Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Bot. Jahrb. 27: 51 (1899).
2n = 22
Sericostachys tomentosa Lopr. (1899).
Origin and geographic distribution
Sericostachys scandens is widespread in tropical Africa from Nigeria to Ethiopia and south to Angola and Malawi.
In DR Congo the leaves of Sericostachys scandens collected from the wild are eaten as a vegetable. The leaves are applied as a poultice on wounds and from the bark a medicine for venereal diseases is prepared. In Rwanda and Uganda Sericostachys scandens is a key species for honey production from wild flowers in the forest. In Kenya initiation ceremonies are related to the occurrence of flowering, which is there thought to happen only once every 7–8 years.
Much-branched, scandent shrub, with branches up to 30 m long; branches opposite, terete to angular, finely striate, swollen at the nodes. Leaves opposite, simple; petiole 1–2.5 cm long; blade broadly ovate to lanceolate-ovate, 5–15 cm × 3–8 cm, base cuneate to attenuate, apex acuminate, margin entire, almost glabrous to densely tomentose. Inflorescence a broad panicle of spike-like branches up to 8 cm long with sessile flower clusters and persistent bracts up to 6 mm long; each flower cluster consisting of 1 fertile and 2 modified sterile flowers, subtended by 2 bracteoles up to 6 mm long, long pilose in sterile flowers. Fertile flowers bisexual, 5-merous; tepals lanceolate, 4–8 mm long, with pale margins, glabrous to pilose; stamens 3.5–6 mm long, at base fused to a solid disk-like rim and alternating with very small tooth-like staminodes; ovary superior, 1-celled, glabrous, style filiform, up to 3 mm long, stigma capitate. Sterile flowers consisting of up to 12 linear appendages densely furnished with spreading hairs, much accrescent in fruit. Fruit a thin-walled, indehiscent, ovoid-cylindrical capsule 3 mm long, 1 -seeded, enclosed by and falling with the persistent perianth and bracteoles. Seed ovoid, 2.5–3 mm long, shiny brown.
Sericostachys comprises only a single species. It strongly resembles Clematis (Ranunculaceae) with its climbing habit and the hairy appendages surrounding the fruits. Sericostachys scandens can be found flowering year -round and the flowers are much visited by bees. The fruits are dispersed by wind.
Sericostachys scandens usually scrambles over trees and shrubs, often in riverine or lakeside forest, at 700–2600 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Sericostachys scandens is widespread and not in danger of genetic erosion.
Sericostachys scandens probably will remain a minor vegetable. Its nutrional and medicinal properties need further investigation. Its possibilities as an ornamental are more promising; in fruit it is strikingly decorative.
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Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Sericostachys scandens Gilg & Lopr. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.