Basella alba L.

First published in Sp. Pl.: 272 (1753)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Tropical Asia. It is a climbing subshrub and grows primarly in the wet tropical biome(s). It is has environmental uses and social uses, as animal food and a medicine and for food.

Descriptions

Basellaceae, B. Verdcourt. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1968

Morphology General Habit
Glabrous annual or shortly lived perennial, succulent tangled twiner; stems much branched, 2–10 m. long, sometimes almost leafless, greenish or reddish.
Morphology Leaves
Leaf-lamina ovate to suborbicular, (2–)5–15 cm. long, (l.25–)5–13.5 cm. broad, acute or acuminate (less commonly obtuse), usually widely cordate at the base; lateral nerves 4–5 on either side; petiole (1–)2.5–6.5 cm. long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers white, rose or purplish, (3–)4–5 mm. long, in long-peduncled spikes, 2.5–15(–25) cm. long, usually unbranched (in African specimens at least) but branched in some cultivated forms.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Perianth
Perianth fleshy, urceolate, somewhat saccate at the base; lobes short, ovate, about one-third the length of the tube, not opening.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruits ± 0.5 cm. in diameter (4–7 × 5–10 mm. according to van Steenis), red, white or black; surface crinkly in the dry state.
Figures
Fig. 1/1–10.
Habitat
In thickets, forest edges, margins of cultivated land and swampy ground, frequently by rivers or streams; 0 (cultivated)–2450 m.
Distribution
Madeira, West Africa to Cameroun Republic, S. Tomé, Congo Republic, Sudan Republic, Ethiopia, Rwanda Republic, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Angola but rare in central AfricaAsia to China, Japan, Philippines, Borneo, Fiji and Hawaii, also in West Indies, Brazil and Guianaalmost certainly indigenous in Africa. K1 K3 K4 K6 T1 T2 T3 T4 T6 T7 U2 U4 Z
[FTEA]

Eriksson, R. (2007). A Synopsis of Basellaceae. Kew Bulletin, 62(2), 297-320. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20443356

Type
Nepal, Mahakali Zone, Kanchapur District, 15 mi W of Dhangarhi, 7 Dec. 1966, Nicolson 2848 (neotype BM, designated by Sidwell 1999: 563; isotype US).
Morphology General Habit
Twining vine or sometimes procumbent to erect herb
Morphology Stem
Stem glabrous
Morphology Leaves
Leaf blades 3 - 15 x 2.5 - 12 cm, often cordate, or sometimes ovate to broadly elliptic, at base cordate to cuneate or attenuate, at apex acute to somewhat acuminate or obtuse
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences 1 - 20 cm long, unbranched or sometimes with few branches, with stout and fleshy axis
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Bracteoles
Bracteoles well -developed, ovate to triangular
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers not sunken into rachis, cleistogamous or sometimes chasmogamous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Sepals 3.5 - 5.5 x 2 - 2.5 mm at anthesis, up to 7.5 mm long in fruit, equalling petals in length, ± erect, ovate to elliptic, connate at base or up to c. 1/2 of their length, at anthesis white to reddish, in mature fruit purple to black, very thick and juicy
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 3.5 - 5.5 x 1.5 - 2.5 mm at anthesis, up to 7.5 mm long in fruit, + erect, ovate to elliptic, connate 1/3 - 2/3 of their length, at anthesis white to reddish, in mature fruit purple to black, very thick and juicy
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens Anthers
Anthers pale
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Style
Style 1, 3-parted almost to the base, or styles 3
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit completely and tightly enclosed by persistent, fleshy perianth, appearing drupaceous when fresh, wrinkled when dry, the entire structure up to 7.5 x 10 mm.
Note
The Linnaean names B. alba and B. lucida were neotypified by Sidwell (1999), since no original specimens or illustrations exist. Roxburgh, who was the first author to treat the simultaneously described B. alba and B. rubra as the same species, adopted the name B. alba and consequently established the priority (see Sidwell 1999). Many of the synonymised names were described without specimen citations or from cultivated individuals, and it has not been possible to locate their types. Basella alba is easily identified by its sessile, urceolate flowers with a whitish to reddish perianth that becomes purplish black and fleshy, completely enclosing the fruit. This species is cultivated for its edible, succulent and mucilaginous, leaves. It is easily propagated from both seeds and stem cuttings (e.g. Palada & Chang 2003). A red dye, used for food colouring, is produced from the fleshy perianth (e.g. van Steenis 1957). It is also used in, e.g. ethnomedicine, and can be found as an ornamental pot plant in some countries. Its wide cultivation gave rise to the large number of now synonymised names.
Distribution
Cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas worldwide and naturalised after escape. Its native area is unknown, but somewhere in Africa or perhaps Asia seems probable.
Vernacular
Baselle blanche, Ceylon spinach, Indian spinach, Malabar nightshade, and Malabar spinach, just to mention the most commonly used of the more than hundred different names.
[KBu]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 0 - 1500 m.; Andes, Islas Caribeñas, Pacífico.
Morphology General Habit
Hierba, trepadora
[CPLC]

Basellaceae, B. L. Stannard. Flora Zambesiaca 9:1. 1988

Morphology General Habit
Plant 1–8 m. tall; stems much branched, sometimes sparsely leaved, sometimes reddish.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves: lamina 2.5–15 × 2.0–12.5 cm., ovate to circular, usually acute or acuminate, sometimes rounded or emarginate at apex, usually cordate at base, entire, lateral nerves 3–4 (5) on either side; petioles 0.5–9 cm. long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences axillary, long peduncled, usually unbranched spikes, 1.5–22 (30) cm. long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers 2.5–6 mm. long, white, pink or mauvish.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Perianth
Perianth somewhat fleshy, urceolate, lobes c. one-quarter length of tube, remaining closed.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens inserted near apex of tube.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary 0.5 mm. tall, ovoid.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Style
Style with 3 linear stigmas, 0.5 mm. long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit 4–5 mm. diam., subglobose, black.
[FZ]

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

Vernacular
espinaca, espinaca de enredadera, gallinita
[UNAL]

Basellaceae, Hutchinson and Dalziel. Flora of West Tropical Africa 1:1. 1954

Morphology General Habit
A climber, cultivated in vegetable gardens; sometimes subspontaneous.
[FWTA]

Distribution
Biogeografic region: Andean, Caribbean, Pacific. Elevation range: 0–1500 m a.s.l. Cultivated in Colombia. Naturalised in Colombia. Colombian departments: Cundinamarca, Nariño, Quindío, San Andrés y Providencia, Valle del Cauca.
Habit
Herb, Climbing.
Ecology
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, savanna, shrubland, artificial - terrestrial.
[UPFC]

Uses

Use Animal Food
Used as animal food.
Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Gene Sources
Used as gene sources.
Use Food
Used for food.
Use Materials
Used as material.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.
Use Social
Social uses.
[UPFC]

Sources

  • Art and Illustrations in Digifolia

    • Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew
  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible

    • ColPlantA 2021. Published on the Internet at http://colplanta.org
    • https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • Flora Zambesiaca

    • Flora Zambesiaca
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Flora of Tropical East Africa

    • Flora of Tropical East Africa
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Flora of West Tropical Africa

    • Flora of West Tropical Africa
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    • Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2022. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2022 World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Bulletin

    • Kew Bulletin
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2022. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2022 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Science Photographs

    • Copyright applied to individual images
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia

    • ColPlantA database
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0