Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Sp. pl. 1: 171 (1753).
Primulaceae (APG: Theophrastaceae)
2n = 26
Brookweed, water pimpernel (En). Mouron d’eau (Fr). Alface dos rios, coentro de tchincherrote (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Samolus valerandi is an almost cosmopolitan herb of humid localities in tropical to temperate regions, and occurs throughout tropical Africa.
The young leaves of Samolus valerandi are collected from the wild and eaten as a cooked vegetable or raw as a salad, but mostly only in times when other vegetables are scarce. In southern Africa the plant is used as a remedy for itch, ringworm and other skin rashes. The plant is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental in water borders; some types survive submersion for some months, but Samolus valerandi is not recommended as an aquarium plant.
Erect, glabrous, annual to short-lived perennial herb up to 50(–90) cm tall; stem simple or branched, arising from a basal rosette. Leaves alternate, simple, fleshy; rosette leaves with petiole up to 3 cm long, spatulate, 4.5–10 cm × 1.5–3.5 cm, stem leaves usually gradually becoming smaller and subsessile. Inflorescence an axillary or terminal, many-flowered raceme up to 25 cm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 1–2.5 cm long, usually abruptly bent near the middle where a bract is attached; calyx cup-shaped, tube c. 1.5 mm long and partly adnate to ovary, lobes triangular, about half as long as tube; corolla campanulate, c. 2 mm long, with spatulate lobes, white; stamens inserted at base of corolla tube, alternating with staminodes inserted between the corolla lobes; ovary half-inferior, globose, style 0.5 mm long, stigma rounded. Fruit a globose capsule c. 3 mm in diameter, dehiscing with 5, strongly reflexed valves, many-seeded. Seeds angular, c. 0.5 mm long, minutely granular, dark brown. Seedling with epigeal germination; hypocotyl 1–2 mm long, epicotyl absent; cotyledons leafy, oblong -elliptical, 1–1.5 mm long.
Samolus comprises about 9 species, with only Samolus valerandi being cosmopolitan, the others mostly found in the Southern Hemisphere. Dispersion of Samolus valerandi seeds is probably effected by birds and by wind.
Samolus valerandi grows at water level on stream banks, in swamps, in drying riverbeds, along coasts and in dunes. It is tolerant of saline soils. Seed germinates only in light, does not survive long in salt water and seedlings die in sea water.
Genetic resources and breeding
Samolus valerandi is extremely widespread and not in danger of genetic erosion.
Samolus valerandi will remain a minor vegetable, particularly of importance in times of food scarcity. Its nutritional composition and medicinal properties need investigation.
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Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Samolus valerandi L. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.