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Triumfetta annua L.

Tiliaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
Chromosome number
2n = 20
Vernacular names
Burweed (En). Herbe à panier (Fr). Kibosa (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Triumfetta annua occurs from Nigeria east to Ethiopia and Eritrea, and south to South Africa, also in Madagascar, as well as southern and eastern Asia. It is locally cultivated.
In East and southern Africa, e.g. Uganda and Malawi, Triumfetta annua is eaten as a leafy vegetable, cooked as a mucilaginous spinach-like relish. It is mainly collected from the wild and rarely cultivated. In Nigeria and Cameroon the bark of the young green stem, called ‘slimy stick’, is used to extract a mucilaginous exudate for the preparation of a slimy soup called ‘nkwi’, highly appreciated especially by the Bamalike tribe of Cameroon. The slimy substance is mainly used as baby food and for young children not yet able to eat coarse starchy foods. Because of its high energy value, ‘nkwi’ soup is often the first dish given to women who have delivered a child. It is also used as an appetizer. The fibrous bark is used as string, as is the case for other Triumfetta species.
Production and international trade
The demand for the leaves and young stems at markets is limited. Most people who prepare ‘nkwi’ soup grow some plants at home and trade in the prepared soup is much more lucrative than trade in the young stems. No data are available on production or yield, and international trade is either non-existent or very limited.
The nutritional composition of burweed (Triumfetta sp.) leaves per 100 g edible portion is: water 78.4 g, energy 285 kJ (68 kcal), protein 4.2 g, fat 0.4 g, carbohydrate 15.2 g, fibre 3.4 g, Ca 392 mg, P 76 mg, Fe 29.2 mg (Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968). There are no records on the composition of the exudate.
Adulterations and substitutes
Not only Triumfetta annua is used for the preparation of ‘nkwi’ soup, but also related species such as Triumfetta cordifolia Guill., Perr. & A.Rich., Triumfetta pentandra Guill., Perr. & A.Rich. and Triumfetta rhomboidea Jacq., but the latter 3 species are more important for their fibre. The leaves of these species are also used as a cooked vegetable comparable to Triumfetta annua.
Annual or short-lived perennial, erect herb up to 1(–2) m tall; stem 1.5–2.5(–4) mm in diameter, yellowish, initially with 1–2 longitudinal lines of crispy hairs, later glossy, occasionally prickly at base. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules linear, up to 4.5 mm long; petiole (1–)2–3.5(–4.5) cm long; blade ovate to elliptical, rarely slightly 3-lobed, (1.5–)3–9.5(–11.5) cm × (1–)2–6 cm, base slightly cordate to obtuse, apex acute to acuminate, margin serrate-crenate, glabrous to scabrid. Inflorescence a cyme, 3–7 together in uppermost leaf axils, often opposite the leaf, each cyme 3-flowered. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, yellow to orange; pedicel c. 1.5 mm long; sepals oblanceolate, up to 5.5(–7) mm × 1.5 mm, with apical spine; petals broadly spatulate, c. 3 mm × 2 mm, clawed; stamens 4–8; ovary superior, spherical. Fruit a spherical to ellipsoid capsule 1–2 cm in diameter including hooked spines up to 7 mm long, brown or black, glabrous or inconspicuously hairy, dehiscent with 4 valves, few-seeded. Seeds reniform, c. 2 mm long, brown or black.
Other botanical information
Triumfetta is a pantropical genus of about 100 species. Triumfetta annua is often confused with Triumfetta pentandra and Triumfetta rhomboidea, but is characterized by its glabrous or inconspicuously hairy fruits, leaves with simple hairs and lacking glands, and stems having 1–2 lines of hairs. In Triumfetta annua 2 forms are recognized: forma annua and forma piligera Sprague & Hutch., the first having glabrous fruits, the second inconspicuously hairy fruits with long, simple hairs.
Growth and development
As soon as the rains start, new shoots develop and these grow very fast. Such shoots can be very brittle and are easily damaged. New shoots continue to develop, allowing farmers to harvest throughout the rainy season.
Triumfetta annua occurs in bushland, woodland, forest edges and as a weed in fields, usually in more or less shaded locations, up to 2150 m altitude.
The management of Triumfetta plants cultivated for ‘slimy sticks’ is restricted to weeding, provision of support and some irrigation during periods of drought.
Propagation and planting
