Tetracera alnifolia – a vine for water shortages
Tetracera alnifolia (Dilleniaceae); Synonym T. alnifolia subsp. alnifolia; Common names Kiziazi, nziazi, nziazia (Kongo), liane à eau (Fr.), water tree
A woody creeper up to 20 m long and up to 10 cm. in diameter. Leaves are 4 – 16 cm long and 3 – 8 cm wide, often recurved, on a petiole up to 2 cm long. Flowers are white in large, terminal panicles 15 – 25 cm long. The oval fruits are dull red and woody. Seeds are few, shiny black, with an orange aril, enclosing the seed. There are four other species of Tetracera present in Kongo Central.
The plant is found both in swamp forest and on firm ground. Sometimes found trailing in grassland, thickets or forest margins. Also present from Senegal to west Cameroon and into Angola.
Stems yield abundant sap which can be drunk. Traditionally people in Gabon planted the vine in the savanna for use in times of water shortage. In Kongo Central the vine is used for tattooing. Nzyazi caterpillars feed on the leaves. In Manianga the sap is used to “purify” breast milk and to treat abdominal pain. It is given to a child immediately after birth and regularly to twins to strengthen them. The young leaves are sometimes eaten as a vegetable. Tetracera species are important bee forage in the equatorial zone in Africa.
Renier 1948, Boutique 1967, Arkinstall 1979, Daeleman & Pauwels 1983, Burkill 1985, Hepburn & Radloff 1998, Burkill 2000