Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Öst. Bot. Zeitschr. 25: 167 (1875).
Origin and geographic distribution
Heliotropium steudneri is native of East and southern Africa, from Ethiopia south to Namibia and South Africa.
In Tanzania the leaf juice is applied to cuts to stop bleeding and to prevent infection. In Namibia plants are dipped in boiling water and then squeezed over bruises. The Maasai people in Kenya and Tanzania apply drops of leaf juice to the eyes of their cattle to cure conjunctivitis.
The pyrrolizidine alkaloid lycopsamine has been isolated from the leaves of Heliotropium steudneri. As its uses are similar to those of some better studied species of the genus such as Heliotropium indicum L. and Heliotropium ovalifolium Forssk., pyrrolizidine alkaloids are probably responsible for the alleged medicinal properties. Several butterfly species depend on plants to provide them with lycopsamine as a precursor of the pheromone danaidone. The flowers have a bad smell which is believed to help pollination by flies.
Perennial, erect or spreading herb or subshrub up to 1 m tall, with woody rootstock; stem branched, densely and persistently hairy. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules absent; petiole absent or short, up to 1 cm long; blade narrowly elliptical to elliptical-lanceolate or oblong, 1–9 (–13) cm × 0.5–2.5(–3.2) cm; base cuneate, apex acute, margin crenulate, frequently bullate above with venation impressed. Inflorescence a terminal cyme, mostly simple, sometimes 2– 3-branched, short and scorpioid at first, extending up to 37 cm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, sessile; calyx 2.5–5.5 mm long, lobed almost to base, densely pubescent; corolla white or creamy-yellow, 4–6 mm long, tube glabrous and narrow at base, funnel-shaped and pubescent above, lobes oblong to obovate-oblong, up to 3 mm × 2 mm. Fruit depressed ovoid, splitting into 2 nutlets.
Heliotropium steudneri is found in open localities, grassland and dry bushland on dry, poor, often sandy soil at 100–1350 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Heliotropium steudneri is fairly widespread and common and therefore not in danger of genetic erosion.
The external uses of Heliotropium steudneri in traditional medicine deserve attention by researchers.
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Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2006. Heliotropium steudneri Vatke. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.