Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2
Phytologia 78(3): 191 (1995).
Asclepiadaceae (APG: Apocynaceae)
Menabea venenata Baill. (1890).
Origin and geographic distribution
Pervillaea venenata is endemic to the drier parts of West Madagascar.
In Madagascar the grated roots are sometimes used as a purgative and emetic, to treat stomach-ache, venereal diseases, liver problems and childhood eczema. However, because of its toxicity, a root decoction has also been used for trial by ordeal, criminal and suicide poisoning.
The roots contain highly toxic glycosides, with digitoxigenin or uzarigenin (menabegenin, 17-α-digitoxigenin) as their steroid moiety.
Small shrub up to 1.5 m tall, all parts with latex, all parts densely hairy. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; petiole 3–10 mm long; blade narrowly to broadly elliptical or oblong, 1.5–4.5 cm × 1–2 cm, base truncate to slightly cordate, apex apiculate or truncate, veins below raised. Inflorescence an axillary, condensed cyme, many-flowered; peduncle up to 15 mm long; bracts 3–5 mm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel up to 2 mm long; sepals narrowly oblong, 1.5–3.7 mm × c. 1 mm, rounded, densely hairy; corolla tube 1.5–2.5(–3.8) mm long, short-hairy on inside, lobes oblong, 4–11 mm × 1–2.5 mm, rounded, pale yellow to yellow with reddish to purple spots inside; corona lobes attached at top of staminal column, straight, tapering towards apex, same length as connectives, staminal column 1.5–2.5 mm long; ovary superior, carpels 2, free, stigma head rounded. Fruit a pair of follicles, each follicle narrowly ovoid, 6–10 cm × 0.5–0.8 cm, tapering gradually into a long beak, apex slightly cleft, densely covered with curly hairs, many-seeded. Seeds ovate, flattened, c. 7 mm long, coma c. 3 cm long.
Pervillaea is endemic to Madagascar and comprises 5 species. It belongs to subfamily Secamonoideae. Pervillea, an orthographic variation, is used in the revision of the genus, but is not followed here.
Pervillaea venenata occurs in sandy or rocky soil and on cliffs, in grassland or deciduous forest, from sea-level up to 1000 m altitude. It has been found flowering from July–November, January and May.
Genetic resources and breeding
Pervillaea venenata is relatively widespread in Madagascar and probably not in danger of genetic erosion.
It is not advised to use Pervillaea venenata for medicinal purposes, as it is very toxic. More research concerning its chemistry and pharmacology needs to be done in order to evaluate the possible development of lead compounds for the pharmaceutical industry.
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• Omlor, R., 1996. Do Menabea venenata and Secamonopsis madagascariensis represent missing links between Periplocaceae, Secamonoideae and Marsdenieae (Asclepiadaceae)? Kew Bulletin 51(4): 695–715.
• Ramahandrimanana, J.C., 1986. Inventaire des plantes actives sur le système cardio-vasculaire et tests préliminaires de quelques plantes hypotensives. Mémoire de CAPEN, Ecole National Supérieur, Département Formation Initiale Scientifique, Centre d'étude et de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles, Université d'Antananarivo, Madagascar. 77 p.
Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2011. Pervillaea venenata (Baill.) Klack. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.