Adenia spinosa


No synonyms are recorded for this name.


This plant can be found in the northern parts of South Africa in Limpopo province, in Botswana and Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe it is considered a threatened species. It lives in sandy, rocky soil, in scrublands where much of the vegetation is composed of shrubs and grasses able to bear the hot, dry climate.


This ancient-looking plant is actually a thorny, climbing shrub, which can grow up to 2,5 meters. It’s composed of a lot of thin, long branches with spines that may have had the function of tendrils. The central, bulbous stem, irregular-shaped stem has the role of water reserve: this plant actually lives in climates divided into a rainy season, during which it can store water, and a really dry season, when it used the stored water. The leaves are tiny, bright green, egg-shaped (ovate-elliptic), and their distribution in the branch (phyllotaxis) is alternate. The plant is dioecious: that means that an individual can form only male or only female flowers. So there are ‘male’ plants and ‘female’ plants. Blossoming time starts in late winter and goes until Summer. Flowers are axillary: that menas that they grow from an intersection of a leaf in the branch, and they are grouped in clusters. Fruits are egg-shaped, orange-yellow.


This plant has to be watered every 3-4 days in summer, and shouldn’t be watered at all in winter. Decrease gradually the frequency of water in Autumn, and in spring, increase it also gradually. The right moment to stop watering Adenia spinosa is when the leaves fall. In its natural environment, leaves falling is a system to avoid loss of water through transpiration processes. The soil has to be fertile, acidic, and well-drained. This plant doesn’t bear cold temperatures: it should be protected when the temperature fall below 10ÂșC. They prefer bright positions, but not under direct sunlight.


It can be propagated by cuttings or seeds. If you propagate it by cuttings, it won’t form the big bulbous stem.


People from Mamvuka Village used this plant to revitalise sick children, by washing their back with parts of the plant. Actually, this operation had to avoid the contact of the plant with the face, because the sap is toxic.

The name Adenia comes from the Arabic word “Aden”, which is the Arabic name of this genus of plants.

Official Web Site:

Italian Blog:

Recommended Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search