Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Phytologia 3: 156 (1949).
Mannia africana Hook.f. (1862), Pierreodendron kerstingii (Engl.) Little (1949), Quassia grandifolia (Engl.) Noot. (1962).
Origin and geographic distribution
Pierreodendron africanum occurs from Côte d’Ivoire east to DR Congo and south to Angola.
Throughout its distribution area Pierreodendron africanum is used as an insecticide and rat poison. In Nigeria the fruits are pounded, mixed with boiled yam and palm oil and used as a bait to kill rats. Whole seeds with salt added are equally efficient at killing rats. The fruit peel and leaves are used as a tonic and the seed oil as a lotion against lice.
The stem bark of Pierreodendron africanum contains quassinoids with antineoplastic properties, e.g. dehydroailanthinone and glaucarubinone. The main quassinoid compound is glaucarubin. The stem bark also contains indole alkaloids, canthine-6-one alkaloids, which have anticancer and antimicrobial properties.
An alcohol extract of the stem bark showed significant activity in vivo against leukaemia of mice and human throat cancer cells in vitro. Oral application of a chloroform extract of stems and roots showed good results against avian malaria in poultry.
Monoecious, straggling tree up to 30 m tall; bark rough with square scales. Leaves alternate, in tufts at ends of branches, up to 1 m long, imparipinnately compound with 5–15 pairs of leaflets; stipules absent; petiolules c. 4 mm long; leaflets almost opposite, entire, lanceolate to elliptical, 8–30 cm × 3–9 cm, base rounded, asymmetrical, very shortly and abruptly acuminate and often thickened at apex, leathery, slightly hairy in young leaves. Inflorescence a thyrse up to 40 cm long. Flowers unisexual or bisexual, regular, 5-merous; calyx lobes c. 1.5 mm long; petals free, oblong, 0.5–1 cm long, red; stamens 10–15(–18), free; ovary superior, consisting of 5 free carpels. Fruit an oblong-ellipsoid drupe, c. 7 cm × 4.5 cm, yellow, fibrous, woody, 1-seeded.
Pierreodendron comprises a single species. Pierreodendron kerstingii (Engl.) Little was distinguished mainly based on the number of stamens, but it is now considered a synonym of Pierreodendron africanum. However, taxonomic studies of this poorly known genus are needed because the existence of cryptic species has been suggested on the basis of the strangely versatile habitat.
Pierreodendron africanum occurs in wet evergreen and dry deciduous forest, with comparatively few trees in intermediate types of forest.
The stem bark and fruits of Pierreodendron africanum are harvested from the wild.
Genetic resources and breeding
Pierreodendron africanum is widely distributed but rare throughout its range and therefore it is considered vulnerable to genetic erosion.
The antitumour properties of Pierreodendron africanum will continue to attract attention of pharmacologists.
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Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2008. Pierreodendron africanum (Hook.f.) Little. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.