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Kaffir potato (Plectranthus esculentus)


Plectranthus esculentus, with English common names kaffir potato, and Livingstone potato, is a species of plant in the dicot family Lamiaceae. It is indigenous to Africa, where it is grown for its edible tubers. It is more difficult to cultivate than Plectranthus rotundifolius, but able to give greater yields. Although the crop is similar to a potato it is from the mint family but it is still quite nutritious and useful. This crop can benefit many subsistence farmers since it is native, easy to grow, growing popularity in the market and quite nutritious. Vernacular names include dazo, rizga, umbondive, and tsenza. Plectranthus esculentus is a perennial dicot herb that is a member of the mint family . This herb can grow to be as tall as 2 metres. Some of the branches on the base bend down and grow into the ground that then can form oblong tubers, which are the fleshy underground stems. These tubers are edible and nutritious, often eaten as a substitute for potato or sweet potato. Although they are rarely seen because the vegetative reproduction is predominant, the plant also has yellow flowers. These flowers are two-lipped, and are on the short and crowded branches. While the plant is in flower the stems are leafless. Plectranthus esculentus has fleshy leaves, on angular stems. These leaves have brown gland-dots underneath and toothed edges. The tubers of this plant are quite important since that is the part of the crop that is used for sale, and farmer exchange. Plectranthus esculentus is propagated from tubers as well as small axillary bulbils. The tubers should be planted in the spring then harvest can occur the following autumn. Plectranthus esculentus can be harvested 180–200 days after it has been planted. The ideal soil to grow this tuber is a pH of 6.5-7, with an annual rainfall of 700–1100 mm. The ideal photoperiod for the tubers is between 12.5 and 13 hours. Plectranthus esculentus is exceptionally hardy and grown quite easily in regions without frost.

Taxonomic tree

  • Domain: Eukarya

    • Kingdom: Plantae

      • Phylum: Magnoliophyta

        • Class: Magnoliopsida

          • Order: Lamiales

            • Family: Lamiaceae

              • Genus: Plectranthus