Guide to plants of northern and east-central Mali

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[monocots; in APG II includes Taccaceae]

Dioscorea alata 50247

ethnobotany: very long potato-like yam, imported from southern Mali into northern towns for sale; cut up and cooked like potatoes

history: introduced into tropical Africa in 16th century

Tacca (previously in Taccaceae)

Tacca leontopetaloides 50248 (syn T. involucrata)

note: "webbed" leaves resemble those of Amorphophallus baumannii

records: San, Bamako (Boudet); Kikara, Walo (JH)

habitat: shaded shrubby savanna

One to several ... leaves arise from the center of the plant on petioles (leaf stalks) 17 to 150 cm long. Leaves are large and deeply divided, 30 to 70 cm long and up to 120 cm in width.

The leaf upper surface has depressed veins, and the under surface is shiny with bold yellow veins. Flowers are borne on tall stalks in greenish-purple clusters, with long trailing bracts. The plant is usually dormant for part of the year and dies down to the ground. Later, new leaves will arise from the round underground tuber. The tubers are hard and potato-like, with a brown skin and white interior.
(Wagner,W. L., D. R. Herbst, and S. H. Sohmer. 1990. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai`i)

ethnobotany: root rhizome edible

ref: Adventrop


[monocots, in Berhaut under Agavaceae]
Sansevieria (also spelled Sanseviera; s.t. alternatively placed in family Ruscaceae)

[note: Songhay (Kikara) and some northern Dogon (e.g. Kundiala) distinguish a long-leafed form (leaf 70 cm or more) and a short-leafed form, which may occur together. These may be two forms of S. liberica (the only sp. recorded by Boudet for Mali), or the short one may be S. senegambica]

Sansevieria liberica 50249

records: Yanfolila, Ouarsada (Boudet); Kikara, Walo, Anda, Tanga (JH)

habitat: wooded savanna on laterite (Boudet); rocky cliffsides, rocky plateau (JH)

notes: perennial, rhizomatous; flat leaf 50-80 cm x 6-10 cm, dark green, marbled with light green spots extending laterally, bordered by red netting; floral scape with inflorescence is generally longer than leaves; in lower part of scape are persistent, broadly lanceolate bracts 4 cm long; flowers grouped by 3-6, each flower 5-8 cm long; flower opens at night, “withers” in daytime

Sansevieria sp. 50250 (short leaf, perhaps S. senegambica)

records: Kikara, Walo, Anda, Kundialang (JH)

Sansevieria senegambica

records: none (Boudet)

notes: rhizomatous; flat leaf 25-40 cm x 5-7 cm, either uniformly green or marked with transverse bands alternately light and dark green; floral scape plus inflorescence as long as, or shorter than, leaf; flowers grouped by 3-6, each flower less than 3 cm long; small membranous bracts on floral scape

Sansevieria trifasciata var. laurentii

records: none (Boudet); planted in gardens (JH)

notes: like S. senegambica, but leaves have a yellow fringe, leaves also marked by distinct transverse bands alternately green and yellowish



Diospyros mespiliformis 50252 (“jackal berry”)

records: Gao, Niono, Yanfolila (Boudet); banks of Niger R near Gao, inselbergs (Hombori, Tupere, Kikara), rocky plateau (Segue) (JH)

habitat: riverbanks, lateritic gravel

notes: tree 12-30 m, alternate entire dark-green leaf 7-13 cm x 3-5 cm, petiole 6-10 mm; white male flowers



Bergia ammannioides

records: Timbuktu, Gao, Debougou (Boudet)

habitat: edges of inundatable plains

notes: small herb 10-25 cm high; dentate leaves opposite 1.5-3 cm x 0.4-0.6 cm, edges pubescent, occasional stipules & axillary leaves, short or indistinct petiole; tiny flowers 1 mm wide, pedicel 1-2 mm, in dense glomerules by 10-40 at axils, petals yellow-orange; fruit red-violet

