Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Bull. Jard. Bot. Brux. 34: 48 (1964).
Uragoga eminiana Kuntze (1891), Grumilea ungoniensis K.Schum. & K.Krause (1907), Grumilea stolzii K.Krause (1920).
Origin and geographic distribution
Psychotria eminiana is widespread in tropical Africa; it has been found from northern Nigeria, Central African Republic and Sudan south to Malawi, Zambia, Angola and Mozambique.
In Malawi the leaves are cooked with ashes to prepare a slimy vegetable called ‘thelele’, which is particularly liked by older people. In DR Congo Psychotria eminiana is used medicinally against intestinal diseases and worms. In eastern Africa the rhizomes are used to treat snakebites; fresh rhizomes are chewed and the juice swallowed, or they may be pounded and the infusion used both orally and externally on the wound.
No properties of Psychotria eminiana are known, but in general Psychotria species are rich in alkaloids. Best known is ipecac (Psychotria ipecacuanha (Brot.) Stokes), native to South and Central America but widely cultivated also elsewhere, of which the rhizomes contain a series of terpenoid tetrahydro-isoquinoline type alkaloids such as emetine, cephaeline and psychotrine. The dried rhizome has long been an important medicine as an emetic, expectorant and to treat amoebic dysentery. In small doses the drug is a stimulant, increasing appetite and facilitating digestion.
Subshrub to small tree up to 3.5 m tall, with woody or herbaceous, sparsely branched, glabrous to pubescent stems arising from a woody rhizome. Leaves opposite, simple; stipules triangular, up to 1 cm long, deciduous; petiole up to 3 cm long; blade ovate, oblong, obovate, elliptical or round, 3–25 cm × 2–13 cm, cuneate to rounded at base, apex emarginate to acuminate, margins entire, glabrous to pubescent, with domatia. Inflorescence a trichotomous to many-branched complex of many-flowered panicles; peduncle up to 13 cm long. Flowers bisexual, usually 5-merous, heterostylous, subsessile; calyx tubular with unequal triangular lobes less than 2 mm long; corolla tubular with tube up to 5 mm long and lobes 2.5 mm × 1 mm, yellowish; stamens inserted at middle of corolla tube; ovary inferior, 2-celled, style slender, stigma 2-lobed. Fruit a globose 2-lobed drupe, 5–7 mm × 7–10 mm, red, glabrous to pubescent, containing 2 pyrenes c. 5 mm in diameter. Seeds subglobose, c. 4.5 mm in diameter, dark brown, ventral face flat.
Psychotria is a large pantropical genus of about 500 species, with over 200 species present in tropical Africa. Psychotria eminiana is rather variable and several varieties have been described. Most of the habit variation seems to be due to differences in burning frequency and damage. Plants that are protected for some years become much woodier than other ones.
In Cameroon the boiled leaves of Psychotria leptophylla Hiern are said to be used as a vegetable; this species is also found in Nigeria, the island Bioco (Equatorial Guinea) and DR Congo.
Psychotria eminiana occurs in deciduous thicket, Brachystegia woodland and derived open bushland, usually on dry burnt ground or stony hills but sometimes riverine, at 500–1650 m altitude.
Psychotria eminiana is only collected from the wild and not cultivated.
Genetic resources and breeding
Psychotria eminiana is rather widespread and not in danger of genetic erosion.
Psychotria eminiana will remain a minor vegetable, locally important in the dry season when other vegetables are scarce. Its nutritional and medicinal properties should be investigated.
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Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Psychotria eminiana (Kuntze) E.M.A.Petit In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.