Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Fl. Congo Belge 2: 241 (1951).
Origin and geographic distribution
Chasmanthera welwitschii occurs in the humid zone from Cameroon and the Central African Republic south to DR Congo and northern Angola.
Bark preparations are taken as a tonic against bodily and nervous exhaustion. Leaf sap mixed with shea butter is rubbed on the body against pain and stiffness of limbs. A wet dressing made from the leaves is applied to furuncles and abscesses. A fishing poison is prepared from the leaves mixed with leaves of Tephrosia vogelii Hook.f. The roots are used as an ordeal-poison, judgement resting on whether the roots caused constipation or diarrhoea, indicating innocence or guilt, respectively. The roots are used in the preparation of palm wine to give it extra strength.
Fruits and roots are eaten by the Turumbu people in DR Congo. The Balumba people in Gabon use the stem for rope in house construction and to make fishing nets and frames.
The medicinal or chemical properties have not been studied, but the presence of berberine-like quaternary alkaloids, as in Chasmanthera dependens Hochst., is likely.
Dioecious liana up to 30 m long; branches pendulous, finely grooved, hairy. Leaves alternate, simple, densely hairy; stipules absent; petiole 12–14 cm long; blade nearly round to broadly 5-angular, 10–16 cm × 10–22 cm, base cordate, apex acuminate or obtuse, margins recurved, thinly leathery, palmately 6–7-veined. Inflorescence a pendulous, axillary raceme or false raceme; male inflorescence a false raceme 30–60 cm long, composed of 3–5-flowered clusters; female inflorescence a raceme 15–22 cm long; bracts filiform, persistent. Flowers unisexual, regular; pedicel c. 2.5 mm long; sepals 6, 3 outer ones linear-lanceolate, up to 2 mm long, 3 inner ones obovate, c. 2.5 mm long, with a tuft of hairs at apex; petals 6, obovate, c. 1.5 mm × 1 mm, fleshy, glabrous, greenish yellow; male flowers with 6 stamens c. 1.5 mm long, filaments largely fused; female flowers with superior ovary consisting of 3, ovoid carpels united at apex by the recurved stigmas, staminodes 6, c. 1.2 mm long. Fruit composed of 3 ellipsoid and unequal-sided drupelets c. 1.2 cm × 1 cm, each drupelet 1-seeded. Seeds ovoid, c. 1 cm long, curved.
Chasmanthera is closely related to Tinospora and Jateorhiza; these genera have been combined in the past. Chasmanthera is an African genus which comprises two species: Chasmanthera welwitschii and Chasmanthera dependens. The species appear to be ecologically different, although their areas of distribution overlap in the Central African Republic and intermediates have been found there. Further study is needed to decide if the 2 species should be combined into a single species.
Chasmanthera welwitschii occurs in dense evergreen and semi-deciduous humid forest, in gallery forest, humid secondary forest and bush fallow at low to medium altitudes.
Chasmanthera welwitschii is only collected from the wild.
Genetic resources and breeding
Although the habitat of Chasmanthera welwitschii is shrinking, there are no indications that it is threatened by genetic erosion.
The pharmacological properties of Chasmanthera welwitschii are unknown and deserve exploratory research.
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Correct citation of this article:
Oyen, L.P.A., 2008. Chasmanthera welwitschii Troupin. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.