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Telfairia pedata - (Sm. ex Sims) Hook.

Common Name Oysternut
Family Cucurbitaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Coastal rain and riverine forest from sea level to 1,100 metres[308 ].
Range Tropical Africa - Tanzania, northern Mozambique.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Telfairia pedata Oysternut

Telfairia pedata Oysternut


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Telfairia pedata, otherwise known as Oysternut, Queen?s Nut, or Zanzibar Oilvine, is a dioecious, fast-growing, evergreen vine about 30 m or more long. The leaves are smooth and alternate. Flowers are purple and seeds are flat and round. Oysternut is native to Tanzania and northern Mozambique but presently cultivated in other parts of Africa for its edible fruits, seeds, and seed oil. The oil is also useful for manufacturing soap, cosmetics, and candles, and for medicinal purposes. In particular, it is used as treatment for stomach problems and rheumatism.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of climber
Telfairia pedata is an evergreen Climber growing to 20 m (65ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Insects. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Fevillea pedata Sims

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

Seed - raw or cooked[299 ]. A soft but firm texture with an excellent flavour[63 ]. The seed can be used to replace almonds or brazil nuts in confectionery and are also used in a variety of food dishes by local people[63 ]. The seed is usually roasted[300 ]. The seed contains about 30% protein[300 ] and has a high oil content[63 ]. It is irregularly circular in shape, about 4cm in diameter and 12mm thick[63 ]. It is easily extracted from its shell[63 ]. Seeds can be stored in their shells for several years in good condition[63 ]. To remove the bitter principle, whole seeds can be soaked for 8 hours in 3 changes of water. To remove the kernel from the shell, the fibrous husk is first partly cut away, then the shell is cracked and opened using a knife[299 ]. An oil extracted from the seed has a pleasant, slightly sweet flavour[63 ]. It makes a good cooking oil[298 ]. The seed contains up to 61% oil[303 ]. It is important to remove the husk of the seed before extracting the oil since it contains an intensely bitter substance that could contaminate the oil[63 , 299 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antirheumatic  Galactogogue  Stomachic

The seeds are said to have valuable galactagogue properties and are in great demand amongst native mothers who consume them shortly after the birth of a child as a tonic in order to regain their strength and also to improve the flow of milk[63 , 299 ]. The oil obtained from the seed is used as medicine for stomach troubles and rheumatism[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Cosmetic  Lighting  Oil  Polish  Soap making

Agroforestry Uses: Oysternut is part of the rich agroforestry systems of Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, where it is grown in combination with coffee and banana[299 ]. Other Uses The oil extracted from the seed can be used to make soap, candles and cosmetics[46 , 63 , 299 ]. The fibrous husk of the seed is sometimes used for polishing native earthenware pots[63 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  Other Systems: Multistrata  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Protein-oil

Oysternut grows best in lowland, humid tropical areas at elevations up to 1,000 metres[300 ]. It can be cultivated at elevations up to 1,800 metres, though yields start to fall the more the elevation increases above 1,000 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 23 - 28°c, but can tolerate 14 - 38°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,500 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 1,200 - 2,500mm[418 ]. Succeeds in full sun and in light shade[418 ]. Tolerant of a wide range of well-drained soils[298 , 300 ], though a humus-rich, fertile soil gives the best yields[300 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6, tolerating 5 - 7[418 ]. Plants produce a deep taproot and, once established, are very drought resistant[63 , 298 , 300 ]. Plants are often trained to grow into trees[300 ]. They greatly dislike exposure to strong or cold winds[63 ]. This species has high weed potential[298 ]. Young plants grow very quickly, producing stems up to 7 metres long in 6 months and 15 metres long in 18 months[299 ]. Flowering normally commences 15 - 18 months after planting out the young plants[303 ]. Female and male plants cannot be distinguished until they flower[299 ]. The fruit takes 5 - 6 months to ripen from flowering[303 ]. When fruits ripen they split open gradually. To attain full flavour, the seeds should be allowed to ripen in the fruit and be collected 7 - 10 days after the fruit begins to split[299 ]. The plant produces up to 30 gourds in its third year and can continue production for another 20 years[299 , 303 ]. Under good conditions, two harvests per year are possible, and flowers and fruits can be present at the same time[299 ]. Annual seed yields of 3 - 7 tonnes per hectare have been achieved[63 , 299 ]. The fruits burst when ripe, scattering the seeds[63 ]. Care must be taken when growing these plants to choose sufficiently large trees for them to grow into, since their weight, especially when bearing a crop of fruits, can be enormous[63 ]. A dioecious plant, both male and female forms must be grown if seed is required[63 ]. Generally 12 - 15 males per hectare are sufficient to fertilise a plantation of females[63 ]. There are reports that female plants can produce fruit and seed in the absence of a male plant by a process called apomixis[299 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Other Systems: Multistrata  Multistrata agroforests feature multiple layers of trees often with herbaceous perennials, annual crops, and livestock.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Protein-oil  (16+ percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Annuals include soybeans, peanuts, sunflower seeds. Perennials include seeds, beans, nuts, and fruits such as almond, Brazil nut, pistachio, walnut, hazel, and safou.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - it has a short viability and is best sown as soon as ripe. Repeated soaking and drying promotes germination[299 ]. The seed can be sown in situ or in containers[300 ]. The drip line of trees is a favoured site for planting in situ[299 ]. When grown in containers, sow 2 - 3 seeds in each container thinning to the strongest plant once they germinate. The seed usually germinates in 7 - 14 days[303 ]. Seedlings grow away quickly and are ready for planting out about 30 days after germinating[300 ]. Layering. Very easy[63 ]. Cuttings. Stemcuttings root in 2 - 3 weeks, and produce shoots 6 - 7 weeks after planting[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Chitando, Cungo, Fluted cucumber, Kweme, Matandu, Ng'eme, Nkungu, Zanzibar oil-vine, castanha de inhambane, castanha-de-inhambane, châtaigne de l'inhambane, cungo, cungua, dicungo, ikungu, ikweme, kouémé, kueme, kweme, liane de joliff, lipeme, makwene, meme, mkwema, mkweme, n'kungu, oyster nut, oysternut, queen's-nut, talerkürbis, tandu, umpeme, zanzibar oil vine, zanzibar oilvine.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Asia, Central Africa, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, East Africa, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Southern Africa, Tanzania, West Africa, Zambia,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Telfairia occidentalisFluted GourdClimber15.0 10-12 FLMHFSNM422

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(Sm. ex Sims) Hook.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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