Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Bot. Jahrb. 43: 104 (1909).
2n = 32
Parrot plant, Congo’s cockatoo, red cockies beak (En). Impatience du Zaïre, impatience bec-de-perroquet (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Impatiens niamniamensis occurs from Cameroon east to the Central African Republic, southern Sudan, south-western Kenya and north-western Tanzania, and south to Angola.
In DR Congo the leaves of Impatiens niamniamensis are eaten as a vegetable and are used to produce a vegetable salt. The leaves are eaten in Congo as a cure for heart troubles and illnesses caused by evil spirits. In both countries mentioned, the leaves are used to make poultices and dressings to treat wounds and sores and to alleviate all kinds of painful conditions. Impatiens niamniamensis is widely grown in Africa as an ornamental garden or potplant.
The flavonoids procyanidin and prodelphidin have been isolated from the sepals and petals of Impatiens niamniamensis.
Erect perennial herb up to 1 m tall, sometimes epiphytic; stem succulent, becoming woody below, little branched. Leaves arranged spirally, simple; petiole 1–10 cm long; blade broadly ovate, ovate-oblong or elliptical, up to 22 cm × 9.5 cm, base cuneate, apex sub-obtuse, acute or shortly acuminate, margin crenate. Flowers axillary, in 2–6-flowered fascicles, bisexual, zygomorphic, 5-merous; lower sepal spurred, c. 5 cm long; lateral petals paired, dorsal petal cucculate, up to 10 mm × 6 mm. Fruit a fleshy, explosive, 5-valved, fusiform capsule 14–16 mm × 5–7 mm.
Impatiens niamniamensis is variable in leaf size, leaf shape, flower size and flower colour. In its natural range it flowers throughout the year.
Impatiens macroptera Hook.f. has the same uses in Congo as Impatiens niamniamensis. It is restricted in range (Nigeria to Gabon and Congo), altitude (600–1350 m) and ecology (humid, shaded rainforest). It is a perennial herb, up to 50 cm tall, sometimes epiphytic, with rose-pink or rose-violet flowers.
Impatiens niamniamensis grows in moist, densely shaded areas in bushland, swampy and riverine forests at altitudes of 350–2400 m. Frost is not tolerated.
Impatiens niamniamensis is widely cultivated as an ornamental garden or potplant. In cultivation it rarely sets seed and therefore propagation is by cuttings. Several cultivars, differing in flower colour, are recognized in the United States.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its wide distribution there is no threat of genetic erosion or extinction. There are no known collections in scientific institutions but Impatiens niamniamensis is widely distributed among professional and amateur gardeners.
As an ornamental Impatiens niamniamensis has a bright future in tropical and subtropical areas. Research is needed to evaluate the traditional uses as a vegetable and medicinal plant.
• 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.
• 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 niamniamensis Gilg In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.