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Cyphostemma juttae

Cyphostemma juttae is a plant found in certain very hot and dry parts of south-west Africa. Its thick trunk serves as a water tank. Cyphostemma needs this water supply to survive the long droughts and extreme aridity of its natural habitat. The outer surface of the trunk is covered with a paper-thin, light brown bark that comes off in strips. This bark serves to reflect sunlight, helping the plant to avoid overheating. When conditions are especially severe, Cyphostemma sheds all its leaves, as these are large and permit water to evaporate. The plant’s acrid taste and poisonous qualities help keep hungry animals away. Bushmen in southern Africa use the juice of Cyphostemma to poison the tips of their arrows.

It’s hard to imagine, but this plant is related to our grapevine, and belongs to the same family. This may seem less surprising once you see its fruit, which do somewhat resemble grapes. They turn red when ripe, but are inedible for humans.

Cyphostemma juttae grows to more than two meters in height, and its trunk can be a meter across. Another species also growing here in the Botanic Garden can reach a height of up to 6 meters. That plant, Cyphostemma currori, is also from south-west Africa. You’ll find an especially impressive specimen in the central bed of the Africa and Madagascar House. Its characteristic shape makes it easy to recognize.

Audio file download
Cyphostemma juttae (MP3, 733 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Ehrentraud Bayer, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg

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