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African spiderflower (Gynandropsis gynandra)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

African spiderflower, bastard mustard, cat's whiskers [English]; feuilles caya, mousambé à fleurs blanches, mozambé, brède caya, pissat de chien [French]; Senfkapper, Benzoinbaun, Fieberstrauch [German]; acaya mozambi, volantín [Spanish]; babowan, enceng-enceng, mamang, langsana, merah, boboon, ent jengent, leug-lengan [Indonesian]; Maman, pokok maman, langsana merah [Malaysian]; Cinco-cinco, silisihan, tantandok, balabalansyan, hulaya, apoiapoian [The Philippines]; ذفرة زنمردية [Arabic]; 白花菜 [Chinese]; មមាញ [Khmer]; நிலவேளை [Tamil]; ผักเสี้ยน [Thai]; Màn màn [Vietnamese]; palmbossie, vingerblaartee [Afrikans]; musambe, muzambue, kasangu [Angola]; Rothwe, lothnue [Botswana]; Cameroon Gorbwa, worba, kinaski [Cameroon]; boekbeha, gargama [Ethiopia]: chinsaga, saget, keyo, mkabili, mwangani, mwianzo, mukakai, sake, thagiti, isakyat, isoget, tsisaka, esaks, chisoka, lisaka, dek, alot-dek, deg-akeyo, lemba-e-nabo, olmuateni, oljani-lool tatwa, munyugunyungu, isakiat, suriyo, suriya, karelmet, bakeria-dahan, sakiantet, sabai, iasaitet, jeu-gurreh, kisiat, echaboi, akio Luni, nsila, mutaka [Kenya]; aija [Somalia]; tamaleika, akaki, agyiri, ziri [Sudanese]; Ejjoboyo, isaga, akeyo, eshogi, eyobyo, ekiau, ekaboi, ecaboi, ekeyo, tegeri, jirri, eshoje [Uganda]


Cleome gynandra L.; Cleome pentaphylla L.; Gynandropsis pentaphylla (L.) DC.

Related feed(s) 

African spiderflower (Gynandropsis gynandra L.) is an tropical annual herb mainly used as a vegetable in Africa and Asia. It is grazed by different classes of livestock and wild games. The seeds are eaten by birds and the oilseed meal can be used as a feed (Chweya et al., 1997).


Gynandropsis gynandra is an erect annual herb, 50-100 cm tall that can reach 150 cm high under favorable conditions. It is strongly branched and the stem is densely glandular. African spiderflower is taprooted with few secondary roots. The leaves are alternate, petiolated (2-10 cm long), palmately compound with (3–) 5 (–7) leaflets. The leaflets are almost sessile, obovate to elliptical or lanceolate, 2–10 cm × 1–4 cm, cuneate at the base, rounded to obtuse, acute or acuminate at apex, finely toothed on the margins and sparsely to distinctly hairy. The inflorescence is a showy terminal raceme up to 30 cm long. The flowers are bisexual, white or tinged with purple encompassing 4 sepals, 4 elliptical to obovate, 1.5 cm long petals, and 6 conspicuous purple stamens. The fruits are long narrow, cylindrical and dehiscent capsules up to 12 cm long × 1 cm broad and they contain many seeds. The seeds are subglobose, 1–1.5 mm in diameter, grey to black, irregularly ribbed (Mnzava et al., 2004; Chweya et al., 1997).


Gynandropsis gynandra is primarily used as a leafy vegetable. The tender leaves, young shoots and occasionally flowers are eaten boiled as potherb, relish, stew or side dish. The leaves are used fresh or dried. Their bitterness can be alleviated by discarding the cooking water, by cooking them with milk of with other leafy vegetables such as cowpea, amaranth (Amaranthus blitum) or nightshade (Solanum nigrum) leaves, or by adding peanut butter to improve the flavour. In Kenya, a survey of two rural communities in 2013 showed that it was ranked as the most preferred traditional vegetable by 48% of the respondents (Onyango et al., 2013). To make dried powder, the leaves are blanched, made into small balls and sun- or air-dried that are stored up to a year and then soaked prior to cooking. In Thailand, it is consumed fermented in a product called "paksian-dong" (Mishra et al., 2011). Camels, cattle, sheep and goats graze Gynandropsis gynandra in the wild (Chweya et al., 1997).

