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Caesalpinia volkensii Harms

Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 45: 304 (1910).
Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae).
Vernacular names
Msoro, mkomwe (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Caesalpinia volkensii is native to Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Caesalpinia volkensii is used in Kenya and Tanzania mostly to treat malaria. In the area around Nairobi (Kenya) over 60% of the herbalists prescribe a decoction of the leaves of Caesalpinia volkensii to cure malaria, sometimes alone, but more often mixed with other plants. The leaf decoction is also taken to fight pains during pregnancy. Pregnant women take powdered pods dissolved in water to relieve stomach-ache. Roots are eaten cooked, raw or as an addition to palm wine for their aphrodisiac properties. They are also used to treat gonorrhoea and bilharzia. Seeds are used to cure stomach ulcers. Flower buds are crushed and applied to the eye to treat eye problems. Unspecified plant parts are used in Kenya to treat retinoblastoma. The roots are used in Tanzania as a source of red dye.
Production and international trade
Caesalpinia volkensii used to be traded on a local scale only. Nowadays Caesalpinia volkensii is exported from Uganda to Kenya but quantities are unknown.
In-vitro tests of leaf extracts of Caesalpinia volkensii showed antiplasmodial activity against chloroquine-sensitive and chloroquine-resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum. Active compounds have not been reported for Caesalpinia volkensii.
Shrub with climbing or straggling stems armed with recurved and straight prickles 2–4 mm long. Leaves alternate, bipinnately compound, with 3–6 pairs of pinnae; stipules small, c. 3 mm long, 2–3-pointed; rachis 15–50 cm long with recurved prickles, especially at base of pinnae; leaflets opposite, 3–7 pairs per pinna, ovate to ovate-elliptical, 3–8 cm × 1.5–4.5 cm, apex acuminate, glabrous. Inflorescence an unbranched or few-branched, hairy, axillary raceme, up to 20 cm long, densely flowered. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, 5-merous; pedicel 4–14 mm long; sepals free, unequal, the lower one hood-shaped and embracing the others; petals free, unequal, 1–1.5 cm × c. 4 mm, yellow, the upper different in shape and size; stamens 10, free; ovary superior, style slender. Fruit a broadly oblong or obovoid-ellipsoid, flattened pod up to 13 cm × 6.5 cm, covered with prickles. Seeds globose, c. 2 cm in diameter, hard.
Caesalpinia is pantropical and comprises about 200 species, the majority of them native to tropical America. In tropical Africa about 25 species are indigenous, naturalized or cultivated. Several other Caesalpinia spp. in tropical Africa have medicinal uses. Caesalpinia welwitschiana (Oliv.) Brenan is native to humid forests in Central, East and southern Africa. In DR Congo leaf sap is instilled in the nostrils to treat madness. Caesalpinia trothae Harms is indigenous to Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. The fruits are poisonous, but the leaves are considered a good browse for camels.
Caesalpinia volkensii occurs in forest and at forest margins up to 2100 m altitude.
Caesalpinia volkensii is occasionally planted near homesteads.
Genetic resources and breeding
Although widespread Caesalpinia volkensii is apparently nowhere common. Habitat destruction and over-exploitation are potential threats. No germplasm collections are known to exist.
In view of its medicinal use Caesalpinia volkensii is an obvious candidate for pharmacological research. Germplasm collection and ex-situ conservation are recommended. Cultivation should be encouraged, especially in Kenya.
Major references
• Brenan, J.P.M., 1967. Leguminosae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae. In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 230 pp.
• Graham, J.G., Quinn, M.L., Fabricant, D.S. & Farnsworth, N.R., 2000. Plants used against cancer – an extension of the work of Jonathan Hartwell. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 73(3): 347–377.
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Kuria, K.A., De Coster, S., Muriuki, G., Masengo, W., Kibwage, I., Hoogmartens J., Laekeman G.M., 2001. Antimalarial activity of Ajuga remota Benth (Labiatae) and Caesalpinia volkensii Harms (Caesalpiniaceae): in vitro confirmation of ethnopharmacological use. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 74(2): 141–148.
• Thulin, M., 1989. Fabaceae (Leguminosae). In: Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia. Volume 3. Pittosporaceae to Araliaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 49–251.
Other references
• Aubréville, A., 1970. Légumineuses - Césalpinioidées (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae). Flore du Cameroun. Volume 9. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 339 pp.
• Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
• 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.
• Gachathi, F.N., 1989. Kikuyu botanical dictionary of plant names and uses. AMREF, Nairobi, Kenya. 242 pp.
• Greenway, P.J., 1941. Dyeing and tanning plants in East Africa. Bulletin of the Imperial Institute 39: 222–245.
• Marshall, N.T., 1998. Searching for a cure: conservation of medicinal wildlife resources in East and Southern Africa. TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, United Kingdom. 112 pp.
• Njoroge, G.N. & Bussmann, R.W., 2006. Diversity and utilization of antimalarial ethnophytotherapeutic remedies among the Kikuyus (Central Kenya). Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2(1): 8.
• Thulin, M., 1993. Fabaceae (Leguminosae). In: Thulin, M. (Editor). Flora of Somalia. Volume 1. Pteridophyta; Gymnospermae; Angiospermae (Annonaceae-Fabaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 341–465.
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
A. Gurib-Fakim
Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, Réduit, Mauritius
Associate editors
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
M.S.J. Simmonds
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, United Kingdom
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
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:
Bosch, C.H., 2007. Caesalpinia volkensii Harms. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.