Food Plants International - Plant Fact Sheets
Some 3 billion people in the world live outside the cash economy in the world’s poorest nations. Food security and regular supply are their daily concerns. Chronic malnutrition is a leading cause of death and disease for them. Young children are amongst the most affected. One child every 5-10 seconds dies from undernutrition. Vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness for someone every minute. Most people in tropical and subtropical countries are iron deficient.
Our goal is to provide information that enables people to choose the right plant for their environment, to give them stable food production and a greater choice of plants to enrich their diets and improve their nutritional wellbeing.
The plant fact sheets listed in this collection are only a small portion of those available from FPI. Please check your plant inquiries in the ECHO Search and reference the FPI plant database for further information.
Most of the plants selected to list here are further described in country-specific publications by Food Plant Solutions (FPS in the Search).
8000 Starchy Staples
6000 Leafy Greens
3000 Nuts, Seeds, Herbs, and other foods
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Bambusa oldhamii - Giant Timber Bamboo
Edible portion: Shoots
A bamboo. It grows 18 m high. The culms are straight and upright. They grow in open clumps. The clumps can be 6-12 m across. The culms are 6-15 cm across. They are bright green with a white bloom. They turn yellow with age. The shoots are edible.
A tropical and subtropical plant. It is a cooler climate bamboo. It needs full sun. It suits hardiness zones 9-12. It will tolerate temperatures down to -7°C. In Melbourne Botanical Gardens. In Townsville Queens BG.
Calamus viminalis - Bitter Rattan
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Edible portion: Fruit, Shoots, Vegetable
A vigorous climbing palm. It has fairly stout, prickly stems. The stems climb with the aid of flagella. The leaf sheaths are woolly white. The leaves are spreading and pale green. They are about 1 m long. They are divided into many narrow leaflets. These leaflets are grouped in small clusters along the stem. The fruit are about 1 cm across. They are yellow when ripe and round with a pointed beak.
A tropical plant. It grows in tropical and warm temperate regions. In Asia it grows from sea level to 600 m altitude. It grows in open areas and near streams. It suits hardiness zones 11-12. In Yunnan.
Cananga odorata - Ylang-Ylang
Edible portion: Flowers - oil, Fruit
An evergreen tree. It grows to 25 m tall and spreads to 5 m wide. The stem is erect and the branches are weeping. The leaves are alternate and simple. They are 20 cm long and with wavy edges. They are oval and tapering. The flowers are bright green. They are 7.5 cm long with twisted, drooping, narrow petals. They have a strong smell. Flowers are on short stalks and grow from old wood. The flowers occur in clusters in the axils of leaves. The fruit is made up of 10-12 seed buds and they are black.
A tropical plant. It grows best in rich, moist, well drained soil. It requires a protected sunny position. It is drought and frost tender. Temperatures need to be above 21°C for seed to grow. Trees need temperatures above 16°C. It does best in regions with an annual average temperature of 18-28°C. It grows in rainforest. It grows in moist valleys below 800 m altitude. In Costa Rica it grows up to 200 m altitude. In Colombia it grows between 100-2,220 m above sea level. In XTBG Yunnan. At MARDI. In Townsville Queens BG.
Carya illinoinensis - Pecan
Edible portion: Nuts, Flavouring, Leaves - tea, Seeds - oil
A large tree up to 55 m high. Trees lose their leaves during the year. Branches extend upwards giving the tree an open, rounded crown and the tree can be 8 m wide. The stem is stout and erect. The bark is grey and furrowed with an ornamental appearance. The leaves are bright green, compound leaves. The leaves are 30-50 cm long. The leaves are made up of 7-10 leaflets. These are long and curved sword shaped. The leaflets have short leaf stalks. The leaves turn yellow before they fall. The flowers are greenish and small. Trees normally have male and female flowers separately on the same plant, but because the flower parts develop at separate times, cross pollination normally occurs. Male flowers grow on catkins near the branches on the previous year's growth. The fruit are dark brown nuts that are carried in clusters of 4-12. The fruit can be 6 cm long. It has a thin shell. At maturity the fruit splits into 4 valves and reveal the smooth brown kernel. There are many cultivated varieties.
