Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes mιdicinales 1
Flora 27: 30 (1844).
Torch lily, red hot poker (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Kniphofia foliosa is endemic to Ethiopia.
The rhizomes of Kniphofia foliosa are used in Ethiopia for the treatment of abdominal cramps. The plant is also used to eradicate endoparasites in cattle. The rhizome is said to be edible. Kniphofia foliosa is sometimes planted as an ornamental in Europe.
Knipholone was isolated from the roots of Kniphofia foliosa. It was the first phenylanthraquinone to be isolated and has since also been found in Bulbinella, Bulbine and Senna. Phenylanthraquinones have antiplasmodial activity with little cytotoxicity. The antiplasmodial activity is slightly less than that of chloroquine, and chloroquine resistant Plasmodium strains are resistant to the Kniphofia compounds as well. The roots of Kniphofia foliosa further contain the anthraquinone chrysophanol as well as putrescine-derived amides.
Robust perennial herb up to 175 cm tall, forming clumps, without stem, rarely with stem up to 40 cm long, with thick erect rhizome. Leaves in basal rosette, simple, spreading, without stipules and petiole, linear to lanceolate, up to 100 cm Χ 4(7) cm, keeled, apex long-acuminate, margin finely toothed. Inflorescence a terminal raceme 1540 cm long, very densely flowered; peduncle erect, 30150 cm long; bracts ovate to ovate-lanceolate, 412 mm long, finely toothed. Flowers bisexual, regular, 3-merous; pedicel 34 mm long; perianth funnel-shaped, 1827 mm long, slightly constricted at base, widening at mouth, perianth lobes up to 6 mm Χ 3 mm, yellow, orange or red; stamens 6, 815 mm long, exserted; ovary superior, 3-celled, style slender, 815 mm long, stigma minute. Fruit an ovoid capsule c. 8 mm long, dehiscing loculicidally, brown to black, few-seeded. Seeds slightly flattened, 3-angled, grey-black.
Kniphofia comprises about 65 species of which about 45 in southern Africa. In Ethiopia 7 species occur, including 5 endemics. Isoenzyme analysis showed that the Ethiopian endemic species share a fairly recent common ancestor, but have differentiated in floral and inflorescence characteristics through rapid evolution.
Kniphofia linearifolia Baker is distributed from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique into South Africa. In Zimbabwe the powdered root is mixed with food to treat infertility in women. Kniphofia linearifolia is widely planted as an ornamental and cut flower in southern Africa.
Kniphofia foliosa grows along roadsides, in overgrazed grassland with scattered trees, on hillsides with rocky outcrops and on mountains at 25004000 m altitude.
Kniphofia foliosa is only harvested from the wild.
Genetic resources and breeding
Kniphofia foliosa is fairly widespread in Ethiopia and there are no indications of over-utilization.
Kniphofia foliosa will remain of local importance as a medicinal plant. It remains of interest to pharmacologists for its antiplasmodial activity and has potential as an ornamental.
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Teklehaymanot, T., Bekele, E., Demissew, S. & Nordal, I., 2004. Isoenzyme analysis of five endemic and one widespread Kniphofia species (Asphodelaceae) of Ethiopia. SINET: Ethiopian Journal of Science 27(2): 143152.
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Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2006. Kniphofia foliosa Hochst. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes mιdicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.