Petiole and stem gross anatomy of seven West African species of Momordica L of the family Cucurbitaceae were studied. This was with a view to exploiting their systematic and taxonomic significance; this is because other studies on them were based on morphology. Representatives of the five species were obtained from various parts of the West African sub-region and passed through standard treatments to make permanent anatomical slides for the study. Micrographic evidences of distinguishing and affinity taxonomic features were made. Variations in petiole and stem anatomical attributes were obvious that they could be used as systematic evidence to taxonomically delineate these taxa even at species level. The evidences are used to locate the species in the tribe Cucurbitoideae. The occurrence of grit cells below the epidermis of the petiole ofMomordica cabraei is remarkable and separates it from others; this is reported for the first time. Whereas in Momordica cissoides, brachysclerids are found interspersing the cells of the epidermal layer of the petiole which is also reported for the first time. Both stem and petiolar vascular bundle quantitatively separates the species. Cortical parenchyma cellular layers differentiates the species and therefore delineated them.Momordica balsamina stands apart with the possession of stemic 15 to 17 cellular layers of sclerenchymatous tissues. In M. cabraei, the grit cells are present in stem where it is scattered across the tissues whereas in Momordica multiflora, where it was lacking in petiole, packs are arranged below stemic epidermal tissues. The occurrence of starch deposit across various tissue layers of M. multiflora petiole also stands it out. Various other distinguishing features are discussed. The use of petiolar and stemic anatomical features in systematic description of Momordica species is maiden and innovative and reported for the first time.
Key words: Momordica, Cucurbitaceae, stem, petiole, systematics, taxonomy, cucurbitoideae.
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