Please donate to support our ‘Plants to Save the Planet’ Project. The Project is directed at enabling designers of ‘carbon farms’ and ‘food forests’: agroecosystems of perennial plants, to choose the most appropriate plants for their requirements and site conditions. We are working on a subset of plants in the PFAF database identified as having the most potential for inclusion in such designs. We are adding search terms and icons to those plants pages, and providing a range of search options aligned to categories of plants and crop yields, with Help facilities including videos. More >>>

Follow Us:


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)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Telfairia_pedata Oysternut
Telfairia_pedata Oysternut


Translate this page:


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.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 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: 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


Edible Uses

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 ].


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 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 ].


Our new book Edible Shrubs is now available.

Edible Shrubs provides detailed information, attractively presented, on over 70 shrub species. They have been selected to provide a mix of different plant sizes and growing conditions. Most provide delicious and nutritious fruit, but many also have edible leaves, seeds, flowers, stems or roots, or they yield edible or useful oil.

Read More

Edible Shrubs Book

Other Uses

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


Cultivation details

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 ].


Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

Shop Now


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.

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 pedataOysternutClimber20.0 10-12 FLMHSNM422

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.


Print Friendly and PDF

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.

Readers comment

QR Code

What's this?

This is a QR code (short for Quick Response) which gives fast-track access to our website pages. QR Codes are barcodes that can be read by mobile phone (smartphone) cameras. This QR Code is unique to this page. All plant pages have their own unique code. For more information about QR Codes click here.

1. Copy and print the QR code to a plant label, poster, book, website, magazines, newspaper etc and even t-shirts.

2. Smartphone users scan the QR Code which automatically takes them to the webpage the QR Code came from.

3. Smartphone users quickly have information on a plant directly for the website on their phone.

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Telfairia_pedata  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Some information cannot be used for commercial reasons or be modified (but some can). Please view the copyright link for more information.
Web Design & Management