When Triumfetta annua or other Triumfetta species are cultivated for the young stems, cuttings of 15–20 cm long are taken from the top end of the harvested stems. Since the crop does not perform well under direct sunlight, the cuttings are usually planted in the shade of a tree. They are planted in a circle with a spacing of 10–15 cm. If the cutting is not planted straight upward, adventitious roots may develop, causing a reduced capacity to produce slime. Therefore, some farmers tie the cuttings to a taller plant, e.g. plantain, to ensure that they grow upright.
Young burweed leaves are picked when required. Stems are cut just above ground level when they are 75–100 cm long. They are prepared by removing all leaves and the terminal part where the stem has a diameter of less than 1 cm. The resulting sticks are either taken to the homestead or tied into bundles and brought to the market.
Handling after harvest
Burweed leaves have to be cooked well to soften them and to develop their sliminess. Potash is sometimes added to facilitate this. To prepare ‘nkwi’ soup the bark is separated from the stem by placing it over a fire for a short while until it loosens; the peeled bark is then placed in hot water for about 15 minutes and squeezed by hand to extract the sap. The sap and the water form a mucilaginous substance to which salt, pepper, various spices and a range of other ingredients are added. Care must be taken not to include vegetable oil, since this will spoil the product.
Genetic resources
It is unlikely that genetic erosion of Triumfetta annua is occurring as it has a very wide distribution. No germplasm collections are currently held at genebanks or research institutes.
The cultivation of Triumfetta annua as a vegetable is restricted to a few areas only. For these areas, research is needed on chemical composition of the bark exudate, genetic variation, cultivars and cultural practices.
Major references
• Berhaut, J., 1967. Flore du Sénégal. 2nd edition. Editions Clairafrique, Dakar, Senegal. 485 pp.
• Jacobs, T.V., 1997. Advancement index of the East African species of Triumfetta (Tiliaceae). Phyton 61: 1–7.
• Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968. Food composition table for use in Africa. FAO, Rome, Italy. 306 pp.
• Mbinglo, S. & Ntangti, 1998. The cultivation of slimy stem (nkwi), Triumfetta pentandra. Student reports, Dschang University, Cameroon.
• Schippers, R.R., 2002. African indigenous vegetables, an overview of the cultivated species 2002. Revised edition on CD-ROM. National Resources International Limited, Aylesford, United Kingdom.
• Stevels, J.M.C., 1990. Légumes traditionnels du Cameroun: une étude agrobotanique. Wageningen Agricultural University Papers No 90-1. Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands. 262 pp.
• Whitehouse, C., Cheek, M., Andrews, S. & Verdcourt, B., 2001. Tiliaceae & Muntingiaceae. In: Beentje, H.J. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 120 pp.
• Williamson, J., 1955. Useful plants of Nyasaland. The Government Printer, Zomba, Nyasaland. 168 pp. (Reprint: Williamson, J., 1975. Useful plants of Malawi. University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi).
Other references
• Jacobs, T.V., 1997. Role of the capsule in identifying species of Triumfetta (Tiliaceae). Phyton 61: 87–94.
• Jacobs, T.V., 1998. Comparative palynology of species of Clappertonia, Corchorus, Sparrmania and Triumfetta (Tiliaceae). Phyton 62: 151–154.
• Jacobs, T.V., 1999. Comparative foliar morphology of eastern and southern African species of Triumfetta (Tiliaceae). Phyton 65: 113–121.
Sources of illustration
• Lakshminarasimhan, P. & Sharma, B.D., 1991. Flora of Nasik District. Flora of India. Series 3. Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta, India. 644 pp.
• Whitehouse, C., Cheek, M., Andrews, S. & Verdcourt, B., 2001. Tiliaceae & Muntingiaceae. In: Beentje, H.J. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 120 pp.
• Wild, H., 1984. Tiliaceae. In: Leistner, O.A. (Editor). Flora of southern Africa. Volume 21, part 1. Botanical Research Institute, Department of Agriculture, Pretoria, Republic of South Africa. 44 pp.
R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, Netherlands

G.J.H. Grubben
Prins Hendriklaan 24, 1401 AT Bussum, Netherlands
O.A. Denton
National Horticultural Research Institute, P.M.B. 5432, Idi-Ishin, Ibadan, Nigeria
Associate Editors
C.-M. Messiaen
Bat. B 3, Résidence La Guirlande, 75, rue de Fontcarrade, 34070 Montpellier, France
R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Iskak Syamsudin
PROSEA Network Office, P.O. Box 332, Bogor 16122, Indonesia
Photo Editor
E. Boer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Schippers, R.R., 2004. Triumfetta annua L. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map wild

1, flowering and fruiting branch; 2, leaf; 3, fruit.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin

Triumfetta sp., plant in fruit

infructescence of Triumfetta sp.