Scientific Name
Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook.f.
Higher Classification
Common Names
Botterpitte (a), Butter Pits (e), Butterpips (e), Nara Bush (e), Naras (a), Narasdoring (a)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Data Deficient - Insufficient Information
Assessment Date
D. Raimondo & L. von Staden
Widespread and common in Namibia, but the status of the population in South Africa is poorly known, with the species last recorded in 1925.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Northern Cape
Southern Angola to Port Nolloth.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Sand dunes within the coastal fog belt. Plants are dependent on underground water sources for survival, and are an important contributor to dune stabilization.
Declines of !Nara plant populations around Walvis Bay and Swakopmund have been attributed to over-extraction of groundwater, as this species is dependent on underground water sources for survival (Breuringer 1997). In South Africa plants are potentially threatened by habitat loss to mining. Harvesting is not a threat to this species as only fruits are utilized. Acanthosicyos horridus is protected in Namibia.

Acanthosicyos horridus is a very common keystone species of coastal Namib Desert plant communities. It has however not been recorded in South Africa since 1925. Within South Africa, the species occurs within an area now largely closed off to public access due to diamond mining. It is also a very large, thorny plant, which means that making specimens are difficult, and these reasons may explain the lack of collections. Surveys are however needed to determine the status of the South African population of this species.

Population trend
The melon-like fruits and seeds are edible and the !Nara plant is an important food source for the Topnaar people of Namibia (Berry 1991, Van Damme and Van den Eynden 2000). The roots have pharmaceutical value (Kartusch and Kartusch 2008). Seeds were exported for the confectionery industry in South Africa as a substitute for almonds (Hylands and Magd 1986, Berry 1991). The importance of !Nara as a food source has however declined in recent years due to substitution by western food (Berry 2003).
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook.f.Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) 2011.1
Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook.f.Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) Raimondo et al. (2009)
Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook.f.VU D2Victor (2002)
Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook.f.Indeterminate Hilton-Taylor (1996)

Berry, C. 1991. Nara: Unique melon of the desert. Veld & Flora 77(1):22-23.

Berry, C. 2003. Aspects of phenology and condition of inland and coastal !Nara plants in the Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia. Dinteria 28:1-18.

Breuringer, B. 1997. Minutes from the Nara workshop: Topnaar community and the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia, 19 November 1997, Lauberville.

Hilton-Taylor, C. 1996. Red data list of southern African plants. Strelitzia 4. South African National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Hylands, P.J. and Magd, M.S. 1986. Cucurbitacins from Acanthosicyos horridus. Phytochemistry 25(7):1681-1684.

Kartusch, B. and Kartusch, R. 2008. Stem anatomy of Acanthosicyos horridus (Cucurbitaceae). South African Journal of Botany 74(4):647-650.

Meeuse, A.D.J. 1962. The Cucurbitaceae of southern Africa. Bothalia 8(1):1-112.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Van Damme, P. and Van den Eynden, V. 2000. Succulent and xerophytic plants used by the Topnaar of Namibia. Haseltonia 7:53-62.

Victor, J.E. 2002. South Africa. In: J.S. Golding (ed), Southern African plant Red Data Lists. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report 14 (pp. 93-120), SABONET, Pretoria.

Victor, J.E. Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. Ex Hook.f. http://www.fao.org/ag/AGP/agpc/doc/GBASE/Safricadata/acanthorr.htm. Downloaded on 7 February 2012.

Raimondo, D. & von Staden, L. 2012. Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook.f. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2021/09/26

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Distribution map

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