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Sclerocroton cornutus (Pax) Kruijt & Roebers

Biblioth. Bot. 146: 20 (1996).
Sapium cornutum Pax (1894).
Origin and geographic distribution
Sclerocroton cornutus occurs from Cameroon and the Central African Republic south to Angola and Zambia.
In the Central African Republic a bark decoction is drunk to treat hernia. In DR Congo the root bark, crushed in water, is taken to facilitate childbirth, as it contracts the uterine muscles. A leaf decoction is taken to treat female sterility, cough and river blindness. Crushed leaves are applied to insect bites and snakebites. A bark decoction is used as a mouthwash to treat toothache, scurvy and stomatitis. It is externally applied to sore feet, skin diseases and drunk as a purgative and anthelminthic. Leaf sap is used as eye drops to treat filariasis.
In DR Congo the wood is made into charcoal. Edible caterpillars (Lobobunaea phaedusa) feed on the leaves.
Extracts from the root bark contain toxic tetracyclic triterpenic cucurbitacins.
Monoecious, glabrous shrub up to 4 m tall. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules linear, 3–5 mm long, soon falling; petiole 2–10 mm long, channeled above; blade elliptical, elliptical-oblong to elliptical-ovate, 2.5–10(–15) cm × 1–4(–5) cm, base cuneate to rounded or truncate, with 1–2 glands, apex acute to acuminate, margin shallowly toothed. Inflorescence an erect, terminal or leaf-opposed, spike-like raceme up to 10(–16) cm long, with all flowers male or with 1–2 female flowers at base; bracts of male flowers with 2 basal glands. Flowers unisexual, regular, petals absent, disk absent; male flowers with pedicel c. 1.5 mm long, sepals 3, broadly ovate, c. 1 mm long, irregularly toothed, greenish yellow, stamens 2–3, free, very short; female flowers with pedicel 3–5 mm long, extending in fruit to 1.5–2 cm, sepals 3, triangular, c. 1 mm long, alternating with deltoid glands, greenish yellow, ovary superior, c. 2 mm long, 3-lobed, each lobe with 2 prickle-shaped appendages 2 mm long, 3-celled, styles 3, 7–8 mm long, fused at base, coiled. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule 1–1.5 cm × 1.5–2 cm, each lobe with 2 prickle-shaped appendages 4–5 mm long, green, hard, turning reddish or blackish, 3-seeded. Seeds ovoid-ellipsoid, 6–7 mm long, smooth, shiny, pale grey mottled blackish.
Sclerocroton comprises 6 species, 5 of which occur in continental Africa and 1 in Madagascar. It was formerly included in Sapium. In southern Africa a root decoction of Sclerocroton integerrimus Hochst. (synonym: Sapium integerrimum (Hochst.) J.Léonard) is used as a mouthwash to treat toothache. The fruits were formerly used to make a black ink and are used for tanning. The wood is heavy, hard and durable and is used to make attractive furniture.
Sclerocroton cornutus occurs in rainforest, secondary forest and open woodland, especially on sandy soils, but also on rocky hill slopes. It prefers well-drained soils.
Sclerocroton cornutus coppices well.
Genetic resources and breeding
Sclerocroton cornutus is common in the forest zone of Central Africa and does not seem to be threatened by genetic erosion.
Sclerocroton cornutus has a range of medicinal uses in local medicine in Central Africa, but very little is known about its properties. More research is therefore warranted. In DR Congo it is considered an interesting species for reforestation purposes.
Major references
• Adjanohoun, E.J., Ahyi, A.M.R., Aké Assi, L., Baniakina, J., Chibon, P., Cusset, G., Doulou, V., Enzanza, A., Eymé, J., Goudoté, E., Keita, A., Mbemba, C., Mollet, J., Moutsamboté, J.-M., Mpati, J. & Sita, P. (Editors), 1988. Médecine traditionnelle et pharmacopée - Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Congo. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 606 pp.
• Kruijt, R.C., 1996. A taxonomic monograph of Sapium Jacq., Anomostachys (Baill.) Hurus., Duvigneaudia J. Leonard and Sclerocroton Hochst. (Euphorbiaceae tribe Hippomaneae). Bibliotheca Botanica 146. 109 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1996. Euphorbiaceae, subfamilies Phyllantoideae, Oldfieldioideae, Acalyphoideae, Crotonoideae and Euphorbioideae, tribe Hippomaneae. In: Pope, G.V. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 1–337.
• Tessier, A.M. & Paris, R.R., 1978. Study of some African toxic Euphorbiaceae containing cucurbitacins. Toxicological European Research 1(5): 329–336.
Other references
• Coates Palgrave, K., 1983. Trees of southern Africa. 2nd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 959 pp.
• Latham, P., 2005. Some honeybee plants of Bas-Congo Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. DFID, United Kingdom. 167 pp.
• Léonard, J., 1962. Euphorbiaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 8, 1. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. 214 pp.
• Nkounkou-Loumpangou, C., Binimbi-Massengo, A., Nzonzi, J., Ouamba, J.M., Abena, A.A. & Diatewa, M., 2005. Inventaire des plantes médicinales utilisées dans le traitement de l’infertilité féminine à Brazzaville. Phytothérapie 6: 252–259.
• Palmer, E. & Pitman, N., 1972–1974. Trees of southern Africa, covering all known indigenous species in the Republic of South Africa, South-West Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. 3 volumes. Balkema, Cape Town, South Africa. 2235 pp.
• Paris, R.R. & Tessier, A.M., 1972. Présence de substances du groupe des cucurbitacines chez diverses Euphorbiacées toxiques africaines, notamment chez Maprounea membranacea Pax et K.Hoffm. Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaires des Séances de l’Académie des Sciences, Serie D, Sciences Naturelles 274(2): 321–323.
G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

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
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
M.S.J. Simmonds
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB, United Kingdom
R. Arroo
Leicester School of Pharmacy, Natural Products Research, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH, United Kingdom
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Schmelzer, G.H., 2007. Sclerocroton cornutus (Pax) Kruijt & Roebers. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.