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Alectra sessiliflora (Vahl) Kuntze

Protologue
Revis. gen. pl. 2: 458 (1891).
Family
Scrophulariaceae (APG: Orobanchaceae)
Origin and geographic distribution
Alectra sessiliflora is widespread and found all over tropical Africa and subtropical southern Africa, through the Indian Ocean islands to tropical Asia.
Uses
The yellow to orange flowers and roots (haustoria) of Alectra sessiliflora have been used by rural people in South Africa to dye cloths and other textiles. In DR Congo a golden yellow dye is extracted which is used for colouring wood. In traditional medicine in Tanzania leaf sap is taken to hasten childbirth and plant ash mixed with castor oil is rubbed onto scars caused by leprosy. A root decoction is used as a mouthwash against toothache and given to small children to treat diarrhoea. In DR Congo macerated fresh plants are eaten by pregnant women as a galactagogue, and a leaf decoction is used against kwashiorkor (severe malnutrition in children resulting from a diet excessively high in carbohydrates and low in protein).
Botany
Erect, annual herb up to 60 cm tall, with straight, simple or branched, hairy stem. Leaves opposite, simple; stipules absent; petiole up to 3 mm long; blade circular to ovate or lanceolate, 1.5–5.5 cm Χ 1–3 cm, base cuneate, rounded or cordate, apex acute or obtuse, margin almost entire to coarsely toothed, rigid-hairy to almost glabrous. Flowers solitary in axils of upper leaves, bisexual, slightly zygomorphic, sessile or with pedicel up to 0.5(–1.5) mm long; bracteoles linear to filiform; calyx campanulate, 6–8 mm long, 10-veined, 5-lobed with triangular lobes 3–5 mm long; corolla campanulate, slightly longer than calyx, pale yellow to dull orange, sometimes with reddish veins, withering but not falling off; stamens 4, 2 longer ones with long-hairy filaments; ovary superior, glabrous, 2-celled, style clavate above the middle, recurved, included with stamens in corolla. Fruit a globose capsule c. 5.5 mm in diameter, glabrous, many-seeded. Seeds linear to clavate, small.
Alectra comprises 30–40 species and is distributed pantropically, with about 30 species in tropical Africa. Alectra sessiliflora is very variable and might turn out to be a complex of species. Three varieties have been distinguished, mainly based on differences in leaves and in degree of pubescence of several parts.
Alectra sessiliflora is a hemiparasitic weed on the roots of Asteraceae, grasses and a number of crops (e.g. groundnut, maize, sugar cane). Seeds require a chemical stimulant from the host roots in order to germinate. The temperature also plays an important role for successful germination. Alectra sessiliflora is at least partly dependent on the host for minerals and water, and it can become a serious pest in crops.
Ecology
Alectra sessiliflora is found in grassland and cultivation areas, from sea-level up to 2500 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Alectra sessiliflora is very widespread and not in danger of genetic erosion.
Prospects
Most probably Alectra sessiliflora will remain only very locally of some importance as a dye source. Its medicinal properties need further investigation for evaluation.
Major references
• Burkill, H.M., 2000. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 5, Families S–Z, Addenda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 686 pp.
• Philcox, D., 1990. Scrophulariaceae. In: Launert, E. & Pope, G.V. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 8, part 2. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, London, United Kingdom. 179 pp.
• van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.
Other references
• Chifundera, K., 2001. Contribution to the inventory of medicinal plants from the Bushi area, South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. Fitoterapia 72: 351–368.
• Haerdi, F., 1964. Die Eingeborenen-Heilpflanzen des Ulanga-Distriktes Tanganjikas (Ostafrika). In: Haerdi, F., Kerharo, J. & Adam, J.G. (Editors). Afrikanische Heilpflanzen / Plantes mιdicinales africaines. Acta Tropica Supplementum 8: 1–278.
• Hepper, F.N., 1960. New and notheworthy Scrophulariaceae in Africa. Kew Bulletin 14: 402–416.
• Hepper, F.N., 1963. Scrophulariaceae. In: Hepper, F.N. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 352–374.
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Van der Merwe, C.A., 1993. Seed germination requirements of Alectra sessiliflora. South African Journal of Botany 59(4): 459–460.
Author(s)
• P.C.M. Jansen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors
• P.C.M. Jansen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
• D. Cardon
CNRS, CIHAM-UMR 5648, 18, quai Claude-Bernard, 69365 Lyon, Cedex 07, France
General editors
• R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
• L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2005. Alectra sessiliflora (Vahl) Kuntze In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.