Prota 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins
Oliv., Fl. trop. Afr. 3: 186 (1877).
2n = 22
Coffea ebractiolata (Hiern) Brenan (1953).
Origin and geographic distribution
Psilanthus ebractiolatus is distributed from Guinea to Cameroon.
Ground fruits and seeds of Psilanthus ebractiolatus are used in Ghana to make black tattoos. Toothbrushes are made from the wood. Roasted fruits smell distinctly of coffee and are used as a substitute. In Côte d’Ivoire the leaves are used medicinally against Guinea worm. A soft paste made from the leaves, with garlic and lemon, is applied to the puncture marks on the skin caused by the worms, which after a few days are killed and can be gradually removed.
Shrub or small tree up to 5 m tall, with slender branches, glabrous. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules small, connate or sheathing; petiole up to 2 mm long; blade elliptical, up to 10 cm × 5 cm, base cuneate, apex acuminate, glossy, lateral veins in 3–4 pairs, looping. Flowers solitary, terminal, bisexual, regular, 5-merous, c. 2.5 cm long, fragrant during the night, sessile; calyx shallowly cup-shaped, truncate; corolla white, tubular, tube slightly longer than lobes; stamens with short filaments, anthers completely included in corolla tube; ovary inferior, 2-celled, style 2-fid, remaining within corolla tube. Fruit an obovoid to ellipsoid drupe c. 12 mm in diameter, distinctly 2-lobed, containing 2 leathery, 1-seeded pyrenes, black when dry. Seeds grooved on inner surface, smooth.
Psilanthus comprises about 20 species, confined to the Old World tropics. The taxonomic position of Psilanthus has not yet been firmly established; it is sometimes considered to be part of Coffea, from which it differs by its corolla tube, which is longer than the lobes and by its anthers and style, which are not exserted.
Psilanthus ebractiolatus is found in closed forest, in humid as well as semi-dry forest, at low altitudes.
Genetic resources and breeding
Psilanthus ebractiolatus is widespread and does not seem to be in danger of genetic erosion. For purposes of coffee breeding, in hybridization experiments using tetraploidized accessions of Psilanthus ebractiolatus some fertile hybrids were obtained in crosses with Coffea arabica L. (2n = 44).
Psilanthus ebractiolatus as source of a dye will remain only very locally of some importance. Its medicinal properties need further investigation. Its successful hybridization with Coffea arabica opens up new prospects in coffee breeding.
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• Couturon, E., Lashermes, P. & Charrier, A., 1998. First intergeneric hybrids (Psilanthus ebracteolatus Hiern × Coffea arabica L.) in coffee trees. Canadian Journal of Botany 76: 542–546.
• Hepper, F.N. & Keay, R.W.J., 1963. Rubiaceae. In: Hepper, F.N. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 104–223.
• Hiern, W.P., 1877. Rubiaceae. In: Oliver, D. (Editor). Flora of tropical Africa. Volume 3. L. Reeve & Co, Ashford, United Kingdom. pp. 33–247.
• Kerharo, J. & Bouquet, A., 1950. Plantes médicinales et toxiques de la Côte d’Ivoire - Haute-Volta. Vigot Frères, Paris, France. 291 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2005. Psilanthus ebractiolatus Hiern In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.