categoryZClimbers Climbers List 
categoryZDeciduous Deciduous List 

WHITE BRYONY

RED BRYONY

Bryonia dioica

Marrow Family [Cucurbitaceae]  

Flowers:
month8May month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept

Berries: berryZpossible        berryZgreen berryZyellow berryZred  (poisonous)
berry8Jul berry8July berry8Aug berry8Sep berry8Sept berry8Oct

category
category8Climbers
 
category
category8Deciduous
 
status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8cream
 
inner
inner8green
 
inner
inner8yellow
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
stem
stem8round
 
toxicity
toxicityZhigh
 
sex
sexZdioecious
 

23rd June 2015, Manchester Ship Canal, nr Moore, Warrington Photo: © RWD
 A female plant; the leaves are no different: they vary a lot. This mass are scrambling through Stinging Nettle, Cleavers, and Brambles amongst other plants.


23rd June 2015, Manchester Ship Canal, nr Moore, Warrington Photo: © RWD
 Leaves normally 5-lobed (with two optional extra lobes on the pair nearest the stem) on either male or female plants. This just happens to be a female plant.


16th Aug 2005, Cold Heindle, Barnsley Canal, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
Some tendrils are so tightly wound as to resemble (miniature) coiled telephone cords. Note that the spiral is both clockwise and anti-clockwise in exactly equal amounts; it twists from the centre where the inflexion can be found. It is both a means of entangling itself around objects without it requiring an end that is free in order to so do and of tightening up any slack in the 'cord' whilst allowing free movement of anything to which it is attached.


16th Aug 2005, Cold Heindle, Barnsley Canal, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
The leaves have five lobes, an extra long forward pointing finger, two shorter lobes at the base at right angles, and a further two even shorter and backward-facing off the side lobes.


6th Aug 2009, Dyserth, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
 Male flower buds yet to open. The sepal tube is cup-shaped and has five long very-narrow sepal teeth which curve backwards.


Photo: © Ann Collier
Flower buds yet to open, sex unknown, possibly male. There are covered in short glandular hairs.


16th Aug 2005, Cold Heindle, Barnsley Canal, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
 


16th Aug 2005, Cold Heindle, Barnsley Canal, Yorkshire. Photo: © RWD
 The fuzzily hairy creamy flowers with green veins. In the centre of this male flower are 5 stamens with long curved anthers, here looking not unlike grasping fingers.


6th Aug 2009, Dyserth, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
 Male flowers with yellow pollen on the five forked anthers.


Photo: © Ann Collier
 A half opened male flower with orange-yellow pollen just showing. The outer part of the flower is covered in short glandular hairs.


Photo: © Ann Collier
 When fully opened it can be seen that the five anthers are roughly horse-shoe shaped.


Photo: © Ann Collier
 The anthers with orange-yellow pollen which has also got all over the inner part of the petals.


6th Aug 2009, Dyserth, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
 The stamens are curved and clasping.


6th Aug 2009, Dyserth, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
 The stamens are unusual, numbering only five, but they bifurcate into two to become the ten anthers, covered in yellow pollen on the outer edge. The short hairs on the flower have yellowish glandular terminations.


24th June 2006, Boat Trip. Photo: © RWD
Leaf shape can vary significantly.


24th June 2006, Boat Trip. Photo: © RWD
Differently shaped leaves yet again.


6th Aug 2009, Dyserth, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
 The tendrils will entwine themselves around any suitable substrate, even themselves if necessary.


23rd June 2015, Manchester Ship Canal, nr Moore, Warrington Photo: © RWD
 A mature leaf with 5 (plus 2 side-lobes).


23rd June 2015, Manchester Ship Canal, nr Moore, Warrington Photo: © RWD
 Obverse of leaf - prominent veins. Either bristly-hairy (as here), or not.


23rd June 2015, Manchester Ship Canal, nr Moore, Warrington Photo: © RWD
 The flowers grow in small bunches from the leaf-axils.


23rd June 2015, Manchester Ship Canal, nr Moore, Warrington Photo: © RWD
 The ovary (which will become the berry) is well beneath the flower. The flower has a short pedicel coming out of the top of the ovary..


23rd June 2015, Manchester Ship Canal, nr Moore, Warrington Photo: © RWD
 The Female flowers have a green style which trifurcates into 3 fuzzy stigmas.


23rd June 2015, Manchester Ship Canal, nr Moore, Warrington Photo: © RWD
 Female flowers, with fuzzy stigmas.


23rd June 2015, Manchester Ship Canal, nr Moore, Warrington Photo: © RWD
 Female flowers, with fuzzy stigmas.


23rd June 2015, Manchester Ship Canal, nr Moore, Warrington Photo: © RWD
 Female flower. Petals of both sexes not joined until more than half-way to base. Petals are veined a darker green.


6th Aug 2009, Dyserth, North Wales. Photo: © RWD
 Berries only form on female plants, the flower on top of which has dropped off.


