Bryonia dioica – Brionia


Bryonia is a perennial climbing wild plant known as white vine or devil’s gourd, used as a medicinal plant.

General characteristics of Bryonia

There Bryonia dioica is a plant of the Cucurbitaceae family native to the Mediterranean, western Eurasia, southern Asia and northern Africa. In Italy, excluding Sardinia, it grows spontaneously from the plains to the mountains near the ruins, in the uncultivated land, in the vegetable gardens and along the ravines and like ivy it climbs with its long cirrus clouds to any support: hedges, shrubs, trunks of trees, etc.

Brionia dioica-climbing

The Brionia plant has a fleshy taproot root about 70 cm long, difficult to uproot and resistant to the most adverse climatic conditions.

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The Bryony, in full vegetative vigor, forms a vigorous climbing bush composed of hairy, light green, thin and 3-4 meters long herbaceous stems and equipped with tendrils with which they attach to any support: trees, hedges, railings, pergolas, etc. On the angular and rough stems a rich foliage develops.


The leaves, similar to those of the vine but smaller, they are webbed and lobed (generally five-lobed) with irregularly indented and long petiolate margins. The leaf page is engraved at the base and is wrinkled due to the presence of various veins and bristly and short hairs.

THE flowers they appear between the leaf axils carried by long and thin cylindrical peduncles. They have a tubular calyx divided into 5 triangular lobes; the corolla is composed of 5 ovate-lanceolate white-yellowish or green-yellowish petals with a showy central button with straw yellow anthers.

Bryonia dioica-flower

Bryonia is a dioecious plant therefore the flowers are female and male; the female ones are pauciflore inflorescences carried by long peduncles while the male ones are inflorescences united in axillary racemes with shorter peduncles.

THE fruits they are small rounded berries the size of a pea gathered together that appear on the stems in groups from 3 to 7. They have a smooth and thin skin. The color of the berries is black, red or greenish. Internally, the juicy pulp envelops the seeds.


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The berries of the Brionia are very persistent and generally remain attached to the yellowed stems and dry of the plant.

THE seeds, 1 or 2 per berry are small, flat, dark or orange.



Brionia blooms from late spring to late summer, usually from June to September.


Cultivation of Brionia

Although Brionia grows spontaneously in all Italian regions, it is cultivated as a medicinal product for medicinal purposes.

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It is a climbing plant that loves sunny exposure or partial shade diffused by trees and shrubs. It cannot stand the cold and therefore dries as soon as the temperature begins to drop.


Like all other Cucurbits it grows strong and vigorous in loose, light, well-drained and nutrient-rich soil. The optimal cultivation soil is therefore humid, humiferous, rich in nitrogen compounds.


Even if it resists drought well, this climbing plant must be regularly and constantly irrigated in spring to favor the development of the new plant mass and in summer. In arid soil, Brionia has difficulty developing.


The Brionia must be fertilized during sowing and in spring in order to stimulate the vegetative restart. Subsequently, the Brionia does not need further fertilization.

Multiplication of Bryony

Bryonia easily reproduces by seed, self-seeding and by vegetative way through the division of the rhizomatous-taproot roots.


Sowing takes place in protected seedbeds from October to February and in the open ground in July.

The seeds should be buried 2 cm deep in soft soil, kept moist until the sprouts appear, which usually sprout from the soil in spring as soon as the temperature becomes mild. The seeds planted should be protected in winter with a mulch of leaves or straw. Plants obtained from sowing in the ground do not suffer trauma.

Multiplication by division of the rhizomes

In autumn the roots are extracted from the ground; they are divided into 2 or 3 parts and immediately replanted in new holes and near supports or walls to allow the new plants to easily climb.

Brionia - poisonous plant

Pests and diseases of Bryony

The plant, like the common Cucurbits, is subject to attack by aphids that colonize stems and flowers still in bud when the climate is very humid. It fears the red spider that suffocates them with its thin cobwebs until they dry up.

In case of late frosts the leaves curl up due to the excessive cold while they darken if attacked by Rust or Downy mildew.

Cures and treatments

The Brionia is a vigorous climber to climb it needs a brace to attach itself to. excessive.
Preventive treatments must be carried out with specific pesticides and antifungals, preferably organic based on garlic, nettle or pyrethrum.

Variety of Bryonia

In addition to the white species, the genus Bryonia also includes Bryonia cretica or red Bryonia, equally toxic but still used in the phytotherapeutic field.

Bryonia cretica

Known as Red Bryony or Common Bryony, it is a Cucurbitacea native to central and southern Europe that grows spontaneously with the exception of Sardinia throughout Italy, especially in the northern regions. It is a plant with a fleshy root similar to a large turnip but with an acrid and nauseating smell; it has a climbing habit and stems from 2 to 4 meters long with five-lobed leaves, with a narrower and elongated median lobe, a serrated or wavy margin, a rough surface with sparse and rigid hairs. During the flowering period it produces small flowers carried thin on long petioles followed by green berries that turn bright red in autumn. This very poisonous species is also used for medicinal purposes. In the past it was used as a laxative and in feverish states.


In spring and summer, Bryonia is used in gardening as an ornamental plant in gardens not frequented by children or pets to create large green areas on long fence walls, to cover pergolas, arches, and balcony railings.

Brionia-Bryonia dioica

Property of Brionia

Although Brionia is a toxic plant in all its parts, it is still used in homeopathic medicine as a natural remedy for the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections, hypertension, as a purgative, laxative and vermifuge. Due to its diaphoretic properties it is also used as a stimulant for sweating.

In ancient times it was used as a laxative and to treat leprosy.

In Homeopathy the roots of Brionia are used, harvested in autumn and dried in a special oven at +500 C.

Is Brionia poisonous?

Bryony is a poisonous plant in all its parts, in fact the roots, stems, leaves and berries contain brionine and cucurbitacin, toxic substances that can cause disease or death.

Direct contact with the leaves causes skin irritation, blisters and while ingesting the berries causes serious poisoning that can be lethal especially for children.

The most frequent symptoms of poisoning by ingestion are: vomiting and diarrhea, presence of blood in the stool, spasms and paralysis.

Bryony is also toxic to animals, excluding birds, which feed on its leaves and fruit.

English names of Bryonia

In England the plant is commonly called: english mandrake ladies or
sealed bryony white bryony.


The generic name Bryonia alludes to the dense vegetative bearing of the plant while the specific dioecious epithet which in Greek means ‘with two houses’, refers to the fact that the male and female flowers are carried by two different individuals. Biological form: rhizomatous geophyte / scandent hemicryptophyte. Flowering period: April-August.

Bryonia, known by the names of Devil’s Turnip, English Mandrake, Wild Hop is included in the Black list of invasive plants because it is a plant that grows out of control and that can only be countered by combining mechanical treatments (uprooting, mowing, harrowing, etc. .) and chemical (weeding).

Photo gallery Brionia – Bryonia



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