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Griffonia physocarpa Baill.

Protologue
Adansonia 6: 188 (1865).
Family
Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae)
Synonyms
Bandeiraea tenuiflora Benth. (1866).
Origin and geographic distribution
Griffonia physocarpa occurs in Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo and DR Congo.
Uses
A black dye is obtained from the leaves of Griffonia physocarpa. Root fibres are collected from the wild and chewed into a cud from which, on drying, a white powder separates, which is used by women as an ornamental face powder. The stems serve as binding material in the construction of huts in DR Congo. In traditional medicine, a decoction of the leaves is taken against stomach troubles and blennorrhoea, and as a wash for children with fever. Macerated leaves are used as a dressing over oedemas and are taken as an aphrodisiac. Ash of leaves is applied externally to treat bone fractures.
Botany
Shrub or large liana with glabrous, brown-black branches. Leaves alternate, simple, glabrous; stipules absent; petiole c. 0.5 cm long; blade oblong-elliptical to ovate, 5–15 cm × 3–7 cm, base rounded, apex acuminate, 3(–5)-veined from the base, reticulate venation prominent on both sides. Inflorescence a terminal raceme 5–20 cm long; bracts and bracteoles triangular, 2 mm long, persistent. Flowers bisexual, almost regular, 5-merous; pedicel 0.5–1 cm long; receptacle cylindrical, 2–3 cm × 3 mm, orange; calyx tubular, orange, tube 3–6 mm long, lobes triangular, 2–3 mm long; petals almost equal, claw 3–6 mm long, blade oblanceolate, 1–1.5 cm × 3–4 mm, fleshy, greenish, sparsely pubescent inside; stamens 10, filaments filiform, 2 cm long; ovary superior, c. 4 mm long, stiped, style 1–2 mm long, persistent, stigma small. Fruit an oblique-cylindrical pod 5–7 cm × 3–4 cm, inflated, leathery, stipe up to 2.5 cm long, 1–2-seeded. Seeds orbicular, c. 12 mm in diameter, glabrous.
Griffonia is only found in tropical Africa. It belongs to the tribe Cercideae and comprises 4 species.
Ecology
Griffonia physocarpa occurs in lowland forest, often in secondary forest.
Genetic resources and breeding
Griffonia physocarpa is widespread and locally common, especially in disturbed forest, and not in danger of genetic erosion.
Prospects
Griffonia physocarpa will probably remain of local importance only; its dye and medicinal properties need more research before evaluation is possible. The related Griffonia simplicifolia (Vahl ex DC.) Baill. contains medicinally very interesting compounds.
Major references
• Burkill, H.M., 1995. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 3, Families J–L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 857 pp.
• Wilczek, R., Léonard, J., Hauman, L., Hoyle, A.C., Steyaert, R., Gilbert, G. & Boutique, R., 1952. Caesalpiniaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 3. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 234–554.
Other references
• Aubréville, A., 1968. Légumineuses - Caesalpinioidées (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae). Flore du Gabon. Volume 15. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 362 pp.
• Aubréville, A., 1970. Légumineuses - Césalpinioidées (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae). Flore du Cameroun. Volume 9. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 339 pp.
• Bouquet, A., 1969. Féticheurs et médecines traditionnelles du Congo (Brazzaville). Mémoires ORSTOM No 36. Office de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre-Mer. Paris, France. 282 pp.
• Raponda-Walker, A. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon. Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.
Author(s)
P.C.M. Jansen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors
P.C.M. Jansen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
D. Cardon
CNRS, CIHAM-UMR 5648, 18, quai Claude-Bernard, 69365 Lyon, Cedex 07, France
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:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2005. Griffonia physocarpa Baill. In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.