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Acanthosicyos horridus - Welw. ex Benth. & Hook.f.

Common Name Naras. Butterpips
Family Cucurbitaceae
USDA hardiness 9-11
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Sandy dunes of mostly dry river beds where subsurface water is available.[63 , 299 ].
Range Tropical Africa - Namib Desert from southern Angola to S. Africa.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Acanthosicyos horridus Naras. Butterpips

Acanthosicyos horridus Naras. Butterpips
Valéry Fassiaux


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Acanthosicyos horridus is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 2 m (6ft) 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) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


No synonyms are recorded for this name.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

Fruit - raw, cooked or preserved[46 , 301 ]. Juicy, with a pleasant, sweet-acid flavour[299 , 301 ]. The fruit is up to 7cm long[200 ] and weighs up to 900g[299 ]. Ripe fruits are collected and either buried in the soil or left in the sun for softening, after which they are peeled and then boiled until the seeds become loose[299 ]. The pulp is allowed to thicken and turns into a dark orange colour. After separating the seeds, the thick remaining pulp is poured out and allowed to dry in the sun. It solidifies in a few days, forming flat leathery cakes, which are then cut into strips or rolled up for storage[299 ]. These fruity rolls have good keeping quality and can be chewed or added to porridge for the remainder of the year[299 ]. Seed - raw or cooked[299 , 301 , 418 ]. Eaten roasted or boiled, they can also be stored for later use[301 ]. They can be ground into flour for cooking with other dishes[299 ]. They are a good substitute for almonds, and have been exported to bakeries in Cape Town for use in confectionery[299 ]. The kernel has a soft consistency like butter[301 ]. The seeds contain about 45% oil[63 ]. The seed is up to 15mm long[200 ]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[301 ].

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 bitter roots have medicinal value. Either chewed or made into a decoction, they are used to treat nausea, stomach-ache, venereal diseases, kidney problems, arteriosclerosis and chest pains[299 ]. The fresh fruit is said to relieve stomach pains[418 ]. The crushed root mixed with fat is used to heal wounds[299 ]. Oil from the raw or boiled seeds is used as a skin moisturizer and to protect the skin from sunburn[299 , 418 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Plants can be grown in shifting sand dunes[418 ]. Other Uses None known

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  Staple Crop: Protein-oil  Wild Staple Crop

A plant of lowland areas in the very arid tropical deserts of southern Africa, where it is able to survive even in years when there is no rain[299 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 30c, but can tolerate 10 - 40c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 125 - 250mm, but tolerates 75 - 450mm[418 ]. Plants require a well-drained sandy soil on the poor side and a position in full sun[200 , 418 ]. They can succeed in dry, saline soils, often growing where underground water is available[418]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 5.5 - 7.5[418 ]. The leaves have been modified into thorns, which acts to give protection against grazing animals and also to minimize water-loss, making the plant very drought tolerant[418 ]. A deep-rooting plant, the roots can go down 40 metres into the soil in search of water[418 ]. A dioecious species, male and female plants must be grown if fruits and seed are required[299 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • 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.
  • Wild Staple Crop  Some wild plants have strong historical or contemporary use. Although they are not cultivated crops, they may be wild-managed.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Inara, Mnara, Naia, Nara, Naras, Narram, Narra melon.

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

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

Africa, Angola, Central Africa, Namibia, South Africa, Southern Africa, USA.

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

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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Welw. ex Benth. & Hook.f.

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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