Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes m้dicinales 2
Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 17: 145 (1893).
Asclepiadaceae (APG: Apocynaceae)
Fockea schinzii N.E.Br. (1895).
Python vine, elephant vine (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Fockea multiflora occurs in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Its possible presence in DR Congo needs confirmation.
In Namibia an extract of the aerial parts in brandy is rubbed on the back to treat backache. Throughout its distribution area the latex is used an arrow poison ingredient, and in Namibia the latex is put in food as a criminal poison or to poison large predators.
In Tanzania the sweetly scented flowers are sometimes prepared as a vegetable. Fockea multiflora is collected, grown and traded as an ornamental by enthusiasts.
Production and international trade
Plants of Fockea multiflora are sold on the internet for ornamental purposes at US$ 1545.
Preliminary tests on the chemistry of the seeds showed positive results for saponins containing 2-deoxysugars.
Large climber up to 15 m long, with stout trunk up to 50 cm thick, sprawling on ground or twisting around trees for support, rarely shrub-like; stems fleshy and swollen toward base but without distinct basal tuber; young stems densely short-hairy and slightly fleshy, later with gray to brown, shiny bark; latex present in all parts. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 825(45) mm long; blade oblong to broadly elliptical, 26(15) cm ื 13(10) cm, base cuneate, apex acuminate, upper surface densely short-hairy to glabrous, lower surface densely white-felted, with raised midrib and veins. Inflorescence an axillary pseudo-umbel, (6)1030-flowered, on young contracted shoots; peduncle 12 cm long; flowers opening simultaneously or in rapid succession. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, short-hairy, sweetly scented, yellow to green; pedicel 513 mm long, densely hispid; sepals lanceolate, c. 2.5 mm long, hispid outside; corolla tube campanulate, 1525 mm long, c. 3 mm broad at mouth, short-hairy, lobes oblong to ovate 510 mm ื c. 2 mm, obtuse, spreading, with margins and apex slightly reflexed; corona white, glabrous, outer corona with tube 23 mm long, becoming distinctly narrower above anthers, divided at mouth of tube into 5 longer slender spreading lobules 22.5 mm long, each flanked by 2 flattened slightly spreading lobules, these groups of 3 lobes alternating with 5 linear recurved lobules, inner corona of 5 flattened linear lobes adpressed to backs of anthers and intertwined above them; ovary superior. Fruit usually consisting of a single fusiform follicle, 1022 cm ื 1.53 cm, smooth, many-seeded. Seeds ovate, flattened, 10 mm ื 78 mm, shortly winged.
Fockea comprises 6 species, which all occur in Africa south of the equator from southern Kenya to South Africa. Fockea multiflora is the largest species and massive specimens are probably the largest known members of the family. In all the other species of Fockea, the stems arise from a large tuber; in Fockea multiflora the tuber is very diverse in shape. The leaves, fruit and seeds of Fockea multiflora are also much larger than those of any other Fockea species. Fockea multiflora is also unusual in that the inflorescences arise in large numbers around the end of the dry season between August and October (or rarely in December), on young growth.
Fockea multiflora occurs in rocky areas on low hills or among rocks around the base of hills in open, Mopane or Brachystegia woodland or river banks at 5001200 m altitude.
Fockea multiflora is propagated through seeds and stem cuttings. It can be grown in a well drained soil with moderate water.
Genetic resources and breeding
Fockea multiflora is widespread and common and is not threatened by genetic erosion.
Fockea multiflora will remain of limited potential, unless chemical and pharmacological tests show interesting results. Its use in local medicine remains restricted though, because of its toxicity.
Bruyns, P.V. & Klak, C., 2006. A systematic study of the Old World genus Fockea (Apocynaceae-Asclepioidese). Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 93(4): 535564.
Neuwinger, H.D., 1996. African ethnobotany: poisons and drugs. Chapman & Hall, London, United Kingdom. 941 pp.
Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
SEPASAL, 2009. Fockea multiflora. [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 June 2009.
Abish, E. & Reichstein, T., 1962. Orientierende Untersuchungen einiger Asclepiadaceen und Periplocaceeen. Helvetica Chimica Acta 45: 20902126.
Albers, F. & Meve, U. (Editors), 2002. Illustrated handbook of succulent plants. Asclepiadaceae. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, Germany. 318 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2010. Fockea multiflora K.Schum. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes m้dicinales 2. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.