Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 17: 556 (1893).
2n = 44
Origin and geographic distribution
Strychnos barteri occurs from Guinea east to Cameroon.
In Côte d’Ivoire the fruit is used as a fish poison. In Nigeria the stems are used to make bows.
Seven indole alkaloids have been isolated from Strychnos barteri. The stem contains nigritanine, the stem bark and the root akagerine, the stem bark and the leaves contain 18-dehydro-nigritanine and the leaves 10-hydroxy-nigritanine, 18-dehydro-10-hydroxy-nigritanine, oxindole alkaloid I and oxindole alkaloid II. Akagerine is a potent convulsant agent, although 100 times less active than strychnine.
Large liana, up to 100 m long, climbing with tendrils in 1–3 pairs; stem up to 16 cm in diameter; branchlets medium to dark green, glabrous. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 4–10 mm long, glabrous; blade elliptical to narrowly obovate, 3–10(–20) cm × 1.5–6(–8) cm, base cuneate to rounded or cordate, apex rounded to shortly acuminate, leathery, glabrous, 5-veined from somewhat above the base. Inflorescence an axillary, usually congested thyrse 1–3 cm long, several together, few-flowered. Flowers bisexual, regular, 4-merous; sepals fused at base, ovate to orbicular, 1–1.5 mm long; corolla tube up to 4.5 mm long, slightly widened at the throat, lobes oblong, 2.5–3 mm long, acute, recurved, outside glabrous, inside hairy on the base of the lobes and on upper part of the tube, white; stamens inserted at the mouth of the corolla tube, exserted; ovary superior, ovoid, 4–6 mm long, glabrous, 2-celled, style 3–5 mm long, stigma obscurely 2-lobed. Fruit an obliquely ellipsoid or obovoid berry 20–32 mm × 16–22 mm × 15–22 mm, wall thin, rather hard, orange, 1–several-seeded. Seeds obliquely ellipsoid, 13–20 mm × 10–14 mm × 4–10 mm, white, at one side with a deep pit, at the other with a bulge surrounded by a shallow groove.
Strychnos comprises about 200 species: about 60 species in Asia, 65 in America and 75 in Africa. Strychnos barteri belongs to the section Dolichanthae. Several other Strychnos spp. from this section are used medicinally. Plant extracts of Strychnos gossweileri Excell, a small fire resistant savanna shrub, which occurs from Cameroon south to Zambia, are used in African folk medicine to treat malaria. The plant contains several indole alkaloids, of which matadine shows interesting toxic activities against human cancer cells. An ethyl acetate extract of the root showed significant anti-malarial activity in vitro. The Mende people of Sierra Leone grind the young leaves of Strychnos melastomatoides Gilg, a liana from Guinea and Sierra Leone, to a paste to treat wounds and use the stems as chew-sticks.
Strychnos barteri occurs mostly on river banks in rainforest, also montane rainforest and periodically inundated secondary forest, from sea-level up to 1300 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Strychnos barteri does not seem to be in danger of genetic erosion.
In view of the pharmacologically interesting compounds found in other Strychnos species, more research into the chemical composition and pharmacological activities of the indole alkaloids of Strychnos barteri and the other species mentioned seems warranted.
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• Nicoletti, M., Oguakwa, J.U. & Messana, I., 1980. On the alkaloids of two African Strychnos, Strychnos nigritana Bak. and Strychnos barteri Sol. Carbon-13 NMR spectroscopy of nigritanins. Fitoterapia 51(3): 131–134.
• Philippe, G., Angenot, L., De Mol, P., Goffin, E., Hayette, M.P., Tits, M. & Frédérich, M., 2005. In vitro screening of some Strychnos species for antiplasmodial activity. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 97(3): 535–539.
Correct citation of this article:
de Ruijter, A., 2008. Strychnos barteri Soler. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.