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Bryonia facts for kids

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P1000627 Bryonia dioica (Cucurbitaceae) Plant.JPG
Red bryony (B. dioica)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Subfamily: Cucurbitoideae
Tribe: Bryonieae
Genus: Bryonia
12 species

Bryonia is a genus of flowering plants in the gourd family. Bryony is its best-known common name. They are native to western Eurasia and adjacent regions, such as North Africa, the Canary Islands and South Asia.

White bryony male close 800
Male flower of white bryony (B. alba)

Description and ecology

Bryonies are perennial, tendril-climbing, diclinous or dioecious herbs with palmately lobed leaves and flowers in axillary clusters. The fruit is a smooth, globular berry.

Bryonia is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), including the tortrix moth Phtheochroa rugosana (recorded on red bryony, B. dioica) and the cabbage moth (Mamestra brassicae).

Use by humans

Bryonies are occasionally grown in gardens, sometimes accidentally, sometimes deliberately so. Some species find use in herbal medicine. Generally however, these plants are poisonous, some highly so, and may be fatal if ingested. Cucurbitacin glycosides are primarily responsible for the plants' bitterness and emetic effects.

Variants of the plants' name, such as Briony, Bryonie and Bryony, are used in some cultures as female given names. They were quite popular in the 18th century.

The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom named two ships HMS Bryony after the plant.


Bryonia dioica 004
The toxic berries of red bryony (B. dioica)

Twelve species are currently accepted by the USDA: Ten of these are supported in a molecular-phylogenetic analysis: The only English species, B. dioica (white bryony), grows in hedgerows as far north as Yorkshire.

  • Bryonia acuta Desf. (formerly sometimes included in B. cretica)
  • Bryonia alba L. – white bryony
  • Bryonia aspera Steven ex Ledeb.
  • Bryonia cretica L. – Cretan bryony
  • Bryonia dioica Jacq. – white or red bryony (formerly sometimes included in B. cretica)
  • Bryonia lappifolia Vassilcz.
  • Bryonia marmorata E.M.A.Petit
  • Bryonia melanocarpa Nabiev
  • Bryonia monoica Aitch. & Hemsl.
  • Bryonia multiflora Boiss. & Heldr.
  • Bryonia syriaca Boiss.
  • Bryonia verrucosa Aiton
Bryonieae - Zaunrübe IMG 20170712 185924231
A bryony root (broken at the bottom)

Formerly placed here

  • Many species of Cayaponia ("American bryonies")
  • Several species of Cucumis, Solena and Zehneria
  • Coccinia abyssinica
  • Corallocarpus epigaeus
  • Diplocyclos palmatus
  • Kedrostis africana
  • Melothria pendula (as B. guadalupensis)
  • Trichosanthes ovigera (as B. cucumeroides)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bryonia para niños

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