Bergia suffruticosa 50253

records: Djenne, Timbuktu, Hombori, Gourma Rharous (Boudet); Timbuktu, Beni, Bore, Barbe (Sevare), Bendiely (JH)

habitat: edge of clayey ponds

notes: perennial, subligneous base (shrubby) with herbaceous stems, to 50 cm high or spreading on ground; dentate sessile leaves opposite by 2, 2-3 cm x 0.6-1 cm, hairs on both sides of leaf, leaves appear verticillate due to 2 stipules and 2 smaller axillary leaves at each axil; pink-white flowers in fascicles of 1-5 at axils of upper leaves, corolla opens to 7 mm wide, 5 petals, 5 green lanceolate sepals 4-5 mm long with acute tips


Elatine triandra

records: Gao near Bagoundie (Boudet)

habitat: floating or submerged

notes: opposite leaves 1-1.5 cm x 2-4 mm, no clear dentations; small isolated (sub-)sessil flowers


(for Antidesma, Bridelia, Flueggia, Margaritaria, Phyllanthus, Uapaca see Phyllanthaceae)
subfamilies and tribes

subfamily Acalypheae

Acalypheae (Ricinus)

Alchorneae (Alchornea)

Chrozophoreae (Chrozophora, Caperonia)

Plukeneteae (Dalechampia)

subfamily Chrotonoideae

Chrotoneae (Astraea, Chroton)

Jatropheae (Jatropha)

Manihoteae (Manihot)

subfamily Euphorbioideae

Euphorbiinae (Euphorbia)


Astraea lobata 50254 (syn Croton lobatus)

records: Sikasso, Hombori, Gao, Niafounke (Boudet); Kikara, Walo (JH)

habitat: rubble, escaptments, sandy-clayey soil

notes: annual or semi-perennial to 30-60 cm or more, alternate digitilobate leaves with 3-5 deeply divided lobes (cf. Dalechampia) (s.t. opposite at top of stem), leaf 6-10 cm long and wide; petiole 2-7 cm; inflorescence in terminal raceme, male flowers at tip and female flowers below
Caperonia (same tribe as Chrozophora) (“false crotons”)

Caperonia fistulosa (syn C. palustris) [not in Berhaut]

records: Mopti, Segou, Gao (Boudet)

habitat: swamps, riverbanks, floodplains, mud

notes: [cf. Afr Flow Pl Database 07]: annual herb (erect, scrambling, or floating), hollow stem to 1 cm thick and somewhat inflated

taxonomy: similar to C. stuhlmannii

reference: Fl. Congo Rwanda-Burundi 8(1):169 (1962)

Caperonia palustris (see C. fistulosa)

Caperonia senegalensis (see C. serrata)

Caperonia serrata (syn C. senegalensis [thus Berhaut])

records: Macina, Bamako (Boudet)

habitat: ponds, depressions, rice fields

notes: herb 40-80 cm, alternate leaves, leaf lanceolate or linear 8-15 cm x 0.8-1.5 cm, shallow widely-spaced dentations; petiole very short or indistinct with 2 stipules; white flowers, axillary raceme has cluster of small male flowers (3 lobes) at tip with female flowers spaced lower on raceme (6 sepals)

Chrozophora brocchiana 50255

records: Adrar, Goundam, Sotuba, Douentza-Hombori (Boudet); Timbuktu, Tin Hamma north of Gao, Hombori, Beni (JH)

habitat: deep sand

notes: perennial-rooted, herbaceous stems 25-40 cm high, alternate symmetrical leaves 1.5-3.5 cm x 1.5-3 cm, base sublobate, whitish tomentose pubescence, most dense (woolly) on bottom, top darker-green; petiole 3-20 mm with 2 rigid or thorny stipules; flowers on very short racemes, female flowers at base with 3 red bifid styles surrounded by 10 longer linear bracts of calyx, tiny male flowers at tip of raceme; trilobate capsule 9-10 mm wide with longer bracts

