Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Prodr. 2: 316 (1825).
Papilionaceae (Leguminosae - Papilionoideae, Fabaceae)
2n = 20
Zornia diphylla auct. non (L.) Pers.
Herbe mouton (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Zornia glochidiata is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal east to Eritrea and south to South Africa, also in Madagascar.
The leaves of Zornia glochidiata are collected from the wild and eaten cooked in sauces with rice or couscous. Zornia glochidiata is a good soil binder, e.g. on bunds of paddy-fields. It is considered a good fodder plant, being of importance especially in the Sahel region, although it may cause bloat in cattle. The leaves are taken as a laxative. In Kenya cooked leaves are given to children suffering from kwashiorkor. In Congo sap from the plant is used as eye drops against epilepsy, and the root is eaten as an aphrodisiac. In Zimbabwe the roots are used to treat venereal diseases, to prevent abortion and to ease childbirth.
Annual herb with erect or decumbent stems up to 45(–70) cm long. Leaves alternate, 2 -foliolate; stipules lanceolate, up to 1.5 cm long, spurred; petiole 0.5–2 cm long; leaflets lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, up to 4.5 cm × 1.5 cm, acute and shortly mucronate at apex, glabrous to pubescent beneath, sparsely glandular-punctate. Inflorescence a spike up to 20 cm long; peduncle 1–5 cm long; bracts paired, ovate to elliptical, up to 1.5 cm long. Flowers bisexual, papilionaceous; calyx hyaline, tube c. 1.5 mm long, lobes 5, up to 1.5 mm long, 2 upper lobes connate; petals yellow, pink or crimson, often with red veins, standard up to 6 mm long; stamens 10, filaments united below into a closed tube; ovary superior, 1-celled, style curved. Fruit a jointed pod up to 2 cm long, covered with spreading bristles, 2–5-seeded. Seeds compressed reniform, c. 1.5 mm long, brown.
Zornia is a pantropical genus of about 80 species, of which 13 are native and 1 introduced in Africa. Zornia glochidiata and other African Zornia species were long confused with Zornia diphylla (L.) Pers., which is restricted to Sri Lanka and southern India. Probably other Zornia species are used in tropical Africa as a vegetable in a similar way as Zornia glochidiata.
Zornia glochidiata plants wilt after the rainy season and disintegrate quickly. The roots have nitrogen-fixing root nodules.
Zornia glochidiata is common in sandy areas with annual rainfall of at least 300 mm during the rainy season. It is an important component of Sahel and Sudano-Sahel grasslands. Around drinking places in northern Senegal it may form a continuous mat of vegetation during the rainy season. In East and southern Africa it occurs in grassland, open woodland, wasteland and former cultivation areas, up to 1800 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Zornia glochidiata is widespread and common and not in danger of genetic erosion. CIAT, Cali, Colombia holds a collection of Zornia germplasm including 15 accessions of Zornia glochidiata.
Zornia glochidiata will probably remain a vegetable of minor importance only. It is likely to remain important as a forage that is part of the natural vegetation.
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Correct citation of this article:
Diouf, M., 2004. Zornia glochidiata C.Rchb. ex DC. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.