Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 58: 239 (1923)
Momordica bracteata Hutch. & Dalziel (1927).
Origin and geographic distribution
Momordica angustisepala is distributed in the forest zone from Côte d’Ivoire to Cameroon.
The stem of Momordica angustisepala is used as washing and bathing sponge in Ghana, Benin and Nigeria. After maceration, the stem is also used as filter for palm oil and palm wine. In Nigeria the stem is used for making woven masks for masquerades. The decorticated and washed twigs are chewed in Ghana. The root extract of Momordica angustisepala is used as an abortifacient in traditional medicine in South Nigeria.
Production and international trade
The plant is sometimes cultivated in Ghana but no production or trade data are available.
A root extract of Momordica angustisepala produced contractions on isolated guinea pig ileum similar to those of acetylcholine and histamine.
A dioecious climber; stem more or less puberulous; tendrils unequally branched, bifid, spirally coiled with a straight part 4–6 cm long. Leaves alternate, simple; petiole 1.5–3.5(–5) cm long, puberulous or almost glabrous; blade broadly ovate or ovate-oblong, 5–12 cm × 4–9 cm, unlobed or 3–(5)-lobed, base cordate, apex acuminate or mucronate, margin often coarsely and acutely dentate, membranous, scabrid-puberulous on both surfaces. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous; male flowers several together in more or less corymbose or subumbellate inflorescence; peduncle 3–6 cm long, puberulous or glabrescent, with a broadly ovate-cordate bract at the apex, bract 1.5–2.5 cm × 2–2.5 cm, margin entire or crenulate; pedicel 4–8 mm long; sepals lanceolate, 8–15 mm long, acuminate, brown or black; petals round, 5 mm in diameter, cream-coloured, yellow or orange, finely pubescent; stamens with bifid connectives, filaments 1 mm long, glabrous, anther 2.5 mm long with curved apex. Female flowers solitary; perianth similar to male flowers; ovary flask-shaped, pubescent. Fruit an ovoid berry up to 15 cm long, with a long beak, with ondulate ribs. Seeds black and slightly wrinkled.
The reproductive biology of the species is not well documented and requires further study. Reproductive organs are scarcely found and one may speculate that the plant preferentially reproduces vegetatively.
Momordica is a diverse genus comprising more than 47 species with most representatives in Africa. Common species in West and Central Africa thriving in the same distribution area include Momordica charantia L., Momordica cissoides Benth., Momordica gilgiana Cogn. and Momordica foetida Schum.
Momordica angustisepala is usually found in closed, deciduous and semi-deciduous forest. It also occurs at the edge of secondary forest or in old plantations, disturbed areas and roadsides.
The plant is sometimes cultivated, but stems are mainly harvested from the wild. Sponges are obtained by pounding the stem, washing out the impurities and drying.
Genetic resources and breeding
Momordica angustisepala is rare in West Africa. The species is threatened by land clearance for agriculture or infrastructural development. Few accessions are maintained at the Botanical Garden of the University of Ife (Nigeria). Recent collecting missions carried out by the author from 2005 to 2008 in eight countries of West Africa resulted in only few herbarium specimens for this species.
If it can be more widely cultivated or sustainably harvested from wild stands, the plant is a good source of biological sponge for home use. The root contains oxytocic compounds which may be useful in the development of contraceptive methods in medicine.
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Correct citation of this article:
Achigan-Dako, E.G., 2010. Momordica angustisepala Harms. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.