Chrozophora plicata

records: Gao (Boudet)

habitat: lime or clayey depressions subjected to flooding

notes: branched prostrate or ascending annual undershrub 15-50 cm and 1.5 m across, covered with soft white stellate hairs; alternate leaves, vaguely triangular 3-5 cm x 3-4 cm, often with base asymmetrical (but not lobed); petiole 1-5 cm; axillary raceme 2-3 cm long, leafy at base; small male flowers with 12-15 yellow stamens at top, female flowers with red styles, with short bracts 2-3 mm; fruit deeply 3-lobed

reference: Flora palestina, vol 2 (1972)

Chrozophora senegalensis [similar to C. brocchiana]

records: San, Bamaio, Ouan Foras, Gao, Bandiagara (Boudet)

habitat: sand

notes: perennial-rooted, herbaceous stems, semi-erect (25-40 cm) or sprawling, alternate symmetrical leaves with base sublobate, 2-4 cm x 2-3 cm; top of leaf dark green, appearing glabrous to the eye, short indumentum on underside; petiole and stem pubescent and slightly rough; raceme 1 cm long, male flowers in corymbiform glomerule at top, each male flower with central filet with two superposed crowns each with 5 stamens; female flowers at base of raceme with red bifid styles; trilobate capsule 6-8 mm wide, 10 teeth (bracts) of calyx below midline of capsule; capsule explodes to release seeds


Croton lobatus (see Astraea lobata)

Croton gratissimus var. gratissimus (syn C. zambesicus)

records: Kita, Kanikombole (Boudet)

habitat: rocks

notes: tree to 10-15 m, leaves alternate, leaf silvery below, oblong-elliptical 8-15 cm x 2-6 cm, petiole 0.5-1.5 cm; petiole, stem, and leaf covered with white lenticels and red points, male flowers on a spiciform raceme 3-10 cm, female flowers in separate short axillary or terminal raceme; 3-part capsule

Croton zambesicus (see C. gratissimus var. gratissimus)

Dalechampia scandens var. cordofana 50256

records: Tin Tadeini, Niafounke (Boudet); Beni, Kikara (JH)

habitat: rocky areas

notes: herb with perennial root, stems twining or spreading, alternate trilobate leaves, lobes deeply separated (cf. Croton lobatus), lobes 4-6 cm x 1-2 cm, edges dentate, petiole 4-8 mm with 2 stipules; greenish female flowers enclosed in 2 green foliaceous bracts 1-2.5 cm x 1-2 cm, each bract with 5 veins, with 3 triangular points at top; bracts at end of long axillary peduncle 5-7 cm; tiny male flowers on a raceme branching off from this peduncle
Euphorbia (divided here into prostrate herbs, erect herbs, large shrubs, and cactus-like bushes/shrubs)

prostrate herbs (hard to distinguish some of these from each other)

Euphorbia forskalii 50258 (syn E. aegyptiaca [thus Berhaut])

records: Timbuktu, Adrar (Boudet); Timbuktu, Gao, Hombori, Douentza, Sevare (JH)

habitat: dunes, depressions

notes: prostrate herb; leaf oval, a little disymmetric, 7-12 mm x 3-8 mm, only middle vein visible; distance between leaf pairs gets smaller toward top of stem; sessile inflorescence at several axils of stem (not just at end), 3-5 flowers grouped; capsule 3 mm wide

native term: usually combined w. E. hirta

Euphorbia inaequilatera

records: Tin Ahara, In Tillit, Douentza-Hombori, Adrar, Gao (Boudet)

habitat: sands

notes: prostrate herb

description (Afr Flow Pl Database 07): “Annual much-branched herb, prostrate, to ± 50 cm Ø, or sometimes decumbent with branches to 30 cm long, longitudinally ridged, conspicuously so when dry, the whole plant completely glabrous or with few scattered hairs on the lower leaf-surface”

taxonomy: Egypt, Arabia, Angola, recently discovered in Mali and Niger (Boudet)

