Bryonia dioica

Botanical Nam:  Bryonia dioicae

Family: Cucurbitaceae
Subfamily: Cucurbitoideae
Tribe: Benincaseae
Subtribe: Benincasinae
Genus: Bryonia
Species: B. dioica
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Cucurbitales
Synonyms: English Mandrake. Wild Vine. Wild Hops. Wild Nep. Tamus. Ladies’ Seal. Tetterbury.
(French) Navet du diable.

Common Names: Red bryony and White bryony

Habitat: Bryonia dioica is indigenous to Central and Southern Europe.It is rarer in the Midland counties, and not often found in the north of England. It grows in Scrub and woodland, especially on well-drained soils, avoiding acid soils.

Description:
Bryonia dioica is a perennial climber growing to 3.5 m (11ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a fast rate.The leaves are stalked, with the stalk curved, shorter than the blade, which is divided into five lobes, of which the middle one is the longest – all five are slightly angular.

The flowers, which bloom in May, are small, greenish, and produced, generally three or four together, in small bunches springing from the axils of the leaves. Stamens and pistils are never found in the same flower, nor are the flowers which have them individually ever met with on the same plant in this species, whence the name dioica, signifying literally ‘two dwellings.’ The male flowers are in loose, stalked bunches, 3 to 8 flowers in a bunch, or cyme, the stamens having one-celled, yellow anthers. The fertile flowers, easily distinguished from the barren by the presence of an ovary beneath the calyx, are generally either stalkless (sessile) or with very short stalks – two to five together. The corollas in each case consist of five petals, cohering only at the base. The outer green calyx is widely bell-shaped and five-toothed.

The berries, which hang about the bushes after the stem and leaves are withered, are almost the size of peas when ripe, a pale scarlet in colour. They are filled with juice of an unpleasant, foetid odour and contain three to six large seeds, greyish-yellow, mottled with black, and are unwholesome to eat....CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

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The whole plant is rather succulent, bright green and somewhat shining.

It is in flower from May to June. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is not self-fertile.

The plant, Bryonia dioicais is sometimes used in herbalism. The root, which can be 75 cm (30 in) long and 75 mm (3.0 in) thick, can be used fresh at any time of the year. It can also be harvested in the autumn and be dried for later use.

Cultivation:
A rapid grower, it is of easy cultivation succeeding in most soils that are well drained, avoiding acid soils in the wild. Prefers a sunny position. A very deep-rooted climbing plant, attaching itself to other plants by means of tendrils. The plant is not eaten by rabbits. Plants can be easily encouraged by scattering ripe seed along the base of hedgerows. Dioecious, male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Propagation:  Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Sow stored seed in late winter in a cold frame. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in early spring.
Medicinal Uses:
Cathartic; Cytotoxic; Diaphoretic; Expectorant; Hydrogogue; Irritant; Pectoral; Purgative; Vermifuge.

A powerful cathartic and purgative, bryony is used with great caution in present-day herbalism. It is primarily prescribed for painful rheumatic conditions. The root is cathartic, cytotoxic, diaphoretic, expectorant, hydrogogue, irritant, pectoral, purgative and vermifuge. It is used in small quantities internally in the treatment of various inflammatory conditions, bronchial complaints, asthma, intestinal ulcers, hypertension and arthritis. Externally, it is applied as a rubefacient to muscular and joint pains and pleurisy. The root, which can be 75cm long and 75mm thick, can be used fresh at any time of the year, it can also be harvested in the autumn and be dried for later use. This plant should be used with great caution and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.  The whole herb has an antiviral effec

Known Hazards: All parts of the plant are poisonous. One report says it is very toxic, another says it is of very low toxicity. The fresh root is a severe skin irritant.
Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryonia_dioica
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/brywhi77.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Bryonia+dioica

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