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CAB Reviews

A reviews journal covering agriculture, global health, nutrition, natural resources and veterinary science

CAB Review

Diversity, food, nutrition and medicinal importance of some selected less-known African indigenous tropical plant species: advocacy for global research attention.

Abstract

Many plant species of tropical African origin have substantial socio-economic and cultural importance among the rural populace. A good number of these species exhibit long-term ethno-medicinal relevance to the African people. Besides, they have major food and nutritional values that have guaranteed some levels of food and nutritional security. Species considered in this review have shown considerable diversity in many traits including those that are economically significant. Prospects for selection for genetic improvement therefore exist with profound implications on household and rural economies. In this review, the following tropical plant species were discussed: African breadfruit (Treculia africana Decne), African Walnut (Plukenetia conophora Muell Arg.), Tamarind (Tamarindus indica L), baobab (Adansonia digitata L), shea butter tree (Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn.), bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina L.) and 'Utazi' (Gongronema latifolium). Certain facts have emerged from the review that tend to fault the neglect of these species by the international research community and thus, makes a call for research attention compelling. Relevant current literature studies especially those published by sub-Saharan African scientists in areas of interest were reviewed. Also consulted were research outputs from elsewhere in related fields including pharmacy and veterinary medicine. These indigenous species therefore merit more serious research attention due to their food, nutritional, health and economic significance to concerned African populations who continue to exploit them for these purposes. Besides their value for biodiversity conservation they, unlike the exotic species, have no problems with adaptation to the environment and familiarity with the local inhabitants.