An Eco-sustainable World
HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Anchomanes difformis

Anchomanes difformis

The children’s umbrella or God’s umbrella (Anchomanes difformis (Blume) Engl.) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Araceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subkingdom Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta superdivision,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Liliopsida,
Subclass Arecidae,
Arales Order,
Araceae family,
Subfamily Aroidae,
Tribe Nephthytideae,
Genus Anchomanes,
Species A. difformis.
The term is basionym:
– Amorphophallus difformis Blume;
The terms are synonyms:
– Anchomanes difformis var. welwitschii (Rendle) Engl.;
– Anchomanes dubius Schott;
– Anchomanes hookeri (Kunth) Schott;
– Anchomanes hookeri var. pallidus Hook.;
– Anchomanes obtusus A.Chev.;
– Anchomanes petiolatus (Hook.) Hutch.;
– Anchomanes welwitschii Rendle Engl.;
– Caladium petiolatum Hook.;
– Cyrtosperma congoensis L.Linden;
– Pythonium hookeri Kunth;
– Sauromatum ferox Linden;
– Sauromatum ferox Linden ex Engl..

Etymology –
The term Anchomanes is the combination of the Greek verbs “ἄγχω”, ancho, i.e. to squeeze, harass and “μαίνομαι”, mainomai, i.e. to go crazy; among the names reported by Apuleius Platonicus in his “Herbarium” referring to Dracunculus vulgaris Schott (1832).
The specific epithet difformis comes from the adversative preposition dίs- and from form, appearance: due to the different, different appearance from the already known species.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Anchomanes difformis is a plant native to Tropical Africa, in an area that goes from Senegal to East Africa up to Zambia; it is present in Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Islands of the Gulf of Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.
Its habitat is that of humid forests, savannas and grasslands, mainly along water courses, at low to medium altitudes.

Description –
Anchomanes difformis is a perennial, deciduous, herbaceous plant, about 2 meters tall, which has a whitish horizontal tuber, 40-80 cm long and 8-22 cm of diameter, with evident annular scars at the attachment of the leaves and fleshy roots.
Every season, a solitary leaf, 0.8-1.5 m wide, originates from the tuber, tripartite with spiny segments, in turn divided dichotomically, and sessile leaflets of variable shape, usually bicuspidate, 8-18 cm long and 3- 6 cm, of a glossy intense green colour. The petiole is 1-2.5 m long and has a diameter of 1-4 cm; it has a greenish purple color with white irregular spots and greenish white spines about 3 mm long.
The inflorescence is surrounded by an oblong spathe with acuminate apex, 10-25 cm long and 4-6 cm broad, of a pink to purple or green color suffused with purple on both sides, or purple externally and pale green internally, with the lower flaps overlapping.
The flowers are pollinated by beetles of the Nitidulidae family, which are attracted by the strong smell and by the increase in temperature of the spadix compared to the ambient one.
The fruits are ovoid-shaped berries, usually initially white, then purple-red when ripe, 1,5-2 cm long and about 1 cm of diameter, containing only one 1,3-1,5 cm seed in length and about 0.8 cm in diameter.

Cultivation –
Anchomanes difformis is a large herbaceous plant that grows from a horizontal tuber.
The plant is used topically for medicinal purposes and the tuber is harvested from the wild as an emergency food in times of need, however the presence of saponins and raphides (calcium oxalate crystals) in the roots which can be sources of irritation; a particular preparation is necessary, which includes in particular washing and prolonged cooking.
Like many species of the Araceae family, this plant has the ability to heat the flowering spadix when the pollen becomes ready for fertilization. This heat greatly increases the strength of the aroma released by the plant, thus attracting more pollinating insects. It can also have the effect of making insects more active, thus increasing the level of fertilisation.
The plant usually reproduces by seed, cleaned from the pulp, in draining loam rich in humus kept constantly humid at the temperature of 26-28 °C, with quite variable germination times, starting from 3 weeks; the first leaf emitted is entire and sagittate.

Customs and Traditions –
Anchomanes difformis is a plant known by various names depending on the area or country where it grows; takes the names of: children’s umbrella, God’s umbrella (English); agbanhan, jinwo hwéxè (Benin); alomé, blima, dobli, niamatimi, séréousso kwama, yaprè (Ivory Coast); atoe, doli, nyame, ope (Ghana); abirisoko, bugulli, chakara, hantsar gada, igo, langbodo, ogirisako, olumahi (Nigeria); dinkondo dia kimbiti (Democratic Republic of Congo); éken (Senegal); bothigba, kiponi, pondi (Sierra Leone); adanlé (Togo); kabaka-kachulu (Zambia).
As mentioned, the tuber of this plant is edible and is used above all in times of famine, after long boiling and washing to reduce its toxicity.
The species plays an important role in the magical rituals and traditional medicine of the local populations.
Many uses in traditional medicine have been identified. For example, the stem sap is used as eye drops, the fresh pulp of the tubers against abscesses, a decoction of these tubers as a diuretic or antidiabetic. Rhizomes and leaves are considered galactogogues. The plant is also used to treat various menstrual problems, to speed up childbirth or induce abortion.
Various decoctions are prepared from the different parts of the plant which are used for various pathologies, including dysentery, diabetes, venereal diseases, respiratory diseases, hypertension and as a diuretic and laxative, but clinical studies have found a high level of renal toxicity in case of consumption excessive.
Laboratory studies on leaf, tuber and root extracts have highlighted interesting analgesic, antibacterial, antimalarial, antioxidant and antipyretic properties.
However, people with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones and hyperacidity should be especially careful if they include this plant in their diet.
Lastly, its ornamental characteristics should not be underestimated, utilizable in the tropical and subtropical gardens in a shaded or partially shaded position on slightly acid to slightly alkaline soils, kept constantly humid.

Method of Preparation –
Anchomanes difformis is a plant used since ancient times for food use, especially in times of famine, and for medicinal purposes.
The tubers are often eaten as food during times of famine. Because of the saponin content and calcium oxalate crystals, which cause irritation, they require special preparation, which usually involves prolonged washing and cooking. Earth ashes are often added to the cooking water, then the roots are left in the water to macerate and ferment for several days.
The root can then be dried in the sun and stored.
In medicinal use, the liquid obtained by cooking the crushed leaves with other medicinal plants is drunk as a cough cure.
Both the rhizome and the leaves are considered galactogogues.
The rhizomes are used for internal dressing, but care must be taken due to the caustic nature of the sap.
Externally, the rhizomes are used to produce rubefacient and vesicant, but care should always be taken due to the caustic nature of the sap.
The root, mashed with clay, is applied to mature abscesses.
Both the root and the leaves and stems are considered a powerful purgative and used to treat edema, difficult childbirth, as an antidote against poisons, and as a strong diuretic to treat urethral discharge, jaundice and kidney pain.
The plant causes uterine contractions and therefore may be effective in treating menstrual problems, aiding in childbirth or causing an abortion.
The stem sap is ophthalmic.
A strong presence of alkaloids is found in the Nigerian material.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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