Guide to plants of northern and east-central Mali

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[monocots; part of a ex-Liliaceae cluster variably organized into Agavaceae, Dracaenaceae, and Asparagaceae]
Chlorophytum (orchid-like)

Chlorophytum gallabatense 50058 (syn C. bequaertii [thus Boudet])

records: Macina (Boudet); Kikara (JH, if correctly identified)

habitat: rocky crevice (JH)

Chlorophytum blepharophyllum

Apiaceae (=Umbelliferae)

herbs, generally cultivated as spices; also some wild spp. in Sahara

tiny flowers grouped into distinctive “umbels”

both family names are currently “allowed” by ICBN

UPWTA 5 pp. 227 ff. as Umbelliferae


Ammodaucus leucotrichus 50059 (cultivated or wild)

records: cultivated around Timbuktu (Boudet, JH)

ethnobotany: seeds sold in Timbuktu, Gao, Hombori, Douentza, etc. as a spice (e.g. for tea) or medication


Anethum graveolens (cultivated dill)


Cuminum cyminum 50060 (cultivated cumin)

records: none (Boudet); Timbuktu (cultivated) (JH)

notes: cuminseed is a common spice in Timbuktu cuisine, often used in combination with anise (as in Biblical times, see Matthew 23:23); called maafejje in Koyra Chiini


Daucus carota 50061 (cultivated carrots)


Foeniculum vulgare (cultivated fennel)

records: none (Boudet); UPWTA 5.232 gives Mali Arabic term “besbes”; none (JH)

Pimpinella anisum 50062 (cultivated anise)

records: none (Boudet); Timbuktu area (cultivated) (JH)

ethnobotany: anise seed is a common spice in Timbuktu cuisine, often used in combination with cumin; called alhalawa in Koyra Chiini (< Arabic term meaning ‘sweet one’)


(now includes ex-Asclepiadaceae)

shrubs and herbs with latex, also some cactus-like succulents (Stapeliinae)



Apocyneae: Baissea

Whrighteae: Adenium, Strophanthus


Asclepiadeae: Calotropis, Cynanchus, Glossonema, Oxystelma, Pentatropis, Pergularia, Sarcostemma, Solenostemma, Xysmalobium


Stapeliinae: Caralluma, Orbea

Leptadeniinae: Leptadenia

Periplocoideae: Raphionacme, Tacazzea

Rauvolfioideae: Saba, Landolphia

shrubs or woody lianas, with latex; leaves opposite or verticillate, entire; flowers have tubular base; fruits usually paired

subfamily Apocynoideae


Adenium obesum

records: Nioro (Boudet); none (JH)

habitat: somewhat inundated depressions

notes: tree 2-3 m; latex translucid; leaves in spiral, base cuneiform, rounded at top


Baissea multiflora 50063 (resembles Strophanthus)

records: Bamako, Yanfolila (Boudet); Kikara, not known to Dogon elsewhere (JH)

notes: woody, bushy liana; latex white; leaves opposite with flowers in axillary racemes around end of branch; abundant pink-white flowers with 5 narrow lobes; calyx has filiform teeth; paired fruits at nearly 180 angle (shorter/smaller than for Strophanthus)


Strophanthus sarmentosus 50064

records: Bamako, Kita (Boudet); not known in Douentza-Boni-Hombori areas, but found farther south, e.g. Anda, Pergue, Segue (JH)

habitat: rocky or gravelly soil

notes: scrambling shrub, forms dense patches among boulders; latex translucent; distinctive flower in late dry season when tree is defoliated, 5 lobes with extensions hanging down; long thin fruits (about 30 cm long) paired at nearly 180 angle to each other

ethnbotany: formerly used in Burkina Faso for arrow poison (this function apparently not known to Dogon)

subfamily Asclepiadoideae

subfamily Ascleopiadoideae, tribe Stapelieae (succulents)

gallery of stepeliad flowers

Caralluma (leafless, cactus-like succulents; see also Orbea)

Caralluma acutangula 50079 (many synonyms; in Boudet as Desmidorchis acutangula, in Berhaut as Caralluma retrospiciens, in UPWTA 1.224 as Caralluma russeliana; an earlier term is Caralluma tombuctuensis)

records: Sanga, Goundam, Timbuktu (Boudet); Hombori, Douentza area, Bendiely (JH)

habitat: sandy spots among boulders or in stony shelves

notes: to 1 meter or higher; long, robust stems, roughly quadrangular, much wider than those of C. dalzielli

ethnobotany: latex poisonous (used by Songhay to kill dogs), cf. UPWTA 1.224

Caralluma adscendens 50080 (syn C. dalzielli)

records: Sanga, Timbuktu (Boudet); Hombori, Douentza area, Diangassagou (JH)

habitat: sandy spots among boulders

notes: 10 to 30 cm high; long stems, much more slender than those of C. acutangula

taxonomy: from African Flowering Plant Database

ethnobotany: often regarded as toxic. “However, the stems are reported crushed and eaten raw as a tonic and stimulant for faintness...” (UPWTA 1.223); eaten by some Dogon, stems seen being eaten raw at Boui village near Konna (JH)

Caralluma dalzielli (see C. adscendens)

Caralluma decaisneana (see Orbea decaisneana)

Caralluma edulis (syn Caralluma mouretii)

records: none for Mali (Boudet, JH); Mauritania and Morocco (UPWTA 1.223, C. mouretii)

habitat: dry sandy areas

notes: succulent to 30 cm

ethnobotany: said to be edible raw (UPWTA 1.224)

Caralluma mouretii (see C. edulis)

Caralluma retrospiciens (see C. acutangula)

Caralluma russelliana (see C. acutangula)

Caralluma tombuctuensis (see C. acutangula)
Ceropegia spp. (twining vines)
Desmidorchis (see Caralluma acutangula)

Orbea decaisneana 50081 (syn Caralluma decaisneana)

records: Djenne (Boudet)

habitat: dunes

notes: 10-20 cm; has conspicuous pointed protrusions up and down stem in four columns (opposite 2 x 2)

taxonomy: African Flowering Plant Database (for North Africa)

subfamily Asclepiadoideae, except tribe Stapeliinae

herbs and shrubs with latex (white or s.t. translucent)

fruits generally long and thin, containing seeds with silky “feathers that facilitate airborn dispersion

Calotropis procera 500605

records: widespread throughout the zone, native and planted (to stabilize roadsides or dunes) (JH)

notes: shrub usually 2-4 m; white latex; unmistakable milkweed-like broad leaves


Cynanchum hastifolium 50066

records: Kikara (JH)

notes: semi-woody, scrambling liana; leaf foliage specimens may be confused with those of Leptadenia hastata (as the botanical name suggests); flowers fasciculate, in interaxillary glomerules, pedicels 8-12 mm long; fruits are long and thin (fusiform), in pairs, 8-10 cm x 1.2-1.5 cm


Glossonema boveanum

-- subsp. boveanum 50077 (in Boudet as G. boveanum)

records: Gao, Kidal (Boudet): Tin Hamma north of Gao (JH)

notes: herb with perennial semi-woody roots to 30 cm tall; leaves roughly in elongated triangular shape with petioles to 1.5 cm; fruit 1.5-3.5 cm x 1.5 cm with thorny protrusions

-- subsp. nubicum 50067 (in Boudet as G. nubicum) [leaves and edibility similar to Xysmalobium]

records: Macina, Timbuktu, Bore, Bamako, San, Nioro (Boudet); Beni, Anda (JH)

notes: long thin leaves with salient central nerve

ethnobotany: “The plant is edible raw, especially the young flowering top and fruits.” (UPWTA 1.226)

Glossonema nubicum (see G. boveanum subsp. nubicum)

Leptadenia arborea

records: Tasegdem (Boudet); evidently a sp. of the far Saharan north (JH)

habitat: in scrub vegetation

notes: woody liana

Leptadenia hastata 50068

records: widespread and common from Timbuktu-Gao to northern Dogon country (JH)

habitat: common on low shrubs (Boscia senegalensis, Leptadenia pyrotechnica)

notes: spreading or partially climbing vine; leaves highly variable

ethnobotany: fruits are sucked

Leptadenia pyrotechnica 50069

records: widespread and common from Timbuktu-Gao to northern Dogon country (JH)

habitat: sand, including dunes, also some hill slopes

notes: leafless, ranging from a grass-like bush (resembling Aristida spp. from a distance) to a shrub with woody base

ethnobotany: fruits are sucked; planted in Timbuktu to stabilize sand around houses

Oxystelma bornouense

records: Dire to Bandiagara, Dari (Diafarabe), Sofara (Boudet)

habitat: riverbanks, likes sun

notes: liana with perennial roots, stems generally herbaceous (not woody); leaves variable, often oblong lanceolate (cf. Ipomoea vagans, Convolvulaceae), 3-6 cm long; petiole 5-15 mm; petiole and young stems pubescent; large pretty white flowers 3 cm wide with 5 triangular lobes; fruits are air-filled pods, rather wide, 4-5 cm x 3-4 cm, often paired (joined at base)


