Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Oliv., Fl. trop. Afr. 2: 511 (1871).
Barteria nigritana Hook.f. subsp. fistulosa (Mast.) Sleumer (1974).
Arbre à fourmis (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Barteria fistulosa occurs from western Nigeria east to the Central African Republic and south to DR Congo.
The stem bark, roots and leaves of Barteria fistulosa are widely used in baths and embrocation to treat pain, e.g. fever pains, headache, intestinal and lumbar pains and rheumatism. In Gabon a bark decoction is gargled to treat toothache, and in the Central African Republic a decoction is used as nose drops to treat headache. Young shoots are eaten as an aphrodisiac, and the powdered root is widely taken as an invigorator for men. A bark decoction is taken to treat venereal diseases and madness. In Congo Barteria fistulosa is used in many formulations to treat epilepsy and snakebites. A bark decoction makes a wash to treat smallpox and ulcerous sores. A mixture of dried ground twig bark, rock salt and maize meal is eaten as a purgative. Powdered bark is used to stop the coughing of blood and uterine haemorrhage, while the leaf powder is rubbed into scarifications. In DR Congo the bark sap is used to treat wounds.
The stem bark of Barteria fistulosa contains large amounts of flavones, while the leaves and roots contain traces. The bark furthermore contains a trace of saponins, the bark and root contain tannins and the leaves, bark and root contain traces of hydrocyanic acid. The cyanogenic glycoside barterioside has been isolated from the root bark.
Small tree up to 13 m tall with deep taproot; branches horizontal, hollow over their full length, smooth or with lenticels, greyish. Leaves distichously alternate, simple, almost entire; stipules absent; petiole short, thickened; blade oblong to obovate-oblong, 20–42 cm × 6–19 cm, base decurrent into the petiole, forming a raised line on both sides of the stem, apex apiculate, leathery, glabrous. Inflorescence an axillary fascicle, often horseshoe-shaped, (2–)6–9-flowered; bracts numerous, oblong, apex rounded to obtuse, overlapping, shiny, chestnut-coloured, increasing in size from below upwards. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; sessile; sepals fused at base, oblong to lanceolate, c. 3 cm × 1 cm, overlapping, wavy at the margins, silky and downy outside, white; petals similar to the sepals, but slightly larger and glabrous; corona double, the outer membranous, about half the length of the petals, jagged at the edge, inner much smaller, consisting of a ring of thick, fleshy tubercles; stamens numerous, c. 3 cm long, filaments fused at base, anthers linear-oblong; ovary superior, globose, 1-celled, style thick, stigma large, mushroom-shaped. Fruit a leathery, ellipsoid indehiscent berry 3–3.5 cm × 2–2.5 cm, many-seeded. Seeds ovoid, compressed, coarsely pitted, with pulpy aril.
Barteria comprises 4 species, which all occur in tropical Africa. Barteria fistulosa houses large, aggressive ants (Tetraponera spp.). Barteria nigritiana Hook.f. and Barteria dewevrei De Wild. & T.Durand house small ants in their hollow branches, while Barteria solida Breteler does not house any ants. In Nigeria Barteria fistulosa fruits in March on trees more than 8 m tall (more than 10 years old). The seeds are dispersed by birds and small mammals. Seedlings occur in heavy shade and produce the first hollow, horizontal branches when 1–1.5 m tall; these are colonized by ants. The growth rate is 50–100 cm per year, and the tree dies after 15–30 reproductive seasons, at which time the crown is high enough to be exposed to broken sunlight.
In Cameroon the Baka people use Barteria nigritana to treat anaemia and toothache and in Congo the Kouilou and Mayombe people use the bark to treat wounds, scabies and itch. After a wash with the decoction, the affected area is dusted with powdered bark.
Barteria fistulosa occurs in lowland rainforest and gallery forest, also in secondary forest, often in clearings or along rivers.
Genetic resources and breeding
Barteria fistulosa is widespread and hence not threatened with genetic erosion.
In view of the many medicinal uses and the limited chemical and pharmacological data, research into the properties of Barteria fistulosa may prove worthwhile.
• Breteler, F.J., 1999. Barteria Hook. f. (Passifloraceae) revised. Adansonia séries 3, 21(2): 307–318.
• Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
• Janzen, D.H., 1972. Protection of Barteria (Passifloraceae) by Pachysima ants (Pseudomyrmecinae) in a Nigerian rain forest. Ecology 53(5): 885–892.
• Keay, R.W.J., 1954. Passifloraceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 1. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 199–203.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Waterman, P.G., Ross, J.A.M. & McKey, D.B., 1984. Factors affecting levels of some phenolic compounds, digestibility and nitrogen content of the mature leaves of Barteria fistulosa (Passifloraceae). Journal of Chemistry and Ecology 10: 384–401.
• Adjanohoun, E.J., Ahyi, A.M.R., Aké Assi, L., Baniakina, J., Chibon, P., Cusset, G., Doulou, V., Enzanza, A., Eymé, J., Goudoté, E., Keita, A., Mbemba, C., Mollet, J., Moutsamboté, J.-M., Mpati, J. & Sita, P. (Editors), 1988. Médecine traditionnelle et pharmacopée - Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Congo. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 606 pp.
• Akendengué, B. & Louis, A.M., 1994. Medicinal plants used by the Masango people in Gabon. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 41: 193–200.
• Betti, J.L., 2004. An ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants among the Baka pygmies in the Dja biosphere reserve, Cameroon. African Study Monographs 25(1): 1–27.
• Bouquet, A., 1969. Féticheurs et médecines traditionnelles du Congo (Brazzaville). Mémoires ORSTOM No 36. Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre-Mer. Paris, France. 282 pp.
• Gassita, J.N., Nze Ekekang, L., De Vecchy, H., Louis, A.M., Koudogbo, B. & Ekomié, R. (Editors), 1982. Les plantes médicinales du Gabon. CENAREST, IPHAMETRA, mission ethnobotanique de l’ACCT au Gabon, 10–31 juillet 1982. 26 pp.
• Hulstaert, G., 1966. Notes de Botanique Mongo. Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-mer, Classe des Sciences Naturelles et Médicales, N.S. 15–3, Bruxelles, Belgium. 213 pp.
• Paris, M., Bouquet, A. & Paris, R.R., 1969. Biochimie végétale. Sur le bartérioside, nouvel hétéroside cyanogénétique des écorces de racine du Barteria fistulosa Mast. Comptes rendus des Séances de l’Académie des Sciences, Série D, Sciences naturelles 268(23): 2804–2806.
• Raponda-Walker, A., 1952. Usages pharmaceutiques des plantes spontanées du Gabon, 1. Bulletin Institut d'Études Centrafricaines, Nouvelle série 4: 181–186.
• Sandberg, F. & Cronlund, A., 1982. An ethnopharmacological inventory of medicinal and toxic plants from equatorial Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 5: 187–204.
• Tanno, T., 1981. Plant utilization of the Mbuti Pygmies - with special reference to their material culture and use of wild vegetable foods. African Study Monographs 1: 1–53.
Correct citation of this article:
de Ruijter, A., 2007. Barteria fistulosa Mast. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.