Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Bull. Herb. Boiss. 4, app. 2: 172 (1896).
2n = 24
Talinum cuneifolium (Vahl) Willd. (1800).
Origin and geographic distribution
Talinum portulacifolium occurs from Nigeria east to Ethiopia and Eritrea, and south to northern South Africa; it also occurs in Arabia and India. In Africa it is occasionally cultivated.
The leaves of Talinum portulacifolium are eaten as a cooked vegetable or raw as a salad, alone or with young stem parts. In Tanzania leafy stem parts are often cooked together with Bidens or Cleome leaves, or mixed with coconut milk or pounded groundnuts and eaten with the staple food. The leaves can also be stored dry for later use. The plant is a palatable fodder for cattle and goats. In Ethiopia the leaves are applied medicinally against eye diseases and the root against cough and gonorrhoea. In Tanzania the plant is credited with aphrodisiac properties and a leaf decoction is used as a remedy for constipation.
The nutritional composition of Talinum portulacifolium leaves is not known, but probably it is comparable to Talinum triangulare (Jacq.) Willd.
Perennial herb with grey, succulent stems up to 1(–3) m long, sprouting from a thickened root. Leaves alternate, simple, slightly fleshy; petiole 2–3 mm long; blade broadly obovate to oblong, 2–8 cm × 1–3.5 cm, base cuneate, apex rounded but apiculate, margin entire. Inflorescence a terminal panicle with lateral cymes on a central axis up to 30 cm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, opening towards the evening, 2–2.5 cm in diameter; pedicel 1–2 cm long, recurving in fruit; sepals 2, ovate, 4–5.5 mm long, concave; petals 5, obovate, usually magenta, sometimes red, pink or white; stamens c. 25; ovary superior, style slender, c. 1.5 mm long, ending in a 3-branched stigma. Fruit a globose capsule up to 7 mm in diameter, bright yellow, 3 -valved, the valves falling separately, many-seeded. Seeds lens-shaped, c. 1 mm in diameter, glossy black, smooth or papillose.
Talinum comprises about 40 species, most of them found in Mexico and the southern United States, and 7 species in tropical Africa. Talinum portulacifolium is sometimes confused with Talinum triangulare, which is also used as a vegetable. The latter species differs in its pink flowers arranged in cymes on triangular stalks, sepals prominently 3-veined and tuberculate seeds.
Talinum portulacifolium is common in a wide range of habitats, from rocky locations to grassland, in open bushland and thickets, along water courses and as a weed in fields, from sea-level up to 2200 m altitude.
Talinum portulacifolium is mostly collected from the wild and only occasionally cultivated. Propagation is by seed and cuttings.
Genetic resources and breeding
Talinum portulacifolium is widespread and not in danger of genetic erosion. There are no known germplasm collections.
Talinum portulacifolium will remain a minor vegetable, of local importance when other vegetables are scarce.
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Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2004. Talinum portulacifolium (Forssk.) Asch. ex Schweinf. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.