Euphorbia prostrata

records: none (Boudet)

Euphorbia scordifolia

records: Timbuktu, Bamba, lac Fati (Boudet)

habitat: sand

notes: annual 10-30 cm; leaf oblong 8-25 mm x 8-12 mm, top with fine dentations; axillary flowers usually with last few leaf pairs at top of stem; female flower is on a cup-shaped involucrum topped by four whitish petal-like glands with dentate tops; the ovary emerges from the involucrum on a short pedicel; capsule

erect herbs

Euphorbia hirta 50259

records: Sikasso, Oualia, Niame (Boudet); widespread in Mali, common weed in towns (JH)

habitat: ruderal, wet sands

notes: erect herb 20-30 cm, leaves, with tiny petiole, elliptic-lanceolate 4-6 cm x 1-2 cm, finely dentate; stem often reddish on side exposed to light; greenish flowers in dense globular capitula on peduncles 1-2 cm long; capsule

native term: usually combined w. E. forskalii

large shrub

Euphorbia balsamifera subsp. balsamifera 50257

records: Gao, Ansongo, Sanga (Boudet); widespread in Mali (JH)

habitat: compact sands, rubble (often planted to stabilized dunes)

notes: shrub 1-2 m, grey-silver branches, leaves condensed at tips of branches, (sub )sessile linear or oblanceolate leaf 4-9 cm long; yellow-green flowers at tip of branch when defoliated; trilobate capsule at tip of branch

ethnobotany: toxic

spiny cactus-like bush/shrub

Euphorbia paganorum

records: Bougouni (Boudet); none (JH, previous records now assigned to E. sudanica)

habitat: summit of low mountains (Boudet), arid or rocky soils in savanna (Arbonnier)

notes: branches dull green to grey, 2-5 cm diameter, protuberance under thorns blackish (Arbonnier)

taxonomy: some early records may have been misidentified as E. sudanica

ethnobotany: latex poisonous

Euphorbia poissoni

records: none (Boudet, JH)

Euphorbia sudanica 50262

records: Bandiagara, Douentza-Hombori, Koulikoro (Boudet); very common in the rocky plateaus surrounding Bandiagara, scattered elsewhere, one at Dianwely Kessel (JH)

habitat: skeletel soils, rocky rubble (Boudet), arid or rocky soils in savanna (Arbonnier)

notes: branches dull green to brownish, 1-2 cm diameter, grey protuberance under thorns (Arbonnier)

taxonomy: the variety in the Bandiagara area has grey protuberances but the diameter of the branches may exceed 2cm diameter

reference: Leuenberger, Willderrowia 9:80-83

Euphorbia unispina

records: Sikasso (Boudet); none (JH)

habitat: rocky

notes: like E. sudanica but without big thorns

reference: Leuenberger, Willderrowia 9:80-83


Jatropha chevalieri

records: southern Mali (Boudet)

habitats: various, including mountains

Jatropha curcas 50263 (planted)

records: Adia, Segue (JH)

notes: shrub or small tree, broad leaf

ethnobotany: growing international trade in “jatropha” seeds

Jatropha gossypiifolia 50264 (planted)

records: seen planted in houses throughout Dogon country (JH)

notes: shrub, leaf deeply lobed

Manihot esculenta 50265 (syn M. utilissima) (cultivated cassava, Fr manioc)

records: widely cultivated in gardens in central and southern Dogon country and along Niger R.

ethnobotany: carrot-like taproots widely sold in markets (often sliced and fried, or peeled and eaten raw)

native terms: sometimes combined with sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)

M. utilissima (see M. esculenta)

Ricinus communis 50266 (planted) (“castor bean”, Fr ricin)

records: planted around houses in many villages in northern Dogon country (JH)

notes: shrub, huge leaves (cf. papaya)

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