Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Engl. & Prantl, Nat. Pflanzenfam. II–IV Nachtr. 1: 197 (1897).
Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae).
Origin and geographic distribution
Loesenera kalantha is only known from Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire.
In Côte d’Ivoire a leaf decoction is commonly taken to treat syphilis and sometimes also to treat leprosy. It is also used to treat rheumatic arthritis. The wood is used in local house building. Formerly Loesenera kalantha played an important role in witchcraft.
Production and international trade
Leaves of Loesenera kalantha have been imported from Liberia into Côte d’Ivoire for medicinal purposes. No details are available on quantities traded.
Nothing appears to have been published on the pharmacology of Loesenera kalantha to date. The pinkish brown heartwood is not clearly demarcated from the whitish sapwood. The wood is moderately heavy and moderately hard. It is tough and strong, but not durable. It is easy to work and finishes smoothly.
Medium-sized to fairly large tree up to 30 m tall; bole up to 70 cm in diameter, straight and cylindrical, base with short, thick root swellings; bark smooth, grey, finely flaky. Leaves alternate, paripinnate with 3–4 pairs of opposite leaflets, the end pair the largest; petiolule twisted with gland at the top on lower side; leaflets oblong to lanceolate, 6–8 cm long, base asymmetrical, apex acute to acuminate, rusty hairy below. Inflorescence a terminal, unbranched raceme up to 18 cm long. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic; sepals 4, imbricate in bud, reddish brown; 3 petals well developed, clawed, cherry-red, 2 petals small, pinkish; stamens 10, free; ovary superior, stipitate. Fruit a broadly oblong, flattened pod c. 17 cm × 7 cm, oblique at base, apex acuminate, dehiscent, woody, pendulous, pale brown hairy, 1–2-seeded. Seeds 3–5 cm long.
Loesenera comprises 4 species, restricted to rain forest from Liberia to Gabon. Loesenera walkeri (A.Chev.) J.Léonard is endemic to Gabon. Its wood is used locally in construction, but is not of interest for large-scale exploitation. The bark is used to construct bathtubs in which patients with backache or kidney problems can take a bath in capsicum pepper solution.
In experiments in Côte d’Ivoire, seedlings of Loesenera kalantha reached a height of 4–5 m and a diameter of 20–30 cm in 15 years.
Loesenera kalantha occurs in swamp forest, along creeks and in depressions that are inundated during the rainy season. In eastern Liberia it forms gregarious stands.
Genetic resources and breeding
The natural range of Loesenera kalantha extends over only 315 km and it is on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable in both Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. In Côte d’Ivoire Loesenera kalantha is rare. In the past it was protected by superstition and because of the role it played in witchcraft. Erosion of traditional values could bring about more intensive exploitation and eventually cause extinction of the species.
In-situ and ex-situ conservation of Loesenera kalantha are very urgently required. In view of the local medicinal uses, it is surprising that no pharmacological research has been undertaken. Pharmacological investigations, especially of the leaves, could yield rewarding results.
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Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2006. Loesenera kalantha Harms. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.