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Melicope borbonica (Bory) T.G.Hartley

Allertonia 8(1): 287 (2001).
Aubertia borbonica Bory (1804), Euodia borbonica (Bory) Engl. (1896).
Vernacular names
Catafaye, petit bois de catafaye, bois de catafaye blanc (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Melicope borbonica is endemic to Réunion.
The wood and leaves macerated in alcohol are externally applied as a liniment to treat rheumatism and for wound healing. Leaf and stem bark extracts were taken in the past as a tonic, depurative and sudorific. The aromatic leaves and stem bark are added to local rum.
Extracts of the leaves of Melicope borbonica yielded the acetophenone xanthoxylin and the coumarins scoparone and psoralen. The minor coumarins limettin, bergapten and cedrelopsin were also isolated, as well as several sesquiterpenes, eugenol, methyleugenol and the lignan sesamin. Furthermore, ethanolic leaf extracts yielded isorhamnetin, dillenetin and several methoxyflavones.
Scoparone, limettin and xanthoxylin exhibited moderate antifungal activity against Candida albicans and Penicillium expansum. Different leaf and stem extracts showed moderate antifungal activity against Cladosporium cucumerinum. The extracts did not show any significant anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antitumour activities in vitro.
Much-branched shrub, up to 7 m tall. Leaves opposite, 1(–3)-foliolate, strong-smelling; stipules absent; petiole variable in length, (0.7–)2.5–8 cm long; leaflets elliptical, (4–)7–9(–14) cm × (2–)3–5 cm, apex acute, base rounded to cuneate, margin entire, thin, papery when dry. Inflorescence a small, axillary panicle, 1–4 cm long. Flowers unisexual, regular, 4-merous, small; petals white, glabrous or with finely appressed hairs outside; male flowers with filaments c. 1 mm long; female flowers with superior ovary, short-hairy, style thin, 0.5 mm long, stigma small. Fruit a 1–4-lobed capsule 6–8 mm long, each lobe almost free, 1-seeded. Seeds rounded, black, shiny, acute on one side.
After a major revision, all Euodia species from Madagascar and the Mascarene islands were transferred to Melicope. An orthographic variation of Euodia is Evodia. Melicope comprises c. 235 species occurring from the Malagasy and Indo-Himalayan regions to Hawaiian and Marquesas Islands and New Zealand. Of the 19 species that occur in the Indian Ocean islands, 11 species are endemic to Madagascar and 6 species are endemic to Réunion. Melicope chapelieri (Baill.) T.G.Hartley occurs both in Réunion and Madagascar and Melicope obtusifolia (DC.) T.G.Hartley occurs both in Réunion and Mauritius.
Melicope borbonica grows in degraded forest, at 200–1500 m altitude. It flowers from December–March.
Genetic resources and breeding
Melicope borbonica is common and not threatened by genetic erosion.
Melicope borbonica contains coumarins and several other compounds with moderate pharmacological activity. Unless additional pharmacological tests reveal interesting results, Melicope borbonica will remain of limited importance.
Major references
• Coode, M.J.E., 1979. Rutacées. In: Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Julien, H.R. & Marais, W. (Editors). Flore des Mascareignes. Familles 64–68. The Sugar Industry Research Institute, Mauritius, l’Office de la Recherche Scientifique Outre-Mer, Paris, France & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 37 pp.
• Hartley, T.G., 2001. On the taxonomy and biogeography of Euodia and Melicope (Rutaceae). Allertonia 8(1): 1–328.
• Hartley, T.G., Girard-Valenciennes, E., Poullain, C. & Smadja, J., 2006. Etude d’une rutacée médicinale de la Réunion: Melicope borbonica (Bory). Ethnopharmacologia 37: 53–58.
• Lavergne, R., 2001. Le grand livre des tisaneurs et plantes médicinales indigènes de la Réunion. Editions Orphie, Chevagny sur Guye, France. 522 pp.
• Simonsen, H.T, Adsersen, A., Bremner, P., Heinrich, M., Wagner Smitt, U. & Jaroszewski, W., 2004. Antifungal constituents of Melicope borbonica. Phytotherapy Research 18: 542–545.
Other references
• Fortin, H., Vigor, C., Lohézic-Le Dévéhat, F., Robin, V., Le Bossé, B., Boustie, J. & Amoros, M., 2002. In vitro antiviral activity of thirty-six plants from La Réunion Island. Fitoterapia 73: 346–350.
• Gurib-Fakim, A. & Brendler, T., 2004. Medicinal and aromatic plants of Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles and Mascarenes. Medpharm, Stuttgart, Germany. 568 pp.
• Simonsen, H.T., Adsersen, A., Smitt, U.W., Strasberg, D. & Jaroszewski, J.W., 2003. Methoxyflavones from Melicope borbonica and M. obscura (Rutaceae). Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 31(3): 327–330.
• Valenciennes, E., Smadja, J. & Conan, J.Y., 1999. Screening for biological activity and chemical composition of Euodia borbonica var. borbonica (Rutaceae), a medicinal plant in Reunion Island. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 64: 283–288.
E.N. Matu
CTMDR/KEMRI, P.O. Box 54840–00200, Nairobi, Kenya

G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
A. Gurib-Fakim
Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius, Réduit, Mauritius
Associate editors
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom

Correct citation of this article:
Matu, E.N., 2011. Melicope borbonica (Bory) T.G.Hartley. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
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