It is native to S. United States. It requires a dry subtropical climate. It suits the tropical highlands. It does best in loamy soil in an open sunny position. It is frost resistant but drought tender. They need to be in areas with warm summers. Trees grow naturally near streams in arid areas. They need deep fertile, well drained soil. Thick shelled varieties are more cold tolerant. Trees can tolerate temperatures above 38°C. Trees need to have 700 hours with a temperature under 7°C. Trees need 5,000 degree days above 10°C and a high level of sunlight during the 210 day growing season. It is grown extensively in China. It can grow with a pH between 5-8 but 6.5 is best. The soil needs to be well aerated. In PNG it is recorded between 1,400-1,600 m above sea level. It suits hardiness zones 6-11.
Casimiroa edulis - White sapote
Edible portion: Fruit, Seeds, Nuts
The tree starts out growing erect then develops a spreading habit with drooping branches. It grows between 5 to 18 m high. It is evergreen. It has large compound leaves shaped like the fingers on a hand. The 3-7 leaflets are long and smooth. They can be 12-15 cm long. They are on a long leaf stalk. New growth is normally reddish. The flowers are small (10 mm across) greenishyellow and in panicles of 20-80 flowers. Many varieties only have functioning female flower parts so need pollinator trees. The fruit change from green to yellow with maturity. The fruit are round and 7-12 cm across. The flesh is white in green skinned kinds and yellow in yellow skinned kinds. They contain 1 to 5 seeds.
It is a subtropical tree. It is not suited to the coastal tropics nor the desert regions. It grows in the tropical highlands above 600 m. They tolerate a range of soil types. They need well drained soil. They show some frost, drought and salt tolerance. But trees fruit better if well watered. Sites protected from wind are best. They prefer a pH between 5.5 and 7.5. In Central America trees grow up to 2,500 m altitude. Deep, acid, sandy soils rich in compost are best. In Hobart Botanical gardens. It suits hardiness zones 10-11.
Citrus reticulata - Mandarin
Edible portion: Fruit, Herb, Flavouring, Spice, Flowers
A small evergreen tree up to 4-8 m tall. It spreads to 2 m across. The stem is erect, branching and thorny. The leaves are dark green, and long and narrow in shape. They are 3-4 cm long. There is only a narrow wing on the leaf stalk. It has a few or no spines. The flowers are white and star shaped. They are 2.5-4 cm across and have a scent. Fruit are almost round and the skin peels off easily. The fruit are 4-8 cm long. The flesh is red, juicy and sweet.
A subtropical plant. The hardiest of the citrus. It grows from sea level up to 2300 m altitude in the tropics. They do best between 800 m and 1200 m altitude. A well drained soil is needed. They also prefer a drier climate. It is drought and frost resistant. They need a temperature above 3-5 °C. It suits hardiness zones 9-11.
Citrus nobilis - Tangor
Edible portion: Fruit
Possibly a natural hybrid between mandarin and sweet orange. There are several named cultivated varieties.
A subtropical plant.
Citrus reticulata x C. grandis - Tangelo
Edible portion: Fruit
Natural and artificial hybrids between grapefruit and mandarin. A small evergreen tree. It is often a thinly branched shrub. It has an open habit. It grows 4-6 m high. There are thorns in the axils of leaves. The leaves are simple and leathery. They are smooth and shiny. They are 4-12 cm long. Fruit can be 10 cm across. They are reddish-orange when ripe. They are very juicy. The skin is easy to peel off.
A tropical plant. They need good drainage and a warm sunny position. They need a sheltered location.
Eucalyptus deglupta - Rainbow Eucalyptus
A tree. It grows 65-70 m tall. The trunk can be 240 cm across. The bark sheds in strips.
It is a tropical plant. It grows from sea level to 1,800 m above sea level.
Eugenia pyriformis - Uvalha
Edible portion: Fruit
A tree. It grows 6-13 m tall. The crown is small and open. The trunk is 30-50 cm across. The bark peels off. The leaves are simple and red when young. The leaves are narrow and 4-7 cm long. The flowers are white and occur singly in the axils of the leaves. The fruit is the size of a pear. The fruit are medium size and round with soft sweet smelling pulp. They are 2.5 cm across. It is large and orange yellow. There are 1-3 large seeds.
A tropical and subtropical plant. In Brazil it grows in semi-deciduous forest on the plateau. It grows between 300-1,500 m above sea level. It can tolerate light frost and drought. It grows in areas with low to medium rainfall. In Argentina it grows from sea level to 1,300 m above sea level.