A Unique Desert Vine:

​​Ibervillea Sonarae
by Cheryl Miller

Ibervillea Sonarae, possibly named for Pierre LeMoyne Sieur D'Iberville, a 17th century explorer that settled in Louisiana, is the most well known and unusual variety of the 11 Ibervillea species found in the New World.  And it is the only native endemic Ibervillea in Baja California Sur.  A member of the  cucumber family or the Cucurbitaceous Family,  it is sometimes erroneously referred to as another Coyote Melon, but its characteristics are far from similar to those Baja gourds with the same common name.  This unusual plant grows as a vine, as well, but with clinging twisting tendrils that climb, as opposed to spreading across the ground.  The fruit is thin skinned and soft, as opposed to a thick shell and drying hard like a gourd.  Birds, mice and other animals often feast on the fruit and assist the plant in its reproductive cycle by dropping seeds far from the mother plant through their feces. 

The Ibervillea sonarae is known also as Wereke, Guerequi, Wareki, Huereque and Choyalhuani in Spanish and the native languages of the Indians.  It is a caudiciform and has a bottle shaped caudex that can become extremely large, in some older plants, up to 3 feet in diameter.  A caudiciform is a succulent plant with a swollen, water- storage stem at the base, called a caudex. These plants produce other stem/vines and their 3 lobed-palmate leaves from the caudex when conditions are favorable.  The plant lives off the water and food stored there during dry periods.  The Wereke has been recorded surviving as long as seven years without additional water.  Custom made for our desert conditions!  The Ibervillea sonarae is unusual among caudciforms, as the stems may come out of the side of the caudex, not necessarily the top and the caudex remains principally above ground unlike its northern and mainland cousins.  Stems can grow 3 meters long and produce profuse, small waxy, yellow flowers.  The Ibervillea sonarae is listed on many “rare and unusual” plant lists in the botanical community.  And when available for sale, the Choyalhuani is a prized specimen for collectors.


Wereke is a well known plant to not only the original settlers of Baja, but also to the medical community of today, as well.  Mayos, Opatas and Seri from mainland Sonora and SInoloa, as well as the indigenous tribes of the Baja used the root for various purposes such as an anti-rheumatoid arthritic treatment, an anti-inflammatory, an analgesic, for dermatitis, heart disease, but, most commonly, in the treatment of diabetes. 

 Diabetes is a disease where insulin, normally secreted from the pancreas, is either not produced by the body (Type 1) or where the insulin produced is not effective and does not allow for absorption of glucose (our sugars and food) into the cells in the body (Type 2).  The result is dangerously high levels of glucose in the blood stream.  The root of the Ibervillea sonarae has a proven strong effect on lowering blood sugar levels and has long been used in Mexico as a traditional diabetes medicine.  You can, right now, find many herbal supplement companies offering Wereke, in extract form and as pills today on the internet.  Or go to your local Mexican “botanista” store, you’ll find it there too.  The roots extract also contains DCM – dichloromethane and MeOH-methanol which has been found useful in lowering cholesterol without changing the blood’s ph levels.  There are toxic levels of use to this plant, but modern scientific diabetes studies are showing promising results, adding credence to our forefather’s common knowledge.  But, although promising, as always with a serious illness such as diabetes, check with your doctor before trying any alternative medical treatment.

Our unique Desert Vine:  Take a close look at it the next time you are out in the desert… and you don’t have to go far.  I have seen many specimens right here in the urban areas of Los Cabos!