Achyranthes atropurpurea Lam.
Achyranthes lappacea L.
Achyranthes mollis Thonn.
Achyranthes thonningii Schumach.
Desmochaeta atropurpurea DC.
Pupalia affinis Engl.
Pupalia atropurpurea (Lam.) Moq.
Pupalia brachystachys Peter
Pupalia distantiflora A.Rich.
Pupalia mollis (Thonn.) Moq.
Pupalia sericea Fiori
Pupalia thonningii (Schumach.) Moq.
Pupalia tomentosa Peter
Pupalia velutina Moq.
Flowering stems of a plant growing in the Botanischen Garten, Dresden, Germany
Photograph by: Michael Wolf
Pupalia lappacea is a very variable plant. It can be annual or perennial, producing stems that can range in length from 50 - 200cm, these stems often more or less woody at their base. Usually much branched, the plant is sometimes erect, but can also be prostrate and sprawling or even more or less climbing[
The plant is sometimes harvested from the wild for local use, mainly as a medicine but also as a food. The burred seed-heads are sold in local markets for scarifying the skin[
The plant has a burred seed-head which attaches itself to animals and is thus transported to new sites. The reflexed hooks on the spines of the seed-coat can get fixed in the mouth and throat, causing choking[
The flower-head is an ingredient of a rat-poison in Nigeria, but in what way it is used is not described[
Widespread through Africa, but avoiding the wettest regions; through tropical Asia to Philippines, New Guinea and Polynesia.
Savannah and woodland localities and forest pathsides[
]. Dry bushland at elevations from sea level to 2,100 metres[
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The plant is seen as a serious weed within its native range[
]. The spiny, seed-containing burrs easily catch on passing animals, including people, and thus spread the plant to new locations[
Leaves - cooked[
]. The tender leaves are chopped, washed and cooked. Pounded groundnuts or coconut milk are added and the whole is served with a staple food such as ugali or rice[
]. This plant is not normally eaten by humans[
]. It is recorded as causing colic in Somalia 'if eaten prior to watering' which suggests that it can be eaten after proper precaution has been taken[
The plant has a number of medicinal uses[
]. A fair amount of saponins has been detected in the whole plant, and in the seed of Nigerian material a trace of alkaloid[
The leaves are antitussive, diuretic and febrifuge[
]. They are taken in various ways in the treatment of coughs - they are put into soups; purple coloured leaves are pounded with palm-oil and salt; or they are made into a simple tisane[
]. They are also used in various ways to treat dysenteriform diarrhoea and oedema[
The leaves are used in an enema to treat constipation[
Applied externally, the leaves are mixed with palm-oil or butter for the treatment of boils[
]. The leaves are also used in topical applications to treat cuts[
]. A decoction is applied in frictions to treat oedema of the legs[
The crushed seeds are considered to be a good remedy for infected sores and phagodenic ulcers[
The root is antidote and purgative[
]. It is used in the treatment of snakebites and syphilis[
]. The root is mashed in water, which is then drunk as a treatment for sore-throat - some of the liquid being left to dry from which the residue is made into an ointment with fat for external application[
The plant-ash is mixed with water and then drunk in the treatment of flatulence[
The ashes, mixed with water, are applied to leprosy sores after they have been made to bleed[
Although regarded as a serious weed, the plant is also believed to be an indicator of fertile soils in areas where it grows[
The reflexed hooks on the spines of the seed-coat show great resilience. Fantes of Ghana are said to make a football with a mass of the adhering seed-heads covered with a piece of cloth[
]. In Uganda a mass of seed-heads is used as a beer-pot cover[
].Because of the stiffness of the spines, the echinate fruits are used for scarifying the skin prior to bloodletting or the application of ointment[
The fluffy fruits are made into a ball and used as a filter for milk etc[
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