Various parts of Gynandropsis gynandra have uses in ethnomedicine. The plant is used as an insect repellent, protecting neighbouring plants like cabbage and French beans from pests like diamond back moth larvae or thrips. Seeds are eaten by birds and can be ground to make a mustard-like condiment. The seed oil is valuable for its polyunsaturated fatty acids. The cake resulting from oil extraction could be fed to livestock (Chweya et al., 1997).


Gynandropsis gynandra originated in tropical Africa and Southeast Asia and spread to other tropical and subtropical countries (Chweya et al., 1997). It is present in all tropical Africa, common in Asia and South America, and can be found in Europe and in the United States (see Distribution map). African spiderflower is mainly regarded as a weed in crops on fertile well-manured soils (Mnzava et al., 2004; Chweya et al., 1997). Varieties of African spiderflower has long existed only as landraces, but advanced lines and cultivars have been developed since the 2010s (Mnzava et al., 2004; Omondi et al., 2017).

African spiderflower is naturally found on wasteland and arable land with annual species as well as on grasslands. It occurs from sea level up to 2400 m and, as it has a C4 photsynthetic pathway, it does well under drier and hotter conditions though drought hastens its maturity and senescence. It is less common in areas with a very humid climate. Plant growth is hampered below 15°C (Chweya et al., 1997). Gynandropsis gynandra is found on a wide range of soils, mostly on sandy to clayey loam, provided they are deep and well drained with pH 5.5–7.0. It prefers soils with high organic matter and adequate mineral reserves. It grows luxuriantly around rubbish dumps (Chweya et al., 1997).

Forage management 

Over a growing season it has been possible to harvest 30 t/ha of fresh foliage. Seed yield were about 500 kg/ha at most (Chweya, 1995).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 


Abnormally large ranges of values have been reported for the chemical composition of Gynandropsis gynandra leaves, a problem which seems caused in part by authors expressing data using wrong units. When one restricts published data to those consistent with a plant material, Gynandropsis gynandra foliage appears to be high in water (> 80%), rich in protein (> 24% DM) and ash (> 15% DM), with moderate amounts of fibre (crude fibre 9-19% DM) and lipids (< 4% DM). Its lipids are rich in linolenic acid C18:3.


Information about Gynandropsis gynandra seeds is limited. They are rich in protein (30% DM) and lipids (28% DM) (Mnzava, 1990).

Potential constraints 


Gynandropsis gynandra belongs to the Cleomeaceae family, in the order Brassicales, and as such its plant parts may contain glucosinolates. The seeds are known to contain glucocapparin and glucocleomin (Mnzava et al., 2004). The leaves of certain varieties have been shown to contain 3-hydroxypropyl glucosinolate (5-11 µmol/g DM) as the main glucosinolate, but the leaves contained much less glucosinolates than inflorescences and siliques (Omondi et al., 2017).

Acridity and bitterness

Gynandropsis gynandra leaves and seeds contain an acrid volatile oil comparable with mustard oil that is known to act as a repellent for ticks. The leaves are bitter for humans (Chweya et al., 1997; Mnzava et al., 2004).


Gynandropsis gynandra foliage is relished by sheep and goats (Göhl, 1982; Bartha, 1970). It is grazed by cows, camels, horses, and wild game animals  (Chweya et al., 1997). It is suitable for silage (Bartha, 1970).


The seeds are eaten by birds (Mnzava et al., 2004).


No direct information seems available in the international literature on the use of Gynandropsis gynandra foliage in rabbit feeding (as of 2020). Since this leafy vegetable is valued by humans, birds, livestock and wild animals, it could certainly be used safely for rabbit feeding. It is rich in protein (on a DM basis) and lysine but deficient in sulphur amino acids. It is relatively low in fibre and fat, but the latter is rich in linolenic acid, a valuable trait for rabbits. The bitterness of fresh leaves could be tolerated by rabbits (Cheeke, 1987). Some direct experiments would be welcome on the potential use in rabbit feeding.

Nutritional tables

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 15.7 2 12 20.7 15  
Crude protein % DM 28.9 2.9 23.8 33.7 15  
Crude fibre % DM 14.5 2.5 9.2 18.6 14  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 38.4         *
Acid detergent fibre % DM 16.2         *
Ether extract % DM 3 0.3 2.7 3.5 11  
Ash % DM 18.2 2.3 15.7 22.9 13  
Total sugars % DM 3.6   2 5.1 2  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.1         *
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Alanine g/16g N 7.9       1  
Arginine g/16g N 5.6       1  
Aspartic acid g/16g N 10.7       1  
Cystine g/16g N 1.5       1  
Glutamic acid g/16g N 14       1  
Glycine g/16g N 5.6       1  
Histidine g/16g N 2       1  
Isoleucine g/16g N 5.1       1  
Leucine g/16g N 8.4       1  
Lysine g/16g N 5.9       1  
Methionine g/16g N 0.5       1  
Methionine+cystine g/16g N 2         *
Phenylalanine g/16g N 5.9       1  
Phenylalanine+tyrosine g/16g N 8.4         *
Proline g/16g N 8.6       1  
Serine g/16g N 4.3       1  
Threonine g/16g N 4.9       1  
Tyrosine g/16g N 2.4       1  
Valine g/16g N 6.7       1  
Fatty acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Myristic acid C14:0 % fatty acids 2.3       1  
Palmitic acid C16:0 % fatty acids 22.1       1  
Palmitoleic acid C16:1 % fatty acids 0.5       1  
Stearic acid C18:0 % fatty acids 3.3       1  
Oleic acid C18:1 % fatty acids 0.2       1  
Linoleic acid C18:2 % fatty acids 7.8       1  
Linolenic acid C18:3 % fatty acids 58.2       1  
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 24.3 5.3 16.9 45.3 28  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 4.5 0.8 3 7.1 27  
Potassium g/kg DM 35.2 16.1 20.9 109 28  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.6   0.42 0.78 2  
Magnesium g/kg DM 6.9 1.9 4.2 15.1 28  
Sulfur g/kg DM 4 0.7 3 6 24  
Manganese mg/kg DM 379 143 38 662 25  
Zinc mg/kg DM 59 11 34 80 25  
Copper mg/kg DM 13 6 8 26 22  
Iron mg/kg DM 3344 1677 214 5892 26  
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Oxalates g/kg DM 0.09   0.09 0.1 2  
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 74.6         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 71.4         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 12.2         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.5         *
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 10.4         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 60.8         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Agbo et al., 2014; Bartha, 1970; Glew et al., 2009; Jinazali et al., 2017; Kebwaro, 2013; Omondi et al., 2017

Last updated on 11/09/2020 14:50:15

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Crude protein % DM 29.5   27.9 31.4 4  
Ether extract % DM 27.7   25.1 29.6 4  
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Alanine g/16g N 3.9   3.8 4.1 4  
Arginine g/16g N 8.4   7.6 9.3 4  
Aspartic acid g/16g N 10.3   9 11.1 4  
Glutamic acid g/16g N 17.4   16.4 18.6 4  
Glycine g/16g N 5.3   5 5.7 4  
Histidine g/16g N 2.3   2.2 2.5 4  
Isoleucine g/16g N 4.2   3.9 4.4 4  
Leucine g/16g N 5.9   5.5 6.3 4  
Lysine g/16g N 3.3   3 3.4 4  
Phenylalanine g/16g N 4.3   4 4.5 4  
Phenylalanine+tyrosine g/16g N 6.7         *
Proline g/16g N 4.9   4.8 5.1 4  
Serine g/16g N 3.8   3.4 4.1 4  
Threonine g/16g N 4.1   3 6.1 4  
Tyrosine g/16g N 2.4   2.3 2.5 4  
Valine g/16g N 5.6   5.4 5.9 4  
Fatty acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Palmitic acid C16:0 % fatty acids 11.3   10.7 11.7 4  
Palmitoleic acid C16:1 % fatty acids 0.3   0.3 0.4 4  
Stearic acid C18:0 % fatty acids 6.6   6.1 7.6 4  
Oleic acid C18:1 % fatty acids 21.8   19.6 23.9 4  
Linolenic acid C18:3 % fatty acids 58.9   56.3 61.1 4  

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Mnzava, 1990

Last updated on 11/09/2020 15:36:33

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Lebas F., 2020. African spiderflower (Gynandropsis gynandra). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://feedipedia.org/node/144 Last updated on September 11, 2020, 16:36