BPotD Archives being removed

Please do not link to these pages! The new site is up at http://botanyphoto.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/. These pages are gradually being removed as we update the content on the new site.

Guizotia abyssinica

Guizotia abyssinica

Fifth in a series celebrating UBC Research Week, again organized by Connor Fitzpatrick:

Scott Black, a Dept. of Botany M.Sc. student supervised by Dr. Gary Bradfield, and Hannes Dempewolf, a Ph.D. student co-supervised by Dr. Quentin Cronk and Dr. Loren Rieseberg, are researching the crop species noug, Guizotia abyssinica. Scott provided the photograph and Hannes adapted the write-up from this brochure on noug (PDF) that he co-authored (published by the Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species).

What is noug?

Noug is an oil-seed crop, indigenous to Ethiopia and holds significant promise for improving rural livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa. The species is used in intercropping systems, grows on poor but also extremely wet soils, and contributes to soil conservation. While not fully domesticated, and suffering from low yields and susceptibility to insect herbivores, it contributes up to 50% of the Ethiopian oil-seed crop. Noug belongs to the Compositae family and is closely related to sunflower. It differs from domesticated sunflower mainly due to its high level of branching, numerous flower heads and small seeds. The oil content of noug seed varies from 30 to 50%. The fatty acid composition is typical for seed oils of the Compositae family with linoleic acid being the dominant component.

Ethiopia is well known as centre of diversity for several crops, including teff, enset and Ethiopian mustard. As a result, it has been suggested as Africa's independent origin of domestication. Noug diversity is greatest in Ethiopia and Eritrea and local farmers are able to distinguish many different land-races. The process of noug domestication is incomplete, probably due to frequent interbreeding with its co-occurring wild relatives. Apart from Africa (Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe), noug is also cultivated in parts of South Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan) where it was introduced several thousand years ago, and the West Indies.

The Rieseberg lab at UBC's Department of Botany is at the centre of an international collaborative research effort that has been launched in order to understand and manage the genetic diversity of noug for its improvement. The challenge of the project (2007-2010) is to show how modern molecular breeding efforts can be adapted and implemented for neglected and underutilized species, such as noug, through research on their diversity. This approach is especially powerful when conducted in the context of genomic information and tools that have already been developed for related major crops, in this case sunflower and lettuce.

This requires:

  • collection, characterization and conservation of ecologically and genetically diverse germplasm
  • initiation or re-orientation of existing breeding and crop deployment programs to capitalize on this diversity
  • transfer of knowledge and technology to breeders and farmers in Ethiopia

With funds from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), scientists from UBC's Department of Botany in collaboration with researchers from Addis Ababa University, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research and Bioversity International have initiated this project last year and have already completed several components, such as the collection and characterization of several noug cultivars in Ethiopia. Currently, scientists are working in the laboratory to assess the genetic diversity and population structure of noug and its wild relatives.


I'll add a few links:

  • Guizotia abyssinica via Wikipedia
  • Guizotia abyssinica via Purdue University's Center for New Crops (James Duke's Handbook of Energy Crops)
  • a monograph on Guizotia abyssinica (PDF) from Bioviersity International - it's a very detailed treatment of the species, with a number of illustrations

Absolutely wonderful information. This sounds like a godsend to those people over there, even undeir their strange climte, it will thrive. Awesome. Thank you Daniel and CIDA!

Absoloutely love the photo great shot!!! Also thanx for the info it was educational. I had never heard of the 'noug' until now.


Excellent writeup and I perused the pdf article, too; thanks Connor and Daniel.


This is the Niger seed (and by the way, was it a different genus name not long ago?) we buy for feeding finches -- usually imported from Ethiopia and sterilized because for some reason it's called 'thistle.' The few seeds that have sprouted have a very pretty yellow-orange flower on an attractive little plant. Not a sign of a spine, unless the seedhead gets spiny at some stage. I never get a seedling until very late in the summer and have never gotten one to mature seed.

Our Ethiopian market sells pound bags of Niger seed -- as soon as I got the seed I couldn't find the recipe, but I think it was pounded and made into a sort of gruel or horchata-like beverage. Like the finch seed (and it wouldn't surprise me if the store just repackaged a bag of finch Niger!) it was sterilized, or maybe just old. Didn't get the hoped-for flower plants from it anyhow.

There is, however, a very nasty plant with appressed spikes on the stems, which it mostly is, that has nearly identical seeds and which also appeared where the finches spill their seed. I wondered if there was a confusion of identity here with the nasty being the plant that put the "thistle" in the Niger name.

There was an article somewhere -- California Farmer I think-- about efforts to develop a strain of Niger whose seedheads would ripen all at the same time and wouldn't shatter, so it could be machine harvested and grown in the US(thus undermining the Ethiopian Niger agronomy in various ways, though that wasn't mentioned). I've been watching for it in the catalogues. One article said it was grown as an ornamental at one time.

thank you to every one
we have to work hard here in the florida
to sustain our part of the world
and to protect we had many volunteers
out this weekend putting in plugs
to try to save land and return the
parcel one of the largest in tampa
bay to its former self for the bird
count is down so are the bees etc
and for underwater life
all we can learn from one another
is a blessing to all of of us thank you

My father got a bag of Guizotia abyssinica from Ethiopia (well actually the local farm store) for his native outdoor birds in Rhode Island which love them. I did also try to grow the plant from seed as an oddity for the Rhode Island College Greenhouse Biology Department plant collection. I suspected that the seed was treated (steralized). I may try again but will my efforts be futile? I don't suspect there is a way to un-sterilize them.

Dianne Huling

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research
6804 SW Marine Drive, Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4
Tel: 604.822.3928
Fax: 604.822.2016 Email: garden.info@ubc.ca

Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC | © Copyright The University of British Columbia