Prota 1: Cereals and pulses/Cιrιales et lιgumes secs
Bol. Soc. Brot., ser. 2, 29: 38 (1955).
Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae)
2n = 52
Bauhinia fassoglensis Schweinf. (1868), Bauhinia kirkii Oliv. (1871).
Sprawling bauhinia, creeping bauhinia (En). Bauhinia rampant (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Tylosema fassoglense occurs wild from Sudan and Ethiopia southwards to Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa.
The seeds of Tylosema fassoglense are frequently eaten, for instance in DR Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa. Immature and mature seeds can be eaten raw, but they are usually cooked or roasted. The pods are also eaten raw or cooked. The seeds are a coffee substitute.
The leaves and young branches of Tylosema fassoglense are grazed. In Kenya the Masai and Kipsigis people make rope from the stems and plaited items from the young stems or from the fibres. The fibre is also suitable for making cloth. Water is obtained from the tuber in arid regions, and the tuber is sometimes made into porridge. Sap from the shoots can be used as potable water. The roots are used to produce a brown dye. In Ethiopia the seeds, after being hardened over a fire, are strung into necklaces and bracelets.
In traditional African medicine root decoctions of Tylosema fassoglense are taken to treat gastrointestinal problems in various countries. They are also used against anaemia, fever and pneumonia, and to heal the uterus after childbirth. The pulverized tuber is taken for the treatment of venereal diseases. The leaf sap is applied to treat inflammations of the middle ear. Infusions of powdered flowers are drunk against jaundice and hypertension. A decoction of the roots and flowers is drunk to treat impotence. Children are encouraged to eat the pods, because these are thought to be good for the stomach. In veterinary medicine root decoctions of Tylosema fassoglense are administered as a galactagogue to cows before calving, and as a drench for a retained placenta.
The composition of seeds of Tylosema fassoglense per 100 g edible portion is: water 7.5 g, energy 1888 kJ (451 kcal), protein 43.5 g, fat 32.6 g, carbohydrate 14.6 g, fibre 4.2 g, Ca 80 mg, P 200 mg and Fe 40 mg (Malaisse & Parent, 1985). Seeds collected in DR Congo and Burundi yielded 2430 g oil per 100 g, with as principal fatty acids linoleic acid (3643%), oleic acid (3335%), palmitic acid (1216%), stearic acid (35%), behenic acid (35%) and arachidic acid (24%). Per 100 g the defatted seedcake meal contains 59 g protein, with a very high level of tyrosine (79 g per 100 g dry weight) and relatively high proportions of lysine and proline (34 g and 45 g per 100 g dry weight, respectively). The seedcake meal contains substantial amounts of trypsin inhibitors (295 TUI/mg) and phytate (3.5 g per 100 g dry weight), but cyanogenic glycosides have not been detected. For human or animal consumption of the seedcake, removal or inactivation of the trypsin inhibitors is recommended. Recently a cyanoglucoside (lithospermoside) has been isolated from the roots. In the rainy season the tuberous root may contain 86% water.
Perennial herb or shrub, with tuberous root; stem prostrate and trailing or climbing, up to 6 m long, herbaceous or woody below, young parts rusty-tomentose or rusty-hairy, with axillary forked tendrils (2)36.5(9.5) mm long. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules 24 mm Χ 2 mm, persistent; petiole (2)310(20) cm long; blade bilobed for up to one-third (sometimes up to half) its length, (5)713(20) cm Χ (4)815(24) cm, base deeply cordate, lobes ovate to obovate, sometimes rounded, subglabrous to densely rusty pubescent beneath. Inflorescence a lateral raceme 545 cm long; peduncle (2)412(18) cm long. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, 5-merous, heterostylous; pedicel (1.5)24.5(6) cm long; sepals 11.5(2.5) cm Χ 34 mm, with upper 2 completely united and the other 3 free; petals unequal, 4 (larger ones) obovate-circular, (1.5)24(4.5) cm Χ 13 cm and tapering into a basal claw, the upper one much smaller, yellow, sometimes fading to pink; stamens 2, free, with filaments 1018 mm long, staminodes 8, with filaments 36 mm long; ovary superior, 56 mm long, 1-celled, pubescent, style elongate, stigma small. Fruit an obovoid to oblong-ovoid pod 512 cm Χ 37.5 cm, flattened, woody, 12-seeded. Seeds ellipsoid to globose, somewhat compressed, 1.53 cm Χ 12 cm, chestnut-brown to black.
Tylosema comprises 5 species and occurs in southern and eastern Africa. Some taxonomists do not consider Tylosema a separate genus, but include it in Bauhinia. Tylosema fassoglense is extremely variable, especially in its indumentum, leaf size and inflorescence size.
Growth of Tylosema fassoglense is rapid, with the shoots growing up to 5 cm per day. In southern Africa Tylosema fassoglense flowers from October to March. Regeneration after fire is rapid. Tylosema fassoglense does not form root nodules and relies on soil nitrogen.
Tylosema fassoglense occurs up to 2100 m altitude in woodland and grassland, sometimes in cultivated areas. It grows well on poor, sandy soils, but is also found on rocky or clay soils. It is moderately tolerant to flooding and drought.
Tylosema fassoglense is collected from the wild. Fresh tuber weights up to 78 kg have been recorded. To prepare porridge from the tuber, it is scraped clean, then grated, crushed or pounded, and ground into a fine meal which is cooked.
Genetic resources and breeding
No substantial germplasm collections of Tylosema fassoglense are known to exist. The Plant Genetic Resources Unit of the Agricultural Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa, has 1 accession. Tylosema fassoglense is considered neither rare nor threatened.
Tylosema fassoglense has interesting properties, such as tolerance of low soil fertility and drought, seeds with high levels of protein and fat, and tuberous roots storing water. Therefore, research into the potential of this plant and its possible cultivation is certainly justified.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2006. Tylosema fassoglense (Schweinf.) Torre & Hillc. In: Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA 1: Cereals and pulses/Cιrιales et lιgumes secs. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.