Eriosema insignis O.Hoffm.
Rhynchosia subaphylla Baker f.
Eriosema randii Baker f. & Haydon
Rhynchosia affinis De Wild.
Rhynchosia insignis is a very variable, erect pyrophytic perennial plant producing a cluster of branched stems from a woody rootstock. The sticky stems can become more or less woody and persist, they are usually 14 - 90cm tall, occasionally to 140cm[
The plant is harvested from the wild for its root, which is one of several species used locally to make a very popular alcoholic beverage known as 'munkoyo beer'.
Tropical Africa - Angola, southern DR Congo, Tanzania,Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe,
Brachystegia woodland; open Acacia woodland; Terminalia, Isoberlinia, Baphia bushland; burnt grassland and woodland; chipya grassland; dambo margins; often in rocky places; periodically flooded grassland; at elevations from 1,400 - 2,250 metres[
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria; these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
The roots are used as a sweetening agent when making a very popular, traditional, mildly alcoholic drink known as 'munkoyo beer'[
]. The yellow roots are licorice-flavoured[
]. The woody rootstock has a number of thick stems developing from the central apex - these can be around 4 - 6cm in diameter and are often horizontal[
We have seen no specific entry for this species, but all members of this genus have at least some merit for use as a ground cover and in local soil conservation projects[
Like many species within the family Fabaceae, once they have ripened and dried the seeds of this species may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing[
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