logo of PROTA Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Record display


Commiphora rostrata Engl.

Family
Burseraceae
Origin and geographic distribution
Commiphora rostrata is found in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
Uses
The young leaves and shoots of Commiphora rostrata are edible. In Ethiopia and Somalia they are eaten raw, directly from the tree. The leaves are also used as a relish and cooked with other foodstuffs to add flavour. Bark and branches are sometimes used to prepare a tea. The stem pith is chewed to relieve thirst.
The leaves and young twigs are chewed to ease cough and chest problems. Bark or branches are chewed or taken as an infusion to relieve fever, colds and coughs. Juice from the bark is applied to the eyes to cure eye diseases. The Rendille people of northern Kenya apply unspecified plant parts to their livestock to repel parasites such as lice, fleas, mites and ticks. The twigs are used by the Turkana people as toothbrushes. Goats, sheep and camels browse the plants. The resin from the bark is used to glue feathers to arrow shafts. The powdered bark is added to water in new calabashes from bottle gourd and left for 3 days to give them a pleasant smell.
Properties
The fresh leaves taste salty, acid and bitter. The acid taste is due to oxalic acid. The exudate from the bark is copious, very fluid and highly aromatic. It showed antimicrobial activity (against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) and antifungal activity (against Aspergillus and Penicillium). The major components of the volatile fraction of the resin are 2-decanone (65%), 2-undecanone (24%) and 2-dodecanone (5%). The whole resin as well as the 3 pure constituents inhibited growth of fungi in vitro and showed a repellent effect on maize weevil (Sitophilus zeamais). The wood can support breeding populations of the larger grain borer (Prostephanus truncatus) and should therefore not be used in the construction of grain stores.
Botany
Erect, dioecious shrub or small tree up to 4 m tall, sometimes prostrate or scandent; bark grey or dark purple; twigs tapering, spine-tipped. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; petiole 1–8 mm long; blade broadly elliptical to orbicular or obovate, 1–4.5 cm × 1–3.5 cm, apex emarginate, rounded or broadly pointed. Male inflorescence a branched cyme, 8–20 -flowered, peduncle up to 15 mm long; female inflorescence 1–2-flowered, peduncle 6–8 mm long. Flowers unisexual, regular, 4-merous, dark red; pedicel filiform, up to 1.5 cm long; calyx c. 2 mm long with triangular lobes; petals linear, 4–6 mm long, with recurved tip; male flowers with 8 stamens, 4 long and 4 short; female flowers with superior, 2-celled ovary. Fruit a narrowly ovoid drupe 1.5–2 cm long including c. 0.5 cm long beak; stone ovoid, 8–10 mm long, covered by false aril.
Commiphora comprises about 190 species and occurs in tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and South America. It is most abundant in the drier parts of eastern and southern Africa and in Madagascar. In Ethiopia and Eritrea a total of about 50 species has been recorded, in Madagascar about 20. Several species of Commiphora are important for their gum resins.
Ecology
Commiphora rostrata is widespread in open bushland, usually on sloping ground, in areas with an annual rainfall of 150–600 mm. It is found at altitudes of 80–1050 m and is frost tolerant. Flowering takes place before the leaves appear.
Management
Commiphora rostrata can be propagated by stem cuttings or seed.
Genetic resources and breeding
Commiphora rostrata is not uncommon and not threatened. No germplasm collections are recorded.
Prospects
Commiphora rostrata will continue to contribute to the human diet in the drier areas of East Africa. The insect repellent properties of Commiphora rostrata and other Commiphora species justify further research.
Major references
• Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Maundu, P.M., Ngugi, G.W. & Kabuye, C.H.S., 1999. Traditional food plants of Kenya. Kenya Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge (KENRIK), Nairobi, Kenya. 270 pp.
• UN-EUE, 2001. Typical 'famine-food' plants. Commiphora rostrata. [Internet] Famine food field guide. United Nations Emergency Unit for Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. http://www.africa.upenn.edu/faminefood/category1/cat1_Commiphora_rostrata.htm. Accessed November 2003.
• Vollesen, K., 1989. Burseraceae. 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. 442–478.
Other references
• Baerts, M. & Lehmann, J., 2002. Commiphora rostrata. [Internet] A few medicinal plants used in traditional veterinary and human medicine in sub-saharan Africa. Laboratoire de Botanique Médicale de Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. http://www.fynu.ucl.ac.be/users/j.lehmann/plante_ang/Commiphora_rostrata.html. Accessed November 2003.
• Gillett, J.B., 1991. Burseraceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 95 pp.
• Kibata, G.N. & Nang’ayo, F.L.O., 1997. Activities and achievements regarding IPM of post harvest maize in Kenya with particular reference to the larger grain borer. [Internet] http://www.fao.org/inpho/vlibrary/move_rep/x0294e/1-5.htm. Accessed November 2003.
• Lwande, W., Hassanali, A., McDowell, P.G., Moreka, L., Nokoe, S.K. & Waterman, P.G., 1992. Constituents of Commiphora rostrata and some of their analogues as maize weevil, Sitophilus zeamais repellents. Insect Science and its Application 13(5): 679–683.
• McDowell, P.G., Lwande, W., Deans, S.G. & Waterman, P.G., 1988. Volatile resin exudate from stem bark of Commiphora rostrata: Potential role in plant defence. Phytochemistry 27(8): 2519–2521.
• Morgan, W.T.W., 1981. Ethnobotany of the Turkana: use of plants by a pastoral people and their livestock in Kenya. Economic Botany 35(1): 96–130.
• SEPASAL, 2003. Commiphora rostrata [Internet] Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) database. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/ceb/sepasal/internet/. Accessed November 2003.
Author(s)
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors
G.J.H. Grubben
Prins Hendriklaan 24, 1401 AT Bussum, Netherlands
O.A. Denton
National Horticultural Research Institute, P.M.B. 5432, Idi-Ishin, Ibadan, Nigeria
Associate Editors
C.-M. Messiaen
Bat. B 3, Résidence La Guirlande, 75, rue de Fontcarrade, 34070 Montpellier, France
R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, 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., 2004. Commiphora rostrata Engl. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.