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Crambe abyssinica - Hochst. ex R.E.Fr.

Common Name Abyssinian Kale, Crambe
Family Brassicaceae or Cruciferae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Grassland and waste ground, and as a weed in agricultural fields, at elevations from 1,200 - 2,600 metres[ 299 ].
Range Northeastern tropical Africa - Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, northeastern Zaire, Tanzania.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Crambe abyssinica Abyssinian Kale, Crambe

Crambe abyssinica Abyssinian Kale, Crambe


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Crambe hispanica abyssinica (Crambe abyssinica) or Abyssinian Kale is an erect plant that grows about 2 meters in height. It is much-branched, mainly in the upper half of the plant. It is commonly found in north eastern tropical Africa. The fruits are used in the treatment of snakebites. The leaves are edible. The seed yields oil which is used for lighting, making plastics and nylon. Seed residues are made into crambe meal is used as plywood and rubber adhesive, as a source of protein isolates, and as an additive to waxes. It can also be used as an insecticide. Abyssinian Kale are also used in crop rotations to control weeds, pest, and diseases.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Crambe abyssinica is a ANNUAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Crambe abyssinica Hochst. ex R.E.Fr.


 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil
Edible Uses: Oil

Leaves[ 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.

The fruits are used in traditional medicine to treat snake bites[ 299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Biomass  Oil

Agroforestry Uses: Crambe meal is used in crop rotations for alleviating weed, pest and disease build-up[ 418 ]. Other Uses The oil from the seed contains erucic acid. It is used for lighting and making plastics[ 160 ]. The seed oil is one of the richest known sources of erucic acid and crambe appears to be a better potential domestic crop than rapeseed[ 269 ]. It is the cheapest source of erucic acid, which performs better than any known material as a mold lubricant in continuous steel casting[ 269 , 418 ]. It is also in demand for making 'Nylon 1313', a tough form of nylon used for moulded plastic, for articles as bearings and heavy fibres in brushes, as an additive in plastic films to prevent sheets from sticking together, in plasticizers to keep them soft and flexible[ 269 ]. Crambe meal, made from the seed residues after the oil has been removed, is used as plywood and rubber adhesive, as a source of protein isolates, and as an additive to waxes[ 269 , 418 ]. The meal is also used as an insecticide[ 418 ]. The plant has an excellent potential for use in phytoremediation schemes to remove toxins from contaminated soils[ 269 ]. In a trial, plants grown hydroponically were treated with 10 or 20 mg/ L arsenate for two weeks. Plant growth, development of toxicity symptoms and tissue levels of arsenic were examined. The plant exhibited a reduction in growth relative to controls when treated with 20 mg/L As, but lacked severe toxicity symptoms. Arsenic accumulation in the leaves were 82+28 mg/dry g after a two-week treatment with 10 ppm arsenate[ 269 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

The plant can be cultivated as a spring-sown crop in the temperate zone and also succeeds right through to the tropics, where it can be grown at elevations from sea level up to 2,500 metres[ 418 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 25°c, but can tolerate 10 - 35°c[ 418 ]. Seedlings can survive temperatures down to -4 or even -6°c for short periods, but at all later stages of growth -1°c may kill the plant[ 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 800 - 1,500mm, but tolerates 700 - 2,500mm[ 418 ]. Requires a sunny position[ 418 ]. The plant does best on medium-light to heavy soils that are fertile and well drained, though poor sandy soils may be used if nutrients are provided[ 269 ]. Moderately tolerant of saline soils[ 299 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7.5, tolerating 5 - 8[ 418 ]. Drought stress during flowering or seed set can reduce yields and lower the oil content of the seeds[ 289 ]. However the penetrating tap root can reach depths of over 15cm, enabling the plant to be relatively drought resistant later in the season[ 418 ]. Plants take from 83 - 105 days from sowing to harvesting the seed[ 289 ]. The first-formed pods usually remain on the stalks until the last-formed pods mature, making harvesting the seeds easier[ 418 ]. One plant may produce 530 - 1,840 fruits[ 418 ]. Seed yields vary widely, with 1,125 - 1,624 kg/ha being obtained in Russia and 450 - 2,522 kg/ha in the United States[ 418 ]. In irrigated fields, with additional nitrogen, yields up to 5 tonnes/ha have been attained[ 418 ]. Test plantings in Russia, under a wide variety of ecological conditions, gave oil contents of 25 - 33% for the seed with hulls (dehulled seeds reached 54%)[ 418 ]. The plant fares poorly where weeds are a problem[ 289 ]. Newer cultivars have more tolerance to lower temperatures, with some varieties in Britain having tolerated a few hours with temperatures slightly below freezing without harmful effects upon overall yields[ 289 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Seed - the plant has orthodox seeds with usually about 4 months dormancy. Once the dormancy is broken, the seeds take 1 - 2 weeks to germinate at temperatures between 10 - 20°c. Germination is retarded below 8°c and inhibited below 5°c. Early growth is rapid, with plants reaching the 2-leaf stage 6- 12 days after germination and the 6-leaf stage after 15 - 27 days[ 299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Abyssinian Kale, Crambe

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Found In

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

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

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Crambe maritimaSea KalePerennial0.6 4-8  LMHSNDM403
Crambe orientalis Perennial1.2 6-9  LMHSNM30 
Crambe tataricaTartar Bread PlantPerennial1.0 4-8  LMHSNM302
Theligonum cynocrambeDog's CabbageAnnual0.1 -  LMHSNDM11 

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.


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Hochst. ex R.E.Fr.

Botanical References

Links / References

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Readers comment

ERNESTO JUAREZ   Fri Feb 1 2008


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Subject : Crambe abyssinica  
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