Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Cucurbitales
Family Cucurbitaceae
Genus Bryonia
Species B.alba
Binomial name Bryonia alba

Other Common Names:

The other common names are Bryonia, White Bryony, English Mandrake, Wild Vine, Wild Hops, Wild Nep, Tamus, Ladies' Seal, Tetterbury, Snakeweed, Devil's Turnip, Bastard Turnip.


The name is most popular in and around Scottish regions where the plant is mainly seen and grown. This results in many Scottish versions of the name. The Royal Navy have named two ships HMS Bryony, after the flower.B. alba was first reported for Washington in 1975 from a site near Union Center in Whitman County.


There is however an earlier record of Bryonia dioica from Columbia County (1972) which may in fact have been B. alba. Since the seeds of this species are spread by birds, it has spread extremely rapidly and is now common in Whitman, Garfield, and Columbia counties, as well as being reported for Idaho and Montana. The English and Greek names refer to its quick growth, a feature that one may readily observe for oneself in spring, although it should not be restricted to this plant.


Bryonia is a perennial climbing vine with tuberous roots, growing up to 4 meters in length. The thick root is a light yellow. The stems climb by means of unbranched tendrils and the leaves are somewhat triangular, alternate and broadly toothed.


The upper and lower leaf surfaces have small white glands. The long curling tendrils, the flowers and the fruit arise from the leaf axils. The flowers are whitish-green with distinct green veins, borne in axillary racemose panicles or sub-umbellate fascicles (bundles). Bryonia alba is monoecious, the calyx as long as corolla, stigmas glabrous, giving way to black fruits. The fruit is a black berry, 5/16 inches in diameter.


Bryonia is native to temperate Europe southwards into the Mediterranean and Balkans, extending eastwards into Russia, Turkey and Iran. In North America it is an introduced species, occurring only sporadically.


It is terrestrial and distributed in open forest, shrubland, and stream edges. White bryony grows in diverse habitats such as hedges, fence lines, rank grass, native forest, scrub, paddocks and exotic plantations. Plants are usually found under places where birds perch.


It is a rapid grower; it is of easy cultivation succeeding in most soils that are well drained. Reproduction of B. alba spreads by seed. The plant produces berries, the seeds of which are disseminated by birds. Seeds are best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. The plant prefers light sandy, medium loamy and heavy clay soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. Sow stored seed in late winter in a cold frame. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts and division in early spring.

Parts Used


The root is collected in the autumn and used both in the fresh and dry state for its commercial and medicinal purposes.

Flowering Season

It produces clusters of small cream white flowers in spring/summer, with male and female flowers on separate plants.

Pests and Diseases

Bryonia is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Cabbage Moth.

Medicinal Applications


• The dried roots of white bryony have been used medicinally.

• The homeopathic dilutions are used to treat gout, flu, coughs, fever, bronchitis and rheumatism.

• Alcoholic extracts of the bryony root and fruits were used in the past to treat unbroken chilblains.

• Bryony is mainly used externally in creams and ointments to treat muscular and rheumatic pains.

• Good for palsies, convulsions, cramps and stitches in the side and the dropsy.

• In small doses of a few drops it is considered useful in chest complaints, rheumatisrn and gout. It has similar applications in homoeopathic medicine, being employed in bronchitis, sciatica and arthritis.

• It provokes the urine and cleanses the reins and kidneys from gravel and stone by opening obstructions of the spleen.

• The root cleans the skin from all black and blue spots, freckles, morphew, leprosy, foul scars or other deformity.

• The root bruised and applied to any place where bones are broken helps to draw them forth, also splinters and thorns in the flesh.

• Bryony must be taken inwardly it purges very violently and needs an abler hand to correct it 'than most country people have.

• The young shoot is eaten cooked.

• It is used in leather tanning.


According to the astro reports it is said that bryony is a furious martial plants.

Folklores and Myths

Variants of the plant name, such as Briony, Bryonie, and Bryony are used, in some cultures, as names for women or girls.Bryony roots also came to be used in witches' brews8 and, although lacking any narcotic power of their own, even found their way into primitive anaesthetic mixtures, such as one mentioned in the Canterbury Tales and known as dwale9.The Franciscan Bartholomew Anglicus states that Augustus Caesar wore a wreath of Bryony during a thunderstorm to protect himself from lightning. According to Culpepper Bryonia "? are furious martial plants the root purges the belly with great violence, troubling the stomach and burning the liver, and therefore not rashly to be taken. Because bryony's root resembles a person, as does the mandrake root, people associated bryony with that plant and thought it brought bad luck. William Withering, 18thcentury botanist and physician famous for his work with digitalis, advocated bryony's use in veterinary medicine.

White bryony is said to scream when pulled from the ground, in the same way as mandrake (which it's often falsely called), and was also claimed to be unlucky in the house. Yet in Cambridgeshire white bryony's human torso-shaped root was the object of a pub competition to find the most womanly specimen. The winning womandrake, as it was often called, was hung in the bar until an even more realistic sample could be found. The runner-up roots in these ribald contests weren't wasted, however; and were stashed in their finder's money boxes to ensure increases to the family income. Highly suitable for cernunnos magic.

Yet back in the days of ancient Egypt it was well known and respected enough to get a mention in the famous Ebers Papyrus, an ancient document dating back to about 1700 BC, which lists about 700 medicinal plants. Back then it was thought to increase fertility and was valued as an aphrodisiac. Even the Bible attests to its powers - in the story of Rachael, Leah and Jacob, the originators of the twelve tribes of Israel, Rachael trusted in the power of the Mandrake to rouse Jacob's interest in her, hoping that the herb would make her fertile so she could bear him a child. However, despite the Mandrake, God thought otherwise... The other mention of it is in the Song of Songs, Salomon VII 11-13, where it is mentioned as an allusion to passionate love-making.