Bryonia is a genus of flowering plants in the gourd family. Bryony /ˈbr.əni/ is its best-known common name. They are native to western Eurasia and adjacent regions, such as North Africa, the Canary Islands and South Asia.

P1000627 Bryonia dioica (Cucurbitaceae) Plant.JPG
Red bryony (B. dioica)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Cucurbitales
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Subfamily: Cucurbitoideae
Tribe: Bryonieae
Genus: Bryonia
12 species
Male flower of white bryony (B. alba)

Description and ecologyEdit

Bryonies are perennial, tendril-climbing, diclinous or dioecious[clarification needed] herbs with palmately lobed leaves and flowers in axillary clusters. The fruit is a smooth, globular berry.

Bryonia is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), including the tortrix moth Phtheochroa rugosana (recorded on red bryony, B. dioica) and the cabbage moth (Mamestra brassicae).

Use by humansEdit

Bryonies are occasionally grown in gardens, sometimes accidentally, sometimes deliberately so. Some species find use in herbal medicine. Generally however, these plants are poisonous, some highly so, and may be fatal if ingested. Cucurbitacin glycosides are primarily responsible for the plants' bitterness and emetic effects.

Variants of the plants' name, such as Briony, Bryonie and Bryony, are used in some cultures as female given names. They were quite popular in the 18th century.

The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom named two ships HMS Bryony after the plant.


The toxic berries of red bryony (B. dioica)

Twelve species are currently accepted by the USDA:[1] Ten of these are supported in a molecular-phylogenetic analysis:[2] The only English species, B. dioica (white bryony), grows in hedgerows as far north as Yorkshire.

A bryony root (broken at the bottom)

Formerly placed hereEdit

See alsoEdit

  • Bryonopsis (meaning "looks like bryony"), a now-invalid genus currently assigned to close (Diplocyclos) and somewhat more distant (Kedrostis) relatives of Bryonia


  1. ^ USDA (2009)
  2. ^ Volz and Renner (2009)


  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (2009): Germplasm Resources Information NetworkBryonia. Version of 2009-MAY-15. Retrieved 2010-APR-15.
  • Volz, S. M., and S. S. Renner (Volz and Renner) 2009. Phylogeography of the ancient Eurasian medicinal plant genus Bryonia (Cucurbitaceae) inferred from nuclear and chloroplast sequences. Taxon 58(2): 550-560.
  • Renner S. S., Scarborough J., Schaefer H., Paris H.S., and J. Janick. (Renner et al. (2008) Dioscorides's Bruonia melaina is Bryonia alba, not Tamus communis, and an illustration labeled Bruonia melaina in the Codex Vindobonensis is Humulus lupulus not Bryonia dioica. pp. 273–280. In: Pitrat, M., ed., Cucurbitaceae 2008, Archived 2012-03-28 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit