Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Hook., Niger Fl.: 516 (1849).
Origin and geographic distribution
Urera obovata occurs from Sierra Leone to southern Nigeria.
The leaves of Urera obovata are eaten in Côte d’Ivoire as a cooked vegetable and are added to soups. A leaf decoction is used to treat dysentery (Nigeria) and as an aphrodisiac (Côte d’Ivoire). The fruits are said to be edible.
Fresh leaves of Urera obovata contain per 100 g edible portion: water 81.2 g, energy 222 kJ (53 kcal), protein 2.8 g, fat 0.6 g, carbohydrate 11.6 g, fibre 2.7 g, P 41 mg (Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968).
Aqueous leaf extracts of the Neotropical Urera baccifera (L.) Wedd. have demonstrated anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities, but nothing is known about the phytochemistry of the African Urera species.
Dioecious liana up to 30 m long; stem attached by adventitious roots, with prickle-like protuberances, young branches with stinging hairs, these also on leaves and inflorescences. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules connate, early caducous; petiole up to 10 cm long; blade obovate, up to 16 cm long, base rounded or obtuse, apex abruptly acuminate, margin crenate to dentate, 3-veined from the base. Inflorescence an axillary, lax panicle; male inflorescence branched, up to 20 cm long; female inflorescence c. 7.5 cm long. Flowers unisexual, regular, small, shortly pedicellate; male flowers with 4–5 stamens; female flowers with tubular perianth with 4 short teeth. Fruit an achene up to 2.5 mm long, surrounded by the fleshy perianth.
Urera comprises about 35 species and occurs in tropical Africa including Madagascar, tropical America and Hawaii. The taxonomy of the West African Urera species is incompletely known. Urera obovata is closely related to Urera oblongifolia Benth., or possibly conspecific with it. A major distinction between them is that in the former the leaf margin is distinctly crenate or toothed and in the latter entire or minutely serrate. Both can be distinguished from other Urera species by the shape of the female perianth, which is tubular with 4 short teeth, whereas in other species it is 3–4-lobed with rather unequal lobes. The leaves of Urera oblongifolia are mucilaginous and eaten in Sierra Leone mixed with cassava leaves.
Urera obovata occurs in lowland forest, often in humid localities.
Genetic resources and breeding
There are no indications that Urera obovata or Urera oblongifolia are threatened with genetic erosion.
Urera obovata will remain a locally used vegetable. The medicinal properties deserve research. A taxonomic revision of West African Urera species is needed.
• Burkill, H.M., 2000. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 5, Families S–Z, Addenda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 686 pp.
• Busson, F., 1965. Plantes alimentaires de l’ouest Africain: étude botanique, biologique et chimique. Leconte, Marseille, France. 568 pp.
• Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968. Food composition table for use in Africa. FAO, Rome, Italy. 306 pp.
• Keay, R.W.J., 1958. Urticaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 616–623.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2004. Urera obovata Benth. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.