From The Plant Encyclopedia
"Capparis" is also a family name, see e.g. Melpomene Capparis.

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Maiapilo (Capparis sandwichiana)

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Kingdom Plantae
Order Brassicales
Family Capparaceae
Species in this genus
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Capparis is a flowering plant genus in the family Capparaceae which is included in the Brassicaceae in the unrevised APG II system. These plants are shrubs or lianas and are collectively known as caper shrubs or caperbushes. Capparis species occur over a wide range of habitat in the subtropical and tropical zones.

Uses and ecology

The well-known caper is a pickled flower bud of Capparis spinosa.

Caperbushes are mainly used by humans for their fruit, which are rich in micronutrients. C. spinosa, simply known as caper, yields fruit and more importantly flower buds, which are widely used pickled as a vegetable condiment. The fruit of other species, such as karir (C. decidua), are also used for cooking; C. mitchellii and the Wild passionfruit (the local subspecies of C. spinosa) are well-known bush tucker in Australia. Mabinlang seeds (C. masaikai) are eaten as sweets.

Mabinlang is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Aspalathos, the root of a shrub contained for example in the sacred Ancient Egyptian incense kp.t (kyphi), is sometimes considered to be C. spinosa. Other species have also recorded uses in herbalism and folk medicine; dedicated research is largely lacking however. Mabinlins are sweet-tasting proteins found in Mabinlang seed (and possibly in other Capparis species); at least one of them is highly resistant to heat. The market for mabinlins is presently not large, but this is mainly due to insufficient supply rather than to lack of demand.

Caperbushes from arid regions - chiefly C. decidua - are highly useful in landscape gardening, afforestation and reforestation. They can stop soil erosion and preserve agricultural land. Any large-flowered species can be used to attract butterflies. The Crimson Rose (Atrophaneura hector), a spectacular swallowtail butterfly of South Asia, likes to visit flowers of C. spinosa in the winter months for example.

File:Capparis fruit.JPG
Many birds eat ripe Capparis spinosa fruit and seeds.

The fruit and seeds of caperbushes are relished by many birds and other animals such as spiny-tailed lizards. Capparis plants are highly important as food for certain Lepidoptera caterpillars, many of them Colotini or Pierini:

The plant pathogenic ascomycete fungus Mycosphaerella capparis was described from a caperbush. Some species of Capparis are becoming rare, mainly due to habitat destruction, and a few are seriously threatened with extinction.

Selected species

File:Capparis micracantha Blanco1.178.png
Drawing of Capparis micracantha, showing its parts. Francisco Manuel Blanco, Flora de Filipinas, etc (1880-1883)
File:Capparis sepiaria Blanco1.209.png
Drawing of Capparis "sepiaria", showing its parts. Francisco Manuel Blanco, Flora de Filipinas, etc (1880-1883)

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See also


  1. Hébert et al. (2004), Brower et al. (2006)
  2. "Capparis sandwichiana". Plant Collections. United States Botanic Garden. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  3. "Capparis sandwichiana". Hawaiian Native Plant Propagation Database. University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  4. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ITIS
  5. 5.0 5.1 "GRIN Species Records of Capparis". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2010-11-22. 


  • (2006): Problems with DNA barcodes for species delimitation: ‘ten species’ of Astraptes fulgerator reassessed (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae). Systematics and Biodiversity 4(2): 127–132. PDF fulltext
  • (2004): Ten species in one: DNA barcoding reveals cryptic species in the semitropical skipper butterfly Astraptes fulgerator. PNAS 101(41): 14812-14817. PDF fulltext Supporting Appendices