Pentatropis nivalis 50070 (in Berhaut and UPWTA 1.234 as P. spiralis)

records: Gourma Rharous, Gao (Boudet); Tupere (JH)

habitat: thickets in sandy areas, beds of seasonal streams

notes: woody twining liana, perennial roots; leaf oblong or oval-elliptical 3-6 cm x 1-3 cm; summit rounded, mucronate tip; long fusiform fruit 5-6 cm x 1 cm, thickest near base then quickly thinning, with long pointed tip; grains with silky “feather”

reference: L. Boulos, Flora of Egypt vol 2 p. 222

Pentatropis spiralis (see P. nivalis)

Pergularia daemia 50071

records: Gao, Timbuktu, Sanga, Dire to Bandiagara (Boudet); Hombori (JH)

habitat: rocky debris

notes: small liana with perennial roots, herbaceous stems, abundant white latex; broad cordiform leaf (cf. Tinospora bakis [Menispermaceae], Aristolichia albida [Aristolochiaceae], Cissus populnea [Vitaceae], Ipomoea obscura [Convolvulaceae]), 4-7 cm wide and large, base deeply cordate (two sides nearly touching); soft hairs on entire plant; fruits are paired follicles joined at base, usually with surface rugosities, facing roughly in opposite directions

Pergularia tomentosa 50072

records: Gao, Sanga, Adrar (Boudet); locally common from Hombori through most of Dogon country, often in villages and among rocks (JH)

habitat: rocky areas

notes: low bushy plant with woody root-stock; has blue-green overall color

ethnobotany: plant is pounded andimmersed in water, fresh animal hides are soaked in it to facilitate depilation (cf. Ficus glumosa)


Sarcostemma viminale 50074

records: San, Segou (Boudet); Douentza area (JH)

habitat: rocks, dry savanna

notes: scrambling vine covering low bushes, forming a “spaghetti” like network (cf. Cassytha filiformis, Lauraceae)

Solenostemma argel

records: Tin Zaouatene (Mali-Algeria) border (Boudet “a confirmer” for Mali)

Xysmalobium heudelotianum 50075 [aspect and leaves similar to Vahlia dichotoma, Glossonema boveanum subsp. nubicum, Anticharis senegalensis]

records: Kati (Boudet); Walo, Hombori, Tupere (JH)

habitat: millet fields, cleared areas

notes: herbaceous plant with perennial stem; stems 15-80 cm high; white latex; leaf linear or oblong linear 5-10 cm x 0.8-2 cm, base and tip rounded; 8-12 pairs of nerves; short petiole 2-6 mm; small yellow-green flowers close to petioles (sessile or with peduncles of 1-3 cm), alternately on left or right of stem; very long fusiform fruits 15-20 cm x 1 cm (at middle), acuminate tip; large underground tuber either elongated or ovoid 2-4 cm wide, 4-8 cm long

ethnobotany: “The small tuberous root is lactiferous. It is cooked and eaten in N Nigeria for stomach troubles...” (UPWTA 1.241) [cf. Glossonema]

subfamily Periplocoideae, tribe Periploceae

(in Boudet as family Periplocaceae in Boudet; in Berhaut combined with Asclepiadaceae)

Brachystelma bingeri (see Raphionacme bingeri)

Raphionacme bingeri 50076 (in Berhaut as R. daronii; in UPWTA 1.218 with query under Brachystelma bingeri)

records: Kikara, Walo, Bendiely (JH)

habitat: shade of tall trees

notes: foliage in May, flowers June-July

ethnobotany: very large potato-like tuber (eaten uncooked)

Raphionacme daronii (see R. bingeri)

Tacazzea apiculata 50077

records: Bandiagara, Sanga, San, Koulikoro; none (JH)

notes: semi-woody liana; opposite leaves 10-15 cm x 6-10 cm, top rounded but with tiny apiculate point; petiole 2-5 cm; petiole and stem finely pubescent; flowers in short axillary panicle 5-7 cm with opposite ramifications; fruits paired, joined at ends and facing in opposite directions, 5 cm x 2 cm

subfamily Rauvolfioideae


Landolphia heudelotii

records: Kati, Markakamgo to Dogouni (Bandiagara) (Boudet); none (JH)

notes: scrambling shrub 2-5 m, or liana up to 15 m with tendrils; latex white; leaves opposite with terminal flower panicle; fruit is yellow-orange, spherical

ethnobotany: fruit edible


Saba senegalensis 50078 (two varieties), local French zaban

records: widespread and well-known throughout the area (JH)

notes: large woody liana tangled with trees or other lianas in thickets; latex white

ethnobotany: pulp-covered seeds made into beverages or sucked

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