Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Origin and geographic distribution
Commiphora rostrata is found in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.