Adenium multiflorum (PROTA)

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Adenium multiflorum Klotzsch


Protologue: Peters, Naturw. Reise Mossambique Vol. 6, Botanik 1: 279, t. 44 (1861).
Family: Apocynaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 22

Synonyms

  • Adenium obesum (Forssk.) Roem. & Schult. var. multiflorum (Klotzsch) L.E.Codd (1961),
  • Adenium obesum (Forssk.) Roem. & Schult. subsp. multiflorum (Klotzsch) G.D.Rowley (1974).

Vernacular names

  • Sabi star, impala lily (En).
  • Megoza (Po).

Origin and geographic distribution

Adenium multiflorum is widespread in Malawi, southeastern Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and north-eastern South Africa.

Uses

The stem latex of Adenium multiflorum has long been used in Zimbabwe and Zambia to prepare arrow poison and fish poison. Usually, the poison is combined with that of other plants. In Zimbabwe the root and stem latex are used in veterinary medicine; an extract is given against diarrhoea and eye diseases in domestic birds.

Like other Adenium spp., Adenium multiflorum is grown as an ornamental for its curious habit and striking flowers. In Zimbabwe Adenium multiflorum is relished by cattle and also wild animals, which browse the plants down to ground level, indicating that plants with low toxicity exist.

Production and international trade

There is some international trade of seeds and plants of Adenium multiflorum for ornamental purposes.

Properties

Adenium multiflorum contains cardenolide glycosides similar to those found in Adenium obesum (Forssk.) Roem. & Schult. The glycosides identified include: 16-desacetyl-16-anhydrohongheloside A (composed of 16-anhydrogitoxigenin and D-cymarose), 16-anhydrostrospeside (composed of 16-anhydrogitoxigenin and D-digitalose) and strospeside (composed of gitoxigenin and D-digitalose).

There may be chemical differences between Adenium multiflorum from different provenances, as the plant is relished by animals in Zimbabwe, but in other countries it is considered highly poisonous.

Description

Succulent shrub or small tree up to 3.5 m tall, with watery latex and with large thickened root, up to 1 m in diameter at stem base; bark shiny grey. Leaves arranged spirally, clustered at end of branchlets, simple; stipules minute or absent; petiole 3–7 mm long; blade obovate to oblong, 7.5–12.5 cm × 2–7.5 cm, base cuneate, apex acute to rounded or emarginate, apiculate or mucronate, entire, leathery, glabrous, pinnately veined with distinct lateral veins. Inflorescence a dense terminal cyme; bracts narrowly obovate, 4–6 mm × 1–3 mm. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, showy, usually appearing before the leaves; pedicel 2–4 mm long, densely hairy; sepals narrowly ovate, 6–10 mm × 2.5–3 mm, fused at base, hairy; corolla with funnel-shaped tube 2.2–4 cm × 1–1.3 cm and narrowly ovate to narrowly obovate, spreading lobes 1.3–3 cm × 1–2 cm, red, pink to white with deep pink to scarlet margins and red stripes inside the throat, hairy outside; stamens inserted near base of corolla tube, distinctly exserted, anthers forming a cone covering the pistil, base sagittate, 5–7 mm long, with long apical appendices; ovary superior, composed of 2 free carpels, glabrous, styles fused, slender, with well-developed clavuncula. Fruit consisting of 2 oblong follicles 10–18 cm long, eventually spreading at 180°, pale grey to pale grey-brown, opening by a longitudinal slit, many-seeded. Seeds linear, 10–15 mm long, very pale brown, with tufts of long dirty white to light brown hairs at both ends 2–3 cm long.

Other botanical information

Adenium comprises 5 species, which are sometimes merged into a single one, Adenium obesum (Forssk.) Roem. & Schult. Adenium multiflorum crosses readily with Adenium obesum and with other Adenium spp.

Adenium multiflorum has long dormancy; regardless of growing conditions, leaves fall at the start of the cool season and growth will not resume for at least 4 months. It flowers profusely during the cool season. Leaves appear only after flowering. Plants rarely flower before they are 4–5 years old.

Ecology

The natural habitat of Adenium multiflorum is savanna and occasionally open forest on sandy soil along marshes and rivers and also in much drier sandy and rocky localities; it occurs up to 700(–1200) m altitude.

Management

In cultivation Adenium multiflorum is propagated by seed, cuttings or grafting. Tip-cuttings dipped in a rooting hormone, planted in a coarse rooting medium and well-watered are most successful. Seeds germinate readily in about a week at 30°C, and seedlings grow through the first cool and dry period before obligate dormancy appears. After the first year, the plants should be kept dry during dormancy, to prevent the brittle root from rotting.

Genetic resources

Adenium multiflorum is considered vulnerable in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. It is threatened by collection for horticulture, medicinal uses and by heavy browsing by livestock.

Prospects

Adenium multiflorum is an interesting ornamental, although its flowering period is shorter and growth rate is lower than that of Adenium obesum. It is unlikely that it will become important in medicine, while its importance as arrow poison has dwindled.

Major references

  • Bester, S.P., 2004. Adenium multiflorum. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town, South Africa. http://www.plantzafrica.com/ plantab/adeniummultiflor.htm 24 August 2004.
  • Leeuwenberg, A.J.M., Kupicha, F.K., Barink, M.M., Beentje, H.J., de Kruif, A.P.M., Plaizier, A.C. & Zwetsloot, H.J.C., 1985. Apocynaceae. In: Launert, E. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 7, part 2. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, London, United Kingdom. pp. 395–503.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 1996. African ethnobotany: poisons and drugs. Chapman & Hall, London, United Kingdom. 941 pp.
  • Plaizier, A.C., 1980. A revision of Adenium Roem. & Schult. and of Diplorhynchus Welw. ex Fic. and Hiern (Apocynaceae). Mededelingen Landbouwhogeschool Wageningen 80–12. Wageningen, Netherlands. 40 pp.
  • Rowley, G.D., 1983. The Adenium and Pachypodium handbook. Smart & Co. Ltd., Brackley, United Kingdom. 95 pp.

Other references

  • Dimmitt, M.A. & Hanson, C., 1991. The genus Adenium in cultivation. Part 1: A. obesum and A. multiflorum. Cactus and Succulent Journal 63: 223–225.
  • Hargreaves, R., 2002. How many species of Adenium are there? Asklepios 85: 4–6.
  • van Wyk, B.E., van Heerden, F. & van Oudtshoorn, B., 2002. Poisonous plants of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 288 pp.

Author(s)

  • L.P.A. Oyen, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Oyen, L.P.A., 2006. Adenium multiflorum Klotzsch. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 8 December 2017.