Perennial, climbing or trailing herbs with massive fleshy or woody rootstock. The leaves are simple, petiolate, the blade ovate-cordate to triangular, entire to 5-lobed. The tendrils are simple. The flowers are small, in axillary, racemose panicles or sub-umbellate fascicles with shortly campanulate receptacle-tube and five sepals. The five greenish-white petals are fused at base and form a rotate corolla. The three stamens are inserted near the rim of the tube on short, free filaments. Two anthers are bithecous, one monothecous with triplicate thecae. The pollen is tricolporate, reticulate, small to medium-sized (polar axis c. 42-60 µm, equatorial axis c. 35-52 µm, (Khunwasi 1998)). The ovary is globose with elongate style and bilobed stigma. The many ovules are horizontal. The fruit is a red or black berry (rarely green with white stripes), fleshy, smooth, when mature separating from the peduncle and in B. verrucosa ejecting the seeds by elastic contraction. The few seeds are compressed, ellipsoid with brown, smooth testa. The chromosome number is usually n = 10 (Volz & Renner 2008).
About ten species, which grow at forest margins and on disturbed ground, in semi-deserts and dry bushland in Europe, North Africa, Canary Islands, Central Asia. Host of the oligolectic sand bee Andrena florea.
Bryonia acuta Desf., Fl. Atlant. 86. 1798.
Bryonia alba L., Sp. Pl. 1012. 1753.
Bryonia aspera Stev. ex Ledeb., Fl. Ross. 2: 140. 1843.
Bryonia cretica L., Sp. Pl. 1013. 1753.
Bryonia dioica Jacq., Fl. Austriac. 2: 59 1775.
Bryonia marmorata E.Petit, Bot. Tidsskr. 17: 242. 1889.
Bryonia monoica Aitch. & Hemsl., Trans. Linn. Soc. London, Bot. 3: 65. 1886.
Bryonia multiflora Boiss. & Heldr., Diagn. Pl. Orient. 10: 8. 1849.
Bryonia syriaca Boiss., Diagn. Pl. Orient. II, 2: 59. 1856.
Bryonia verrucosa Ait., Hort. Kew. 3: 385 1789.
Jeffrey, C. 1969. A review of the genus Bryonia L.(Cucurbitaceae). Kew Bull. 23: 441-461.
Khunwasi, C. 1998. Palynology of the Cucurbitaceae. Doctoral Dissertation Naturwiss. Fak., University of Innsbruck.
Volz, S. M. and S. S. Renner. 2008. Hybridization, polyploidy, and evolutionary transitions between monoecy and dioecy in Bryonia (Cucurbitaceae). Am. J. Bot. 95: 1297-1306.
Volz, S. M. and S. S. Renner. 2009. Phylogeography of the ancient Eurasian medicinal plant genus Bryonia (Cucurbitaceae) inferred from nuclear and chloroplast sequences. Taxon 58: 550-560.