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Euphorbia matabelensis Pax

Protologue
Ann. Naturhist. Mus. Wien 15: 51 (1900).
Family
Euphorbiaceae
Vernacular names
Three-forked euphorbia (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Euphorbia matabelensis occurs in Somalia, southern Kenya, Tanzania and throughout southern Africa.
Uses
In Malawi a root decoction together with leaves of Dichrostachys cinerea (L.) Wight & Arn. is drunk to treat depression, high blood pressure and swollen lymph glands. In Zimbabwe root powder is rubbed into scarifications on the breasts as a galactagogue for foster mothers. A decoction of the chopped roots or latex is taken as a purgative in case of poisoning and to induce abortion. The latex is put into drinking water of chickens to treat diarrhoea and Newcastle disease.
In Tanzania the boiled latex is used as birdlime or sometimes as chewing gum.
Properties
An ingenol diterpene isolated from the latex exhibited irritant activity in the mouse ear test.
Botany
Monoecious, slightly succulent, deciduous shrub up to 3(–8) m tall with abundant latex; bark greyish brown, peeling; branches ascending, drooping at apex, young branches densely short-hairy, usually spine-tipped, branching trichotomous at apex. Leaves arranged spirally or crowded at branch apex, simple and entire; stipules glandular, minute; petiole 1–5 mm long; blade oblanceolate to obovate, c. 5.5 mm × 2.5 mm, base cuneate, apex rounded, lower surface short-hairy when young. Inflorescence an axillary cyme consisting of clusters of flowers, each cluster called a ‘cyathium’, in 3–7-branched umbels; branches up to 10 mm long; bracts leaf-like, c. 5 mm long, yellowish green; cyathia almost sessile or central one of an umbel on a peduncle up to 5 mm long, c. 3.5 mm × 6 mm, with a cup-shaped involucre, lobes c. 1.5 mm long, rounded, deeply fringed, glands 5, shallowly saucer-shaped, 2–2.5 mm in diameter, yellow, each involucre containing 1 female flower surrounded by many male flowers. Flowers unisexual; male flowers sessile, bracteoles fringed, perianth absent, stamen c. 4.5 mm long; female flowers with pedicel c. 5 mm long in fruit, ovary superior, densely short-hairy, 3-celled, styles 3, c. 2 mm long, fused at base, apex 2-fid. Fruit an obtusely 3-lobed capsule c. 7 mm × 8 mm, densely short-hairy, green becoming red, 3-seeded. Seeds globose, c. 3.5 mm in diameter, smooth, brown, obscurely speckled.
Euphorbia comprises about 2000 species and has a worldwide distribution, with at least 750 species occurring in continental Africa and about 150 in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands. Euphorbia matabelensis belongs to section Lyciopsis, a group of tuberous herbs or shrubs, characterized by glandular stipules, terminal or axillary cymes in large umbels, almost sessile capsules and seeds without a caruncle. Several other species with medicinal uses belong to this section or occur in the region. Euphorbia cuneata Vahl occurs from Guinea east to Somalia and south through East Africa to Mozambique; it also occurs throughout the Arabic Peninsula. In East Africa the latex is applied to warts, wounds and sores. The latex in water is given to calves with hepatitis. A decoction of the stem bark and roots is given to cattle for the expulsion of a retained placenta. The plants are sometimes browsed by camels, goats and sheep. The stem is used to make earrings and knife handles. The stems are used for fencing during ceremonies. The sticky latex is used to remove dust from the eye. Euphorbia espinosa Pax is a shrub from Kenya, Tanzania and southern Africa. Latex in milk, porridge or egg is taken as an emetic in case of suspected poisoning or indigestion. Euphorbia joyae Bally & S.Carter is a shrub endemic to Kenya, where the Boran people take a root decoction to treat coughs. Euphorbia namibiensis Marloth has a short, strongly tuberculate, succulent stem with short branches and occurs in Namibia and Botswana. In Botswana a decoction of the aerial parts is taken to treat venereal diseases and stomach-ache, or smoke of the burning plant is inhaled for these purposes. A root decoction is taken to induce vomiting after ingestion of poison. Euphorbia radiifera L.C.Leach has annual stems arising from an elongate tuber; it is endemic to Angola. Painful legs are massaged with the crushed plant and hot water.
Ecology
Euphorbia matabelensis occurs in open deciduous woodland, in sandy soils, often on rocky outcrops and hillsides, at 450–1900 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
There are no signs that Euphorbia matabelensis is threatened by genetic erosion. As a succulent Euphorbia species, its trade is controlled under CITES appendix 2.
Prospects
Ingenol diterpenes can cause skin irritation and have tumour promoting properties. The use of the latex of Euphorbia matabelensis for medicinal purposes should therefore be discouraged.
Major references
• Carter, S. & Leach, L.C., 2001. Euphorbiaceae, subfamily Euphorbioideae, tribe Euphorbieae. In: Pope, G.V. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 5. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 339–465.
• Gelfand, M., Mavi, S., Drummond, R.B. & Ndemera, B., 1985. The traditional medical practitioner in Zimbabwe: his principles of practice and pharmacopoeia. Mambo Press, Gweru, Zimbabwe. 411 pp.
• Gundidza, M., Sorg, B. & Hecker, E., 1993. A skin irritant principle from Euphorbia matabelensis Pax. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 39(3): 209–212.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• SEPASAL, 2008. Euphorbia matabelensis. [Internet] Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) database. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. http://www.kew.org/ ceb/sepasal/. Accessed March 2008.
Other references
• Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
• Bossard, E., 1996. La médecine traditionelle au Centre et à l’Ouest de l’Angola. Ministério da Ciência e da Tecnologia, Instituto de Investigação Cientifico Tropical, Lissabon, Portugal. 531 pp.
• Chinemana, F., Drummond, R.B., Mavi, S. & de Zoysa, I., 1985. Indigenous plant remedies in Zimbabwe. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 14: 159–172.
• Eggli, U. (Editor), 2002. Illustrated handbook of succulent plants: Dicotyledons. Springer, Berlin, Germany. 554 pp.
• Heine, B. & Heine, I., 1988. Plant concepts and plant use; an ethnobotanical survey of the semi-arid and arid lands of East Africa. Part 3. Rendille plants (Kenya). Cologne Development Studies 8. Breitenbach, Saarbrücken, Germany. 120 pp.
• Ichikawa, M., 1987. A preliminary report on the ethnobotany of the Suiei Dorobo in northern Kenya. African Study Monographs, Supplement 7: 1–52.
• Kerharo, J., Guichard, F. & Bouquet, A., 1961. Les végétaux ichtyotoxiques (poisons de pêche), 2ème partie : inventaire des poisons de pêche. Bulletins et Mémoires de l’École Nationale de Médecine et de Pharmacie de Dakar 9: 355–386.
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Minja, M.M.J., 1999. The Maasai Wonder Plants. Paper presented at the People & Plants training workshop. Tropical Pesticides Training Institute, 15–18 March, Arusha, Tanzania.
• SEPASAL, 2008. Euphorbia namibiensis. [Internet] Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) database. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. http://www.kew.org/ ceb/sepasal/. Accessed March 2008.
Author(s)
G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors
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
Photo editor
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2008. Euphorbia matabelensis Pax. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
tree habit


branches


leafy branch