Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1
Sp. pl. 1: 284 (1753).
Simaroubaceae (APG: Surianaceae)
Tassel plant, bay cedar, Temporana Bay cedar (En). Bois matelot, romarin noir (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Suriana maritima occurs in Central and South America, Oceania and along the coasts of the Indian Ocean. In tropical Africa it occurs in coastal Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and the Indian Ocean Islands.
In Mauritius the aerial parts are used as an astringent and to cure dysentery. It is also used as a poultice to treat wounds caused by poisonous fish. Elsewhere decoctions of leaves and branches are used as a bath to cure arthritis, applied externally to clean wounds and taken internally to treat rectal bleeding. Powdered flowers are used to cure diarrhoea.
The wood is used in the Virgin Islands to make small articles. In southern Florida the plant is used as an ornamental, especially for hedges and screens. It helps stabilize beaches and coastal dunes.
Suriana maritima is devoid of the terpenoid lactones that characterize Simaroubaceae. It contains a triterpenoid diol, surianol, as well as β-sitosterol, the flavonoids rutin and rhamnetin and the flavonol glycoside rhamnetin-3-rutinoside. Rutin is used medicinally to decrease capillary fragility. Leaf and stem contain sterols, terpenes and phenols. The flavonoids are thought to be responsible for the anti-infective properties.
The wood is dark red and hard, and polishes well.
Spreading, much-branched, evergreen shrub up to 3(–7) m tall; stems grey-green, densely short-hairy, marked with leaf scars. Leaves arranged spirally, clustered at ends of branches, simple and entire, upright; stipules absent; petiole 1–3 mm long; blade oblanceolate, 1–4.5 cm × 2–6 mm, base cuneate, apex rounded to acute, hairy on both sides, glandular hairs present. Inflorescence an axillary cyme as long as the leaves, few-flowered; bracts up to 1 cm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel up to 8 mm long; calyx c. 8 mm long, deeply lobed, glandular hairy; petals free, oblong to obovate, c. 7 mm × 5 mm, margins with short hairs, yellow; stamens 10, free, 2.5–4.5 mm long; ovary superior, densely long-hairy, consisting of 5 free carpels, styles c. 4 mm long. Fruit composed of 5 ellipsoid to obovoid drupes, with faces compressed, each c. 3.5 mm × 3 mm, 1-seeded, hairy, black.
Suriana comprises a single species.
Suriana maritima is found on coral reefs and sandy soil. It is confined to seashores above the high-water mark and is often found on the landward side of Avicennia mangrove. It is tolerant of moderately saline soil and highly tolerant of beach conditions including high surface heat, drought and wind.
Propagation of Suriana maritima is done by seeds. It is planted for hedges at distances of c. 1.5 m. Once established it grows well without irrigation, even on well-drained sandy soils. It responds well to trimming.
Genetic resources and breeding
Suriana maritima is widespread and often common, and is not threatened by genetic erosion. Urban development of coastal areas as in Florida can have destructive effects on populations of Suriana maritima.
Suriana maritima can play a role in the protection of seashores and in landscaping in tropical coastal areas. Its pharmacological properties need further investigation to determine its value as a medicinal plant.
• Beentje, H.J., 1998. Surianaceae. In: Beentje, H.J. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 4 pp.
• Gurib-Fakim, A. & Brendler, T., 2004. Medicinal and aromatic plants of Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles and Mascarenes. Medpharm, Stuttgart, Germany. 568 pp.
• Coode, M.J.E., 1979. Surianacées. In: Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Julien, H.R. & Marais, W. (Editors). Flore des Mascareignes. Familles 64–68. The Sugar Industry Research Institute, Mauritius, l’Office de la Recherche Scientifique Outre-Mer, Paris, France & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 4 pp.
• Fernando, E.S., Gadek, P., Crayn, D.M. & Quinn, C.J., 1993. Rosid affinities of Surianaceae: molecular evidence. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 2(4): 344–350.
• Gilman, E.F., 1999. Suriana maritima. Fact Sheet FPS-565. Cooperative Extension Service. University of Florida. United States. 3 pp.
• Gurib-Fakim, A., Guého, J. & Bissoondoyal, M.D., 1997. Plantes médicinales de Maurice, tome 3. Editions de l’Océan Indien, Rose-Hill, Mauritius. 471 pp.
• Mitchell, R.E. & Geissman, T.A., 1971. Constituents of Suriana maritima. Triterpene diol of novel structure and new flavonol glycoside. Phytochemistry 10(7): 1559–1567.
• Perrier de la Bâthie, H., 1950. Simarubacées (Simarubaceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), familles 104–105. Firmin-Didot et cie., Paris, France. 9 pp.
• Wild, H., Phipps, B. & Paiva, J., 1969. Simaroubaceae. In: Fernandes, A. (Editor). Flora de Moçambique. No 38. Junta de Investigações do Ultramar, Lisbon, Portugal. 7 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2008. Suriana maritima L. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(1): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.