Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Fruct. sem. pl. 2: 219 (1791).
2n = 24
Talinum patens (L.) Willd. (1799).
Flameflower, jewels of Opar (En). Herbe onze heures, gros pourpier (Fr). Lingua de vaca, beldroega miúda, maria gombi (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Talinum paniculatum is native to tropical America, but is now a pantropical weed. It occurs scattered throughout tropical Africa, and is locally cultivated as a vegetable in Ghana and Nigeria.
The shoots and leaves of Talinum paniculatum are added to stews and soups, e.g. in Ghana, Nigeria and DR Congo. They are also eaten as a vegetable in tropical America. Talinum paniculatum is cultivated as a garden ornamental and potplant.
There is no information on the nutritional composition of Talinum paniculatum leaves, but it is probably comparable to that of Talinum triangulare (Jacq.) Willd.
Adulterations and substitutes
Leaves of Talinum paniculatum may be replaced by those of Talinum triangulare, which have a similar but slightly less sharp taste.
Erect, glabrous perennial herb up to 100(–120) cm tall, not branched or sparsely branched at base; roots swollen and fleshy; stem succulent, slightly woody at base, dark purple to brownish black. Leaves alternate, simple, almost sessile, succulent; stipules absent; blade elliptical to obovate, 3–12 cm × 1.5–5 cm, base cuneate, apex acute, entire, venation pinnate, indistinct. Inflorescence a large, many-flowered terminal panicle up to 40(–60) cm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, c. 1 cm in diameter; pedicel c. 1 cm long, slender; sepals 2, rounded, 1–2 mm long; petals 5, free, obovate to orbicular, pink; stamens 15–20; ovary superior, 1-celled, style slender, with 3-branched stigma. Fruit a globose capsule 3–5 mm long, 3-valved, elastically dehiscent, many-seeded. Seeds lenticular to reniform, c. 1 mm long, smooth or tuberculate, shining black.
Talinum comprises about 40 species, most of them found in Mexico and southern United States, and 7 species in tropical Africa.
In tropical Africa Talinum paniculatum occurs locally naturalized, usually in cultivated land and roadsides, sometimes in forest edges, up to 2200 m altitude. In cultivation it prefers well-drained, moist soil rich in organic matter, and full sun. It is drought and shade tolerant.
Talinum paniculatum is mainly collected from the wild, but is cultivated in Ghana and southern Nigeria. It is propagated by seed or cuttings. There are about 5000 seeds per g. Seeds are sown in the field under light shade or in a nursery. Seedlings appear after 1 week and should be transplanted within 5 weeks. Cuttings are taken from slightly woody stems, from which tops and leaves are removed. They require ample watering. Cuttings are planted at a density of about 5 per m2. The crop responds well to fertilizer.
A first harvest can be taken about 6 weeks after planting cuttings, or 8–9 weeks after sowing. Young shoots are picked when the plants are 30 cm tall and leaves are fully developed. Inflorescences should be removed regularly. Although plants remain productive longer, they should be removed after one year as they become woody.
Genetic resources and breeding
Talinum paniculatum is widespread and not in danger of genetic erosion. A few accessions are held at the National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, United States.
In tropical Africa Talinum paniculatum is currently mainly collected from the wild. It is poorly known, but deserves more attention as it is easy to grow and productive.
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Correct citation of this article:
Mosango, M., 2004. Talinum paniculatum (Jacq.) Gaertn. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.