Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes mιdicinales 1
Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 32: 123 (1902).
Simaroubaceae (APG: Kirkiaceae)
Origin and geographic distribution
Kirkia tenuifolia is distributed in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
In Somalia a bark decoction of Kirkia tenuifolia is drunk to cure cholera. In Kenya the bark is chewed against thirst.
No studies on the properties of Kirkia tenuifolia have been published. Quassinoids and indole alkaloids, characteristic of the Simaroubaceae, are probably responsible for the medicinal properties. An aqueous stem bark extract showed significant inhibition of cholera toxin-induced intestinal hypersecretion in mice.
Semi-deciduous, monoecious shrub or small tree up to 8 m tall; bark grey, fissured with age; crown bushy, spreading; branches almost at right angles to main stem. Leaves alternate, clustered at ends of branches, up to 9 cm long, imparipinnately compound with (2)3(4) pairs of leaflets; stipules absent; petiole and rachis hairy; petiolules short or absent but on terminal leaflet 510 mm long; leaflets alternate, opposite at top of leaf, narrowly elliptical to orbicular, 12.5 cm Χ 12 cm, base rounded to cuneate, apex rounded to notched, margin usually entire, glabrous or hairy. Inflorescence an axillary thyrse up to 6.5 cm long, hairy or glabrous. Flowers unisexual, regular, 4-merous; sepals almost free, deltoid, c. 1.5 mm Χ 1.5 mm, short-hairy outside; petals free, lanceolate, 35 mm Χ 0.51 mm, glabrous or short-hairy outside, greenish yellow to cream; stamens free, in female flowers reduced; ovary superior, 4-celled, reduced in male flowers. Fruit an ellipsoid to shortly cylindrical berry 1012 mm Χ 68 mm, 4-angled, woody, short-hairy to glabrous, separating into 1-seeded mericarps, each attached by a strip of tissue to top of central column. Seeds almost as large as mericarp, rounded at one end and pointed at the other, 3-angled.
Kirkia comprises 5 species, distributed in tropical Africa from Ethiopia and Somalia to northern South Africa.
Kirkia tenuifolia occurs in Acacia - Commiphora bushland at 1001000 m altitude. It is usually found on red sandy to stony soil and on limestone. In Somalia it is not a common species and is not associated with specific soil requirements.
Kirkia tenuifolia is easily propagated using seed or stem parts.
Genetic resources and breeding
Although Kirkia tenuifolia is not widely distributed and not common, it is unlikely to be threatened by genetic erosion.
Kirkia tenuifolia will probably remain of local importance as a medicinal plant, unless pharmacological research shows interesting opportunities for drug development. Monitoring the populations is useful to detect threats.
Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
Samuelsson, G., Farah, M.H., Claeson, P., Hagos, M., Thulin, M., Hedberg, O., Warfa, A.M., Hassan, A.O., Elmi, A.H., Abdurahman, A.D., Elmi, A.S., Abdi, Y.A. & Alin, M.H., 1993. Inventory of plants used in traditional medicine in Somalia. 4. Plants of the families Passifloraceae to Zygophyllaceae. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 38: 129.
Stannard, B.L., 1981. A revision of Kirkia (Simaroubaceae). Kew Bulletin 35: 829839.
Thulin, M., 1999. Kirkiaceae. In: Thulin, M. (Editor). Flora of Somalia. Volume 2. Angiospermae (Tiliaceae-Apiaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 182183.
Claeson, P. & Samuelsson, G., 1989. Screening of some Somalian medicinal plants for antidiarrhoeal effects in mice. Phytotherapy Research 3(5): 180183.
Gemedo-Dalle, T., Maass, B.L. & Isselstein, J., 2005. Plant biodiversity and ethnobotany of Borana pastoralists in southern Oromia, Ethiopia. Economic Botany 59(1): 4365.
Stannard, B.L., 2000. Simaroubaceae. In: Beentje, H.J. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 15 pp.
Wieland, R.G. & Werger, M.J.A., 1985. Land types and vegetation in the Luuq District of south-western Somalia. Journal of Tropical Ecology 1(1): 6587.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2008. Kirkia tenuifolia Engl. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes mιdicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.