1st July 2012, nr Goose & Cuckoo PH, Upper Llanover, Gwent. Photo: © Fred Fee
 Globose berries 5-9mm across, green at first, then yellow/orange turning ripe when red. They are usually glabrous but might have hairs (they are toxic, not edible).


Photo: © Ann Collier
Berries perfectly spherical; no style puncture wound at far end.


Lookee-Likees : The red berries and its climbing tendencies are similar to Black Bryony, but unlike that, it twines anti-clockwise. The leaves of Black Bryony are shaped like the Ace of Spades, whereas those of White Bryony have large long lobes. The tendrils, which also come from the leaf axils (like the flowers) are used for clinging to branches of other plants are simple, unbranched.

Uniquely identifiable characteristics : there is no other plant quite like this.

Distinguishing Feature : White Bryony has only five petals; Black Bryony six.

No relation to : Black Bryony [a plant with similar name] which belongs to the Yam Family, whereas White Bryony belongs to the Marrow Family.

The flowers themselves bear some resemblance to those of Virgin's-Bower (Clematis flammula) in that they are covered in short hairs (but in the case of White Bryony on both sides rather than only on the lower surface on Virgin's-Bower), and curve backwards but they have five petals rather than four. Other than the flowers, the plants are totally different.

The lesser-well-known alternative name for White Bryony is 'Red Bryony' and is named after the red berries it displays after flowering, as opposed to the black berries of Black Bryonys'.

White Bryony contains the bitter and toxic principle bryonin (also known as bryonidin or bryonol) a glycoside responsible for the plants purgative effect. It can cause convulsions in horses. The roots can be mistaken for parsnips or turnips. It also contains the alkaloid bryonicine or bryonidine and cucurbitacins which are tri-terpenoids.

The flowers are slightly fuzzy hairy and creamy white with green veins, giving the overall appearance as a greenish flower. The plant is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are on separate plants. Male flowers, at 12-18mm across, are larger than the female flowrers at only 10-12mm across. Male has 3 stamens with deep-yellow anthers (although some specimens shown above seem to have more than 3), the female 1 style split into 3 green hairy discoidal stigmas near the top. It grows from a thick tuberoua rootstock.

There are 8 species of White Bryony with a presence in Europe (but seemingly only one in the UK). In some parts of the world Bryonia alba is confusingly also known as White Bryony, which differs slightly from the UK White Bryony Bryonia dioica in that Bryonia alba may be monoecious having male and female flowers on the same plant.

The native White Bryony (Bryonia dioica) is perennial and fairly common, occurring in hedges and in scrub, usually on well-drained alkaline soils in England, but mostly avoiding most of the North and the South-West. Bryonia dioica is native, but introduced elsewhere.

CUCURBATICINS


The berries, which are greenish at first, turn orange then red. All parts of this plant are highly poisonous, especially the red berries and the roots. Just 40 berries are lethal for adults, only 15 for children.. The red berries also accumulate a toxic protein called Brydiofin, with a molecular weight of 66 kiloDaltons, which is far too big to draw on here. Cucurbitacins bind to microtubules within cells preventing cell division and are therefore cytotoxic; also a skin irritant, and ingestion causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, strong colic with spasms, tachycardia, and finally respiratory arrest. Because Cucurbaticins inhibit cell division they therefore have anti-tumour activity. Although they have in the distant past been used medicinally, they are too toxic and the effects too drastic to be used in modern times.

Cucurbaticin B is a triterpene steroid, and is one of the most bitter and acrid substances known; a property utilised by the plant to defend itself against being eaten by herbivores. Cucurbaticins are stored as glycosides in plant cell vacuoles and only upon wounding is the toxic Cucurbaticin freed of the sugar molecules by the action of an enzyme, β-glucosidase. Contact with the sap from plants containing cucurbaticins results in erythrema, painful inflammation and blister formation. The cucurbaticins from Bryonia species are therefore, somewhat surprisingly, used in creams and ointments to alleviate rheumatism and muscle pain.

Related to the Cucurbaticins (of which Cucurbaticin B is just one) are the Arvenins, of which four are know, Arvenin I, Arvenin II, Arvenin III and Arvenin IV. Shown is just one, Arvenin I. Arvenin I is just Cucurbaticin B with a glycoside attached. The Arvenins are glucopyranosides. Possibly all are present to some extent in White Bryony and some other members of the Marrow Family. In the vegetables Cucumber and Marrow most of the toxic Cucurbaticins have been bred out, and are mostly safe to eat. The same poisons are also in Scarlet Pimpernel, Begonia, New-Zealand Flax (Agave Family), Water Melon, Squirting Cucumber, Garden Cress and Wild Candytuft, as well as numerous other non-native plants.

Other sources name seven triterpene glycosides (Bryoniosides A-G) occur in this plant, as well as the two more triterpene glycosides: Bryoamaride and Cabenoside D.


  Bryonia dioica  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Cucurbitaceae  

Distribution
family8marrow family8Cucurbitaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8bryonia
Bryonia
(White Bryony)

BRYONY (WHITE)

RED BRYONY

Bryonia dioica

Marrow Family [Cucurbitaceae]  

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