Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Hook.f., Icon. pl. 12: 72, t. 1183 (1876).
Pycnobotrya multiflora K.Schum. ex Stapf (1902).
Origin and geographic distribution
Pycnobotrya nitida occurs in West and Central Africa, from Nigeria to the Central African Republic and DR Congo.
In Congo the leaves of Pycnobotrya nitida are eaten with other food to treat chest infections and the latex is taken to treat haematuria, diarrhoea and dysentery. These treatments are supplemented by wearing a cord made from the bark of Pycnobotrya nitida and Haumantia sp. round the neck or chest. Leaves are also eaten either as a vegetable or to treat bronchitis. Fibre obtained from the bark is used to make cords, e.g. for crossbows.
There is no information on the chemical composition of Pycnobotrya nitida except that it contains steroids and terpenes.
Large liana, up to 40 m long, with white latex, turning pale yellow; stem up to 12 cm in diameter; bark dark brown, smooth; branches terete, dark red-brown. Leaves opposite or in whorls of 3, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 3–7 mm long, inserted on distinct leaf cushions; blade narrowly elliptical, 8–15 cm × 2–5 cm, base cuneate, apex obtuse or acuminate, leathery, glossy, dotted with many black glands, pinnately veined with many straight, parallel, inconspicuous lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary or terminal panicle 3–15 cm × 2–20 cm, first ramifications lax, others congested, rusty-hairy; peduncle 1–5 cm long; bracts ovate to narrowly elliptical, up to 6 mm long. Flowers bisexual, regular but with the sepals unequal, 5-merous, fragrant; pedicel 1–3 mm long; sepals free or nearly so, ovate, c. 1 mm long, apex obtuse, ciliate; corolla tube campanulate, 1–2 mm long, lobes oblong, 3–5(–7) mm long, with obtuse apex, upcurved at the left side, contorted and overlapping to the left, spreading, dark pink, usually turning paler at anthesis, with or without pale yellow throat; stamens inserted near the base of the corolla tube, included, anthers narrowly triangular, with auricles at base, apex acuminate; ovary superior, almost globose, consisting of 2 free carpels; styles fused, very short, stigma conical, bifid. Fruit composed of two free, obliquely elliptical, laterally compressed follicles 5–7 cm long, widely spreading, 2-valved, 1–4-seeded. Seeds flattened, obliquely oblong, 4–6 cm long, surrounded by a papery wing, transparent except for the margins.
Pycnobotrya comprises a single species and seems related to the American genus Aspidosperma.
Pycnobotrya nitida occurs in forest, often on river banks, at low altitudes.
Genetic resources and breeding
Because it is widespread and in several regions common, Pycnobotrya nitida does not seem to be threatened by genetic erosion.
Pycnobotrya nitida will remain a medicinal plant of only local importance. Information is needed on its pharmacological properties and phytochemistry. Its value as a vegetable deserves further research.
• Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• van der Ploeg, J., 1983. A revision of Isonema R.Br. and Pycnobotrya Benth. (Apocynaceae). Mededelingen Landbouwhogeschool Wageningen 83–4. Wageningen, Netherlands. 20 pp.
• 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.
Correct citation of this article:
de Ruijter, A., 2006. Pycnobotrya nitida Benth. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.