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Talinum fruticosum - (L.) Juss.

Common Name Tahitian Spinach, Waterleaf, Ceylon Spinach
Family Talinaceae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards Talinum fruticosum is a mucilaginous vegetable with high calcium oxalate content. The presence of oxalate is a drawback since more than 90% of it is present in a soluble form, and it can induce kidney stones if taken in excess. Blanching or cooking removes nearly half of the soluble oxalate [299 ]. Waterleaf also contains hydrocyanic acid (which is also destroyed in the cooking process), which is a further reason why this vegetable should be consumed raw in small quantities only and why it is not recommended for livestock [299 ]. Caution should also be exercised in the use of this vegetable in infant foods, the more so since it contains nitrates and nitrites, which are not removed by cooking [299 ]. Waterleaf is rich in saponins, which are poorly absorbed and removed in the cooking process[299, K ].
Habitats Occurs naturally on roadsides, waste places, and forests edges, from sea level up to 1,000 metres[418].
Range Northern S. America - Peru, Ecuador, north to the Caribbean and through Central America to Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (1 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Talinum fruticosum Tahitian Spinach, Waterleaf, Ceylon Spinach

Talinum fruticosum Tahitian Spinach, Waterleaf, Ceylon Spinach


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Talinum fruticosum is an evergreen Perennial growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 0.4 m (1ft 4in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Some works treat T. fruticosum (L.) Juss., and T. triangulare (Jacq.) Willd., as separate and distinct species, whilst others treat T. triangulare as a synonym of T. fruticosum. Calandrinia andrewsii (Sweet) Sweet. Calandrinia lockhartii Sweet. Calandrinia pachypoda Diels. Claytonia triangularis (Jacq.) Kuntze. Portulaca crassicaule Jacq. Portulaca crassifolia Jacq. Portulaca fruticosa L. Portulaca racemosa L. Portulaca triangularis Jacq. Ruelingia triangularis (Jacq.) Ehrh. T. andrewsii Sweet. T. attenuatum Rose & Standl. T. confusum Rose & Standl. T. crassifolium (Jacq.) Willd. T. fruticosum Macfad. [Illegitimate]. T. mucronatum Kunth. T. racemosum (L.) Rohrb. T. revolutum Kunth. T. triangulare (Jacq.) Willd.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Shoots
Edible Uses: Colouring

Leaves and flowers - raw in salads or cooked [299, 300 ]. Young shoots, 15 - 20cm long, are used [300 ]. The shoots are used in making soups, stews etc. [300 ]. Combined with the leaves of eru (Gnetum species) and fufu (a starchy dish), it is considered a delicacy; the tender shoots of waterleaf acting to soften the tough leaves of eru [299 ]. Best lightly steamed, they should not be overcooked, or they will become excessively soft and mucilaginous [301, 317 ]. The leaves are used as a colouring agent in okra soup [299 ]. The leaves have a slightly sour taste; they can be finely chopped and added to salads [301 ]. Many forms of this plant have a high concentration of calcium oxalate (see notes above on toxicity), though this is easily destroyed on cooking [300 ]. T. fruticosum is rich in vitamins, including vitamins A and C, and minerals such as iron and calcium. It is cultivated in West Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the warmer parts of North and South America. Along with Celosia species, T. fruticosum is one of the most important leaf vegetables of Nigeria.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Hypoglycaemic  Tonic  Vitamin C

The plant has some medicinal uses [317 ]. The plant (part not specified) is used as a treatment for measles and diabetes [299 ]. A tonic is made from the fleshy root [299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Ornamental enough for the flower garden. Showy pink flowers with interesting leaf shape and arrangement. Pots: needs excellent drainage. Bee-Attracting.

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

It is a commercially cultivated vegetable. It grows best in the humid conditions of lowland tropical areas, though it can succeed at elevations up to 1,000 metres [300 ]. It grows best in areas where the mean annual temperature is within the range of 22 - 30 ?c, though it can tolerate 15 - 36 ?c [418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 2,000mm, tolerating 500 - 3,000mm [418 ]. Light shade can improve leaf production [300 ]. It prefers a well-drained but moist, humus-rich fertile soil, though it will succeed in relatively poor soils [300 ]. It prefers a pH in the range of 5 - 6.5 but can tolerate 4.5 - 7 [418 ]. The plant will grow adequately in poorer conditions, including some drought and a little shade. It can grow in arid places. Plants are relatively tolerant of drought, adopting a crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). This results in the effective use of available moisture, with carbon dioxide assimilation continuing during the night and increased growth [299 ]. Waterleaf was probably originally native of tropical America; it has now become a weed with pantropical distribution [418 ]. It can become a weed in cultivated or disturbed land, including roadsides and near homesteads, but few farmers worry about it since its roots are shallow and the plant is easy to remove [299 ]. Plants grown in short day-length conditions rarely exceed 45cm in height [300 ]. The leaves and tender stems can keep being produced for up to a year. Older plants can be cut back and allowed to sprout again. The first harvest can take place about 35 - 45 days after sowing the seed and continues every two weeks for about one year [300 ]. Leaf tips may be picked every two weeks for up to a year. Normally the top shoots are picked out first to let the side shoots grow. Yields have been estimated to be about 10 kilos per square metre of the crop [418 ]. The yield range is 10 - 60 tonnes per hectare[299 ]. There are some named varieties[300 ]. This species photosynthesize by a more efficient method than most plants. Called the 'C4 carbon-fixation pathway', this process is particularly efficient at high temperatures, in bright sunlight and under dry conditions[196 ]. Will Naturalize. Suitable as an annual. Pots: needs excellent drainage.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in situ or in a nursery seedbed. The small seeds are usually mixed with a fine sand before sowing[299 ]. Seed collection is difficult because the seed capsules split open very easily and the small seeds drop out. Germination takes place after about 5 days and subsequent growth is very rapid if adequate water is supplied. Seedlings can be transplanted into their permanent positions when 3 weeks old[299 ]. Cuttings of young shoots 15 - 20cm long root readily[300 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Ceylon spinach, waterleaf, cariru, Gbure, Philippine spinach, Florida spinach, potherb fameflower, sweetheart, and Kutu bataw. Adwera, Alfavaca, Alengalenga, Ama, Ambioko, Amlotshi pui, Born'de, oboro, Busum-muru, Carambola rosada, Caruru, Gbure, Guele guele, Gure, Kamplekankan'de, Konkolo, Kpame, Krokot belanda, Lagos Bologi, Lipopi, Makilmoron, Makwelekwele, Melelu, Neputu, Ngml-ongmle, Ngolu, Nti-0ke, Odondon, Pasali, Pinari, Potherb fameflower, Sam dat ba canh, Sansa banzenza, Sese, Surinam purslane, Sweetheart, Tho nhan sam ba canh, Yemontuou [1-4].

NORTHERN AMERICA: Mexico, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, México, Michoacán de Ocampo, Morelos, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave, Yucatán, SOUTHERN AMERICA: Antigua and Barbuda, Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Montserrat, Martinique, United States, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, U.S., St. Vincent and Grenadines, Saint Vincent, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru,

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.

It can become a weed in cultivated or disturbed land, including roadsides and near homesteads, but few farmers worry about it since its roots are shallow and the plant is easy to remove[299 ].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Not Listed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Talinum aurantiacumOrange FlameflowerPerennial0.4 -  LMHSNM10 

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


(L.) Juss.

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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