Kedrostis (2020)

By Bob Williams (June 2020)

Kedrostis forms a sizable caudex and plenty of vines that climb nearby shrubs or trees, or grow flat to the ground.

Facebook can be a blessing and a curse. Most of the information that comes on my
screen can be considered clutter, but some groups appeal to those of us in the succulent hobby. Besides the CSSA, many clubs have Facebook pages. They can be good sources of information. There are also groups for all sorts of interests. You can find groups for opuntia, melocactus, ferocactus, euphorbia, epithelantha, echinocereus, pachypodium, cold-hardy cactus and caudiciforms.

I joined Planet Caudiciform a few months ago. People post pictures of some
impressive specimens there, and you see some plants that are not seen very often.

The genus Kedrostis is one that is not well known. This may be due to the fact that the genus was first described in the late 1800s, and new species were being described in the 1960s. I do not own one, but the pictures I saw looked interesting.

Kedrostis is a genus of 35 species of vining, caudiciform-type plants. They belong to the family Cucurbitaceae. Their native range is tropical Africa and Asia. These plants can be found in the dry, arid regions of Namibia and Yemen to the grassland areas of South Africa, Tanzania and India.

Being a caudex-forming plant, the only part of a kedrostis most people see is the vines. These plants are very good at sending out vines. The vines climb if growing near a shrub or tree, or grow flat to the ground. In researching these plants, I found the vines can grow from 6 to 20 feet during the growing season. The vines die off when the plant goes into dormancy.

The caudex of kedrostis plants can grow quite large, up to 20 inches across. It will take some time for them to reach that size, as these plants are slow growers, except for the vines. Flowers are small and can be yellow to red.

The majority of the species in this genus can be used as a food source. Of the 35 species, only K. hiltella is said to have poisonous fruit. However, its caudex is used to make kahdi, an alcoholic beer.

In all of the other species, the tubers are a source of fiber when eaten raw or cooked. The leaves are used like spinach, either cooked or raw, and the fruits are edible. These fruits are yellow, orange or red. and can be 2 to 3 inches long.

There is considerable literature on the medicinal uses of K. foetidissima, also known as the stinking kedrostis. This plant is found in India, Burma, Pakistan and tropical East Africa. A 14-page article in the magazine Bioscience Discovery analyzes the chemical makeup of the plant. Where the plant is found, people use it to treat colds, diarrhea, measles, asthma, skin diseases and snake bites.

The tuber of K. africana is widely used in traditional medicine as a purgative, diuretic and treatment for dropsy and syphilis. Also, a broth from the crushed fresh bulb is taken twice daily for the management of obesity.

The most commonly found species is K. africana, also called baboon’s cucumber. This plant is found in Namibia and South Africa. It has been described as English Ivy with a tuber.

The tuber sends out multiple vines that can be between 3 and 18 feet long. The vines climb if something is available for support or grow along the ground. In cultivation, the vines are trellised to create a canopy effect. The vines are annual and die off when the plant goes dormant.

The leaves are 2 to 3 inches long and lobed. The flowers are small and are a greenish yellow. The fruits are small, 1 to 2 inches in diameter, round and yellow to reddish. By all accounts, they are edible. The caudex can grow to 20 inches across.

This is a hardy plant to grow. It can stand temperatures into the mid-30s F. It is possible to speed up this slow grower by providing an adequate amount of water, warmth and fertilizer during the active growing season. It is susceptible to rotting if too wet. The plant likes sun, but avoid direct midday sun in summer. Water regularly in summer and keep drier in winter. It likes pots with generous drain holes and needs a very porous, slightly acidic potting soil.

These plants can be found for sale. If you want to try something different and like caudiciforms, plants from the genus Kedrostis may be something you would want to add to your collection.


Llifle Encyclopedia of Succulents
FlowersofIndia.netKedrostis foetidissima
World of Succulents