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Echium stenosiphon Webb

Hook., Niger Fl.: 155, t. 15 (1849).
Vernacular names
Língua de vaca (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Echium stenosiphon is endemic to Cape Verde.
In Cape Verde Echium stenosiphon is used to prepare a drink to cure colds. It is considered a valuable forage plant, especially the flowers, which are appreciated by livestock.
No information on the chemical properties of Echium stenosiphon is available, but probably pyrrolizidine alkaloids are present as in other species of the Boraginaceae. Seed of several Echium species is rich in γ-linolenic acid.
Shrub or undershrub up to 1.2 m tall, little branched, bristly hairy. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole up to 2(–3) cm long; blade ovate, elliptical, obovate or rarely lanceolate, 3.5–14 cm × 2–5 cm, base cuneate or rounded, apex acute to rounded. Inflorescence a very lax, thyrsoid panicle with 3–10 lateral cymes. Flowers bisexual, 5-merous; calyx deeply lobed, lobes unequal; corolla lilac-blue, tube slightly curved, up to 2.5 cm long, lobes up to 2.5 mm long; stamens inserted on the corolla tube, unequal; ovary superior, 4-parted, style up to 2.5 cm long, stigma head-shaped. Fruit splitting into 4 muricate nutlets, each up to 3 mm long.
Echium comprises about 45 species, more than half of them endemic to Cape Verde, Madeira, the Azores and Canary Islands, while the other species have mainly a European, Mediterranean or North African distribution with a few species extending into Asia. Echium arenarium Guss. is applied in Sudan as a poultice against tumours and abscesses. In tropical Africa Echium horridum Batt. is only recorded in Mauritania, where it is considered to be useful fodder. It contains echimidine as major pyrrolizidine alkaloid, which is hepatotoxic, pneumotoxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic. Extracts of the aerial parts inhibit the growth of the gram-negative bacteria Escherichia coli and Klebsiella and of the fungus Candida albicans.
Echium stenosiphon occurs in rocky escarpments and fallow fields from sea-level up to 1250 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Echium stenosiphon is considered vulnerable and measures to conserve it are long overdue. Clearing for agriculture is a major threat. No germplasm collections exist.
The use of Echium stenosiphon in traditional medicine and as forage seems marginal and will probably not gain in importance. The possible presence of toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids warrants research.
Major references
• Gomes, I., Gomes, S., Vera-Cruz, M.T., Kilian, N., Leyens, T. & Lobin, W., 1995. Plantas endémicas e arvores indigenas de Cabo Verde. Instituto Nacional de Investigação e Desenvolvimento Agrario, Praia, Cape Verde. 32 pp.
• Hilger, H.H. & Böhle, U.-R., 2000. Pontechium: a new genus distinct from Echium and Lobostemon (Boraginaceae). Taxon 49: 737–746.
• Johnston, I.M., 1953. Studies in the Boraginaceae, XXV: a revaluation of some genera of the Lithospermeae. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 34(3): 258–299.
• Martins, E.S., 1995. Boraginaceae. In: Paiva, J., Martins, E.S., Diniz, M.A., Moreira, I., Gomes, I. & Gomes, S. (Editors). Flora de Cabo Verde: Plantas vasculares. No 74. Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical, Lisbon, Portugal & Instituto Nacional de Investigação e Desenvolvimento Agrário, Praia, Cape Verde. 21 pp.
• Silva, R., Levy, J.G.V., Gomes, I., Veiga, J.L. & Alamada, E.O., 1999. Rapport national sur l’état de la biodiversité. Premier Rapport. Secretariat Executif pour l’Environnement (SEPA). Ministère de l’Agriculture, de l’Alimentation et de l’Environnement. Praia, Cape Verde. 58 pp.
Other references
• Andrews, F.W., 1956. The flowering plants of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, Volume 3. Buncle, Arbroath, United Kingdom. 579 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.
• El-Shazly, A., Abdel-All, M., Tei, A. & Wink, M., 1999. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids from Echium rauwolfii and Echium horridum (Boraginaceae). Zeitschrift für Naturforschung C 54(5–6): 295–300.
• 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.
• Guil-Guerrero, J.L., Garcia-Maroto, F.F. & Gimenez-Gimenez, A., 2001. Fatty acid profiles from forty-nine plant species that are potential new sources of -linolenic acid. Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society 78: 677–684.
• Mahmoud, M.A., Khidir, M.O., Khalifa, M.A., Bashir el Amadi, A.M., Musnad, H.A.R. & Mohamed, E.T.I., 1995. Sudan: Country Report to the FAO International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources (Leipzig 1996). Khartoum, Sudan. 86 pp.
• Qaiser, M., 1979. Boraginaceae. In: Jafri, S.M.H. & El-Gadi, A. (Editors). Flora of Libya. Volume 68. Al Faateh University, Faculty of Science, Department of Botany, Tripoli, Libya. 95 pp.
• Verdcourt, B., 1991. Boraginaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 125 pp.
• Yousif, G., Iskander, G.M. & Eisa, E.B., 1983. Investigation of the alkaloidal components in the Sudan Flora 1. Fitoterapia 54(2): 81–86.
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., 2006. Echium stenosiphon Webb. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.