logo of PROTA Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Record display


Melochia corchorifolia L.

Protologue
Sp. pl. 2: 675 (1753).
Family
Sterculiaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
Chromosome number
2n = 36, 46
Vernacular names
Chocolate weed, redweed, wire bush (En). Herbe à balai (Fr). Mpopo (Po). Pombo (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Melochia corchorifolia is widespread in tropical Africa, Asia and Australia. It has been introduced in America and is widely naturalized there.
Uses
The leaves of Melochia corchorifolia are eaten as a potherb in West Africa and southern Africa. The cooked leaves provide a popular, slimy side-dish in Malawi. Similar use of the leaves is reported from Indo-China and India. Melochia corchorifolia is eagerly browsed, either green or dry, by cattle in Sudan but less so in Senegal. Fibres extracted from the bark are fine and strong and are used like those of Triumfetta, Urena and Hibiscus. The stems are used for tying bundles and are used in the construction of conical roofs for local houses. Leaves are used for unspecified stomach disorders in coastal East Africa. In Benin the seed is used to treat stomachache. In Malaysia and India the leaves and roots are used to treat a wide range of medical problems: urinary disorders, abdominal swelling, dysentery, snakebites and sores. An aqueous solution of leaves has insecticidal properties. Pulses stored in gunny bags treated with the solution have shown a reduction in the number of eggs laid and in damage done by the storage pest Callosobruchus.
Properties
Phytochemical analysis of leaves of Melochia corchorifolia has revealed the presence of triterpenes (friedelin, friedelinol and β-amyrin), flavonol glycosides (hibifolin, triflin and melocorin), aliphatic compounds, flavonoids (vitexin and robunin), β-D-sitosterol and its stearate, β-D-glucoside and alkaloids. A pyridine alkaloid, 6-methoxy-3-propenyl-2-pyridine carboxylic acid, may be important as related pyridine derivatives are physiologically active.
Melochia tomentosa L. and Melochia pyramidata L., both originating from tropical America, have been implicated in poisoning and causing paralysis and tumours.
Botany
Annual or perennial herb, erect to spreading, up to 1.3(–2.0) m tall; stem with a line of stellate hairs. Leaves arranged spirally, simple; stipules subulate-lanceolate, c. 1 cm long; petiole 0.5–2(–3) cm long; blade narrowly to broadly ovate, up to 7.5 cm × 5.5 cm, base cuneate to truncate, apex acute to rounded, margin acutely serrate, (3–)5-veined from the base. Inflorescence a condensed axillary or terminal cyme. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; calyx campanulate, c. 3 mm long, short-teethed; petals obovate, c. 8 mm long, white with yellow base inside; stamens united almost to the top of the filaments; ovary superior, 5-celled, styles 5, united at base. Fruit a globose, 5-valved capsule c. 5 mm in diameter, few-seeded. Seeds 3-sided, c. 3 mm × 2.5 mm, striate.
Melochia comprises about 50 species, with 3 species occurring in mainland tropical Africa. Melochia melissifolia Benth. is found in both tropical Africa and tropical America. It occurs in swampy grassland and on waste ground. It differs from Melochia corchorifolia in the allround pubescence of the stems. Both species are highly variable and have similar uses.
Ecology
Melochia corchorifolia is mostly found in sunny or slightly shaded, humid localities such as river banks, lake shores and alluvial plains. It is a common and important weed, notably in rice (both upland and lowland), soybean, cotton and cassava.
Management
In the literature mention is made of cultivation of Melochia corchorifolia, but no details seem to have been published. Propagation is done by seed; germination can be improved considerably by scarification. Scarified seed germinates best at temperatures of 35–40°C. Melochia corchorifolia is reported to be a host of fungal diseases (Rhizoctonia solani).
Genetic resources and breeding
Genetic erosion is not likely as the geographical distribution of Melochia corchorifolia is extensive.
Prospects
Melochia corchorifolia will remain locally of some importance as a collected vegetable. Its weedy nature warrants caution for promoting wider use and cultivation. Quite some research has been done on the phytochemistry but little is known about the pharmacological properties of its compounds.
Major references
• Burkill, H.M., 2000. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 5, Families S–Z, Addenda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 686 pp.
• Eastin, E.F., 1983. Redweed, Melochia corchorifolia, germination as influenced by scarifcation, temperature and seeding depth. Weed Science 31(2): 229–231.
• Goldberg, A., 1967. The genus Melochia L. (Sterculiaceae). Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 34(5): 191–363.
• Wild, H., 1961. Sterculiaceae. In: Exell, A.W. & Wild, H. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 1, part 2. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 517–564.
• Ysrael, M.C., 1999. Melochia corchorifolia L. In: de Padua, L.S., Bunyapraphatsara, N. & Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(1). Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 342–344.
Other references
• Arènes, J., 1959. Sterculiacées (Sterculiaceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), famille 131. Firmin-Didot et cie., Paris, France. 537 pp.
• Black, B.D., Griffin, J.L., Russin, J.S. & Snow, J.P., 1996. Weed hosts for Rhizoctonia solani, causal agent for rhizoctonia foliar blight of soybean (Glycine max). Weed Technology 10(4): 865–869.
• Raja, N., Babu, A., Dorn, S. & Ignacimuthu, S., 2001. Potential of plants for protecting stored pulses from Callosobruchus maculatus (Coleoptera: Bruchidae) infestation. Biological Agriculture and Horticulture 19(1): 19–27.
• van der Zon, A.P.M. & Grubben, G.J.H., 1976. Les légumes-feuilles spontanés et cultivés du Sud-Dahomey. Communication 65. Département des Recherches Agronomiques, Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen, Amsterdam, Netherlands. 111 pp.
• Williamson, J., 1955. Useful plants of Nyasaland. The Government Printer, Zomba, Nyasaland. 168 pp. (Reprint: Williamson, J., 1975. Useful plants of Malawi. University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi).
Sources of illustration
• Ysrael, M.C., 1999. Melochia corchorifolia L. In: de Padua, L.S., Bunyapraphatsara, N. & Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(1). Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 342–344.
Author(s)
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors
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
Illustrator
PROSEA
PROSEA Network Office, Herbarium Bogoriense, P.O. Box 234, Bogor 16122, Indonesia

Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2004. Melochia corchorifolia L. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
1, plant habit; 2, flowers; 3, fruit; 4, seed.
Source: PROSEA