Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Hook.f., Icon. pl. 13: t. 1296 (1879).
Euphorbiaceae (APG: Phyllanthaceae)
Origin and geographic distribution
Maesobotrya floribunda occurs from Cameroon and the Central African Republic south to DR Congo and Zambia.
In DR Congo the leaves are rubbed on the skin to treat prickly heat.
In Gabon the young leaves provide a sour potherb. In DR Congo the wood is used to make house posts and kitchen utensils. Birds will not eat the fruits.
The picrotoxane sesquiterpenoid picrotoximaesin was isolated from a methanol extract of the seeds.
Dioecious shrub or small tree up to 8(–12) m tall, with drooping branches; bark greyish brown, longitudinally grooved; twigs angular, yellowish short-hairy. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules linear-lanceolate, 2.5–4 mm long, short-hairy, soon falling; petiole up to 7 cm long; blade elliptical to oblong-oblanceolate, 4–18 cm × 2.5–7 cm, base cuneate to rounded, apex shortly acuminate, distantly shallowly glandular-toothed in upper part, glabrous or short-hairy. Inflorescence a slender axillary or cauliflorous raceme up to 10 cm long, solitary or up to 4 together. Flowers unisexual, 5-merous, petals absent; male flowers with pedicel 1–1.5 mm long, jointed, calyx lobes triangular, c. 1 mm long, creamy yellow, stamens c. 1.5 mm long, free, disk glands fleshy; female flowers with pedicel 1–2 mm long, calyx lobes ovate, c. 1 mm long, greenish cream, disk c. 1.5 mm in diameter, ovary superior, ovoid-ellipsoid, c. 1.5 mm long, densely short-hairy, 2-celled, styles 2, fused at base, c. 0.5 mm long, persistent, stigma papillose. Fruit an ellipsoid capsule 5–6 mm × 4.5–5 mm, late dehiscent, smooth, sparingly short-hairy, green to reddish or purplish, 1-seeded by abortion. Seed ellipsoid, c. 6 mm × 3.5 mm, purplish grey to bluish.
Maesobotrya comprises 18 species, which all occur in tropical Africa. Several other Maesobotrya species are also used medicinally in the region. In Congo a paste of pounded fruits of the Central African Maesobotrya cordulata J.Léonard is applied to treat psoriasis. Pulverized leaves are applied to wounds to heal them and are applied to scarifications to treat oedema. In Congo a bark decoction of Maesobotrya vermeulenii (De Wild.) J.Léonard is drunk and taken in baths to treat leprosy.
Maesobotrya floribunda occurs mainly in gallery forest, often in open, seasonally inundated localities, from sea-level up to 1000 m altitude. It mainly grows on sandy loam, enriched with clay or organic material.
Genetic resources and breeding
Maesobotrya floribunda is fairly common in its area of distribution and is therefore not likely to be threatened by genetic erosion.
Maesobotrya floribunda is not much used medicinally, and will probably remain of local importance only.
• Kalanda, K. & Bolamba, K., 1994. Contribution à la connaissance des plantes médicinales du Haut Zaïre. Les plantes utilisées contre les maladies de la peau à Kisangani. Revue de Médecines et Pharmacopées Africaines 8(2): 179–188.
• Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1996. Euphorbiaceae, subfamilies Phyllantoideae, Oldfieldioideae, Acalyphoideae, Crotonoideae and Euphorbioideae, tribe Hippomaneae. In: Pope, G.V. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 1–337.
• Tane, P., Ayafor, J.F., Farrugia, L.J., Connolly, J.D. & Rycroft, D.S., 1996. Picrotoximaesin, a novel picrotoxane sesquiterpenoid from the berries of Maesobotrya floribunda. Natural Product Letters 9: 39–45.
• Terashima, H. & Ichikawa, M., 2003. A comparative ethnobotany of the Mbuti and Efe hunter-gatherers in the Ituri forest, Democratic Republic of Congo. African Study Monographs 24(1–2): 1–168.
• Yamada, T., 1999. A report of the ethnobotany of the Nyindu in the eastern part of the former Zaire. African Study Monographs 20(1): 1–72.
• 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.
• Burkill, H.M., 1994. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 2, Families E–I. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 636 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2008. Maesobotrya floribunda Benth. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.