irvingii is extremely variable, especially in pubescence, leaf shape and flower size. In its natural range it flowers throughout the year. In Nigeria aquatic snail species were found to be strongly associated with Impatiens irvingii, which is helpful in monitoring and controlling snails that host schistosoma.
Impatiens irvingii grows in moist localities in rain forest, swamps or along watercourses, sometimes in shallow water. It is restricted to altitudes of 400–900 m.
Genetic resources and breeding
As Impatiens irvingii is widely distributed there is no threat of extinction. There are no documented accessions in germplasm collections but it is grown in botanical gardens and by amateur gardeners in many parts of the world.
It is not likely that Impatiens irvingii will find wider acceptance as a vegetable crop. The obvious lack of interest from pharmacologists so far is surprising. Research into the role it may play in schistosomiasis control may prove worthwhile.
• 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.
• Grey-Wilson, C., 1980. Impatiens in Africa. Morphology, pollination and pollinators, ecology, phytogeography, hybridisation, keys and a systematic treatment of all african species. With a note on collecting and cultivation. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 235 pp.
• Ofoezie, I.E., 1999. Distribution of freshwater snails in the man-made Oyan Reservoir, Ogun State, Nigeria. Hydrobiologia 416: 181–191.
• Rosna Mat Taha, 2001. Impatiens L. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2). Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 306–310.
• Hegnauer, R., 1989. Chemotaxonomie der Pflanzen. Band 8. Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, Boston, Berlin. 718 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2004. Impatiens irvingii Hook.f. ex Oliv. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.