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Cleome gynandra (Cat whiskers, Spider-wisp, African cabbage)

Oorpeultjie, Snotterbelletjie [Afrikaans]; Morotho [Northern Sotho]; Muruthu [Venda]; Bangara, Nyevhe, Rudhe, Runi, Tsuna [Shona]; Ulude [Ndebele]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid II > Order: Brassicales > Family: Cleomaceae > Genus: Cleome

Native to Africa but is now widespread in tropical and subtropical regions of the World. Within southern Africa it occurs in South Africa (Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West), Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. It is a nutritious green leafy vegetable and is harvested from wild populations and is also cultivated for food. In Setswana and Sesotho languages, the aerial parts of plants that are eaten as green leafy vegetables are referred to as morogo and Cleome gynandra is one of these.

Nutritional value

Van der Walt et al. (2009) found that there were high levels of calcium and magnesium in Cleome gynandra, higher in fact than the levels recorded from spinach and Swiss chard whereas Iron and Zinc levels were similar to, and selenium levels were lower than, those in the latter two vegetables. Carotenoids levels are reasonably high and similar to those found in spinach. Carotenoids are transformed into vitamin A in the body and hence are nutritionally important. Polyphenols concentrations found in Cleome gynandra are similar to those in commercially grown vegetables. The latter substances are important antioxidants and help to prevent thickening of the arteries (atherogenesis).

Hence, Cleome gynandra is a nutritious vegetable and is especially valuable to resource poor households in rural and peri-urban areas in southern Africa.

Van der Walt et al. (2006) show that toxic Fusarium fungi are more prevalent on Cleome gynandra (and other vegetables) that are growing near home-grown maize. There is a problem with maize harbouring high levels of Fusarium that can spread to other crops.


  • van der Walt, A.M., Loots, D.T., Ibrahim, M.I.M. and Bezuidenhout, C.C. 2009. Minerals, trace elements and antioxidant phytochemicals in wild African dark-green leafy vegetables (morogo). South African Journal of Science 105: 444-448.

  • van der Walt, A.M., van der Linde, E., Alberts, M., Madjadji, P, Jivan, S.D. and Bezuidenhout, C.C. 2006. Fumonisin-producing Fusarium strains and fumonisins in traditional African vegetables (morogo). South African Journal of Science 102: 151-155.



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