Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Dyer, Fl. trop. Afr. 4(1): 133 (1902).
2n = 22
Hedranthera barteri (Hook.f.) Pichon (1948).
Origin and geographic distribution
Callichilia barteri occurs in Ghana, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon; possibly also in Congo.
In Nigeria the Yoruba people use an infusion of the leaves as a laxative for children and to treat dizziness. The leaves are applied against tumours. An extract of the fruit is taken as a vermifuge and as a treatment against gonorrhoea. The Ijo people give the fruit to teething children to bite in.
The indole alkaloid lonicerine and the bisindole alkaloids vobtusine (a rare plumeran-plumeran class dimer), callichiline, beninine and amataine were isolated from the roots. Bisindole alkaloids are rare compounds in Apocynaceae species, and Callichilia barteri is an exception. Vobtusine causes hypotension as a result of peripheral vasodilatation and a direct depressant action on the heart. In moderate doses initial agitation is followed by a sedative effect; high doses may bring about convulsions and death. Vobtusine is not of clinical interest.
The methanol extract of the powdered leaves showed some antioxidant activity.
Erect shrub up to 3 m tall, white latex in all parts; branches pale brown. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 2–10(–15) mm long; blade elliptical to narrowly ovate, 3.5–21 cm × 1–9 cm, base cuneate or decurrent into the petiole, apex acuminate, sometimes acute, papery, paler beneath. Inflorescence a cyme in the axil of deciduous scale-like bracts at the apex of a branch just below its bifurcate ramification, pendulous, 1– several-flowered; peduncle 5–35(–43) mm long; bracts few near the apex, 2–8 mm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, fragrant at night; sepals fused at base, broadly to narrowly obovate, 2–17 mm long, papery, with many glands at base; corolla tube cylindrical, 24–52 mm long, abruptly widening at the insertion of the stamens to a cylindrical upper part, glabrous except for 5 short hairy ridges inside extending downwards from the base of the filaments, lobes obtriangular, 11–40 mm long, with 2 apices, one acute and one rounded, white; stamens inserted up to halfway the corolla tube, included; ovary superior, consisting of 2 carpels connate at base only, surrounded by a ring-shaped disk, style slender, 9–15 mm long, consisting of 2 connate strands, pistil head 1–1.5 mm long, 5-winged, each wing touching an anther. Fruit consisting of 2, separate, ellipsoid, berry-like parts up to 5 cm long, with beak 4–10 mm long, smooth, with 2 lateral ridges, yellow to orange, dehiscent by a ventral slit, wall thin, pulp juicy, fleshy, aril very thin, 12–44-seeded. Seeds ovoid, c. 6 mm long, deeply pitted, dark brown.
Callichilia comprises 7 species in tropical Africa. Some of the uses of Callichilia barteri probably also apply to the closely related Callichilia subsessilis (Benth.) Stapf, which has a wide distribution in the forest area of West Africa.
Callichilia barteri occurs in rainforest, also secondary forest and in open localities, probably in humid conditions.
Genetic resources and breeding
As Callichilia barteri is rather common in secondary forest, it is probably not in danger of genetic erosion.
The traditional uses of Callichilia barteri are varied and interesting, but pharmacological studies have mainly been done on the roots, which are not used. As they contain several rare bisindolic alkaloids, it might be worth analysing the aerial parts as well. The showy and fragrant flowers could make Callichilia barteri an interesting ornamental.
• Beentje, H.J., 1978. A revision of Callichilia Stapf (Apocynaceae). Mededelingen Landbouwhogeschool Wageningen 78–7, Wageningen, Netherlands. 32 pp.
• Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
• Agwada, V., Gorman, A.A., Hesse, M. & Schmid, H., 1967. Uber die Struktur des Callichilins. 125. Mitteilung über Alkaloide. Helvetica Chimica Acta 50(7): 1939–1960.
• Agwada, V.C., Naranjo, J., Hesse, M., Schmid, H., Rolland, Y., Kunesch, N., Poisson, J. & Chatterjee, A., 1977. Die Struktur des Bisindolalkaloides Amatain (= Grandifolin, Subsessilin). Helvetica Chimica Acta 60(8): 2830–2853.
• Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
• Naranjo, J., Hesse, M. & Schmid, H., 1970. Uber das Alkaloid Lonicerin aus Callichilia barteri. 137. Mitteilung über Alkaloide. Helvetica Chimica Acta 53(4): 749–754.
• Oke, J.M. & Hamburger, M.O., 2002. Screening of some Nigerian medicinal plants for antioxidant activity using 2,2-diphenyl-picryl-hydrazyl radical. African Journal of Biomedical Research 5: 77–79.
Sources of illustration
• Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2007. Callichilia barteri (Hook.f.) Stapf. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
1, flowering twig; 2, fruit.
Source: Flore analytique du Bénin