Cleome gynandra L.

Cleome gynandra L.




Cleome pentaphylla L., Gy­nandropsis pentaphylla (L.) DC., G. gynan­dra (L.) Briq.

Vernacular Names




Bastard mustard, cat's whiskers, spider flower.


Maman(g), enceng-enceng (Java), bhubhuwan (Madura).


Apoy-apoyan (Tagalog), manabo (Ilocano), balaya (Bisaya).






Phak sian, phak sian khao (Central), phak som sian (Northern).


M[af]n m[af]n tr[aws]ng.

Geographical Distributions

Cleome gynandra is considered native to Asia, but is wide­ly distributed as a weed in the Old World tropics and has also been introduced into tropical America. It has been brought into cultivation in Asia and Africa, but is only of local importance.


Cleome gynandra is an erect annual herb that can grow up to 1 m tall. The stem is usually widely branched and densely covered with glandular hairs. 

The leaves are arranged alternate, normally palmately compound, with 5 leaflets with the lowest and upper leaves having 3 leaflets, while the smaller ones towards and in the inflorescence. The petiole is 2-10 cm long while the peti­olules are 1-3 mm. The leaflets are obovate to lance-shaped, measuring 2-7.5 cm x 1-3.5 cm and narrowly wedge-shaped at the base, ob­tuse to short-acuminate at apex, ciliate to denticu­late and thinly herbaceous.

The inflorescence is an elongat­ed, terminal, leafy and few-to many-flowered raceme. The flowers are white or tinged with purple. The pedicel is 1.5-2.5 cm long. The 4 free sepals are ovate to lance-shaped and measuring 2.5-6 mm x 0.5-2 mm. There are 4 petals which are elliptical to obo­vate, measuring 7-15 mm x 1.5-4 mm and with slender claw 1.5-5 mm long. The androgynophore is 9-16 mm. There are 6 sta­mens and purple anthers. The ovary is on a slender stalk (gynophore) which is 1-2 mm long in flower and accrescent to 10 mm in fruit.

The fruit is a long, narrow and cylindrical capsule, measuring 2-11 cm x 3-6 mm. It is on a pedicel 1-3 cm long and with a beak 1-4 mm long that splits from below into 2 valves.

The seeds are numerous, depressed-globular, measure about 1 mm in diametre, dark brown, with a shallow and narrow cleft and irregular­ly ribbed.

Ecology / Cultivation

Cleome gynandra is a common weed along roadsides, on dikes of rice fields, and   sandy bor­ders of rivers. It occurs from the lowlands up to 500 m and flowers and fruits year-round. It grows best in full sunlight and rich soils where there is plenty of room to spread. C. gynandra has a C4-cy­cle photosynthetic pathway, which exhibits high photosynthesis at high temperature and radia­tion. It is rather drought-resistant and sensitive to waterlogging.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 8: Vegetables.