Alafia lucida (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Alafia lucida Stapf

Protologue: Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1894: 122 (1894).
Family: Apocynaceae

Origin and geographic distribution

Alafia lucida occurs from Guinea east to Uganda and Tanzania, and south to northern Angola.


In Côte d’Ivoire an extract of the aerial parts is taken to treat jaundice and swollen glands, whereas in Gabon it is dripped into the eye to cure eye problems. A leaf decoction is used in Congo to wash sores and is taken orally to treat stomach complaints. To promote the healing of wounds, a paste made from bark and plant sap is applied as a dressing. The latex, coagulated with sap from Costus sp., is used as arrow poison.


The chemical constituents of Alafia lucida are not known, apart from the information that the seeds tested positive for alkaloids.


Large liana up to 45(–70) m long, with white latex; stem up to 18 cm in diameter; branches dark brown or pale grey, rough, deeply longitudinally fissured, glabrous. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules in axil of petiole; petiole 2–6 mm long; blade elliptical to obovate, 4.5–15 cm × 2–7 cm, base cuneate, apex rounded or shortly acuminate, leathery, glabrous. Inflorescence a rather lax terminal, occasionally axillary dichasial cyme, many-flowered; peduncle 5–25 mm long; bracts sepal-like, persistent. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, sweet-scented; pedicel 4–7 mm long; sepals free, ovate to broadly ovate, 1–2 mm long, obtuse or rounded; corolla yellow or cream with a dark red throat, tube 4–7 mm long, 1–2 mm wide at base, slightly widening at or just below the middle, glabrous or hairy in longitudinal stripes outside, inside with hairy belt below insertion of stamens, lobes elliptical, 6–10 mm long, apex bluntly truncate, slightly toothed, hairy on the part covered in the bud; stamens inserted 1.5–5.5 mm from the base of the corolla tube, just included or exserted, anthers sessile, arrowhead-shaped; ovary superior, ovoid to globose, consisting of 2 separate carpels, style narrowly obconical, c. 2 mm long, pistil head consisting of a basal ring, cylindrical part and 2-lobed stigmoid apex. Fruit consisting of 2 separate, cylindrical, linear follicles 24–75 cm × 0.5–1.5 cm, dehiscent, dark brown, striate, glabrous, many-seeded. Seeds narrowly ellipsoid, c. 23 mm × 2 mm × 1 mm, with longitudinal ridges, at the top with a tuft of hairs c. 3 cm long.

Other botanical information

Alafia comprises 23 species, 15 of which occur in continental Africa and 8 in Madagascar.

Alafia caudata

Alafia caudata Stapf is also medicinally used in Gabon. It occurs from Gabon east to Kenya and south to Mozambique and Angola. In Gabon bark scrapings along with the fruit of Capsicum annuum L. are rubbed on the skin to treat kidney pain.

Alafia perrieri

Alafia perrieri Jum. is endemic to Madagascar and has similar uses as Alafia lucida. A decoction of the bark is taken to treat jaundice, measles and fever attacks. The latex of Alafia perrieri and three other endemic species in Madagascar, Alafia fuscata Pichon, Alafia pauciflora Radlk. and Alafia thouarsii Roem. & Schult., contain saponins and are used as a substitute for soap. The fibre of the stems of these last three species is used as binding material for roofs.


Alafia lucida occurs in primary and secondary rainforest up to 2000 m altitude.

Genetic resources

Alafia lucida is widespread and there are no indications that it is threatened by genetic erosion.


As there are no published data on the chemical compounds or pharmacological effects of Alafia lucida it will probably remain of local importance only.

Major references

  • 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.
  • Bouquet, A. & Debray, M., 1974. Plantes médicinales de la Côte d’Ivoire. Travaux et Documents No 32. ORSTOM, Paris, France. 231 pp.
  • 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.

Other references

  • Abisch, E. & Reichstein, T., 1960. Orientierende chemische Untersuchung einiger Apocynaceen. Helvetica Chimica Acta 43(6): 1844–1861.
  • Boiteau, P., Boiteau, M. & Allorge-Boiteau, L., 1999. Dictionnaire des noms malgaches de végétaux. 4 Volumes + Index des noms scientifiques avec leurs équivalents malgaches. Editions Alzieu, Grenoble, France.
  • Dalziel, J.M., 1937. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 612 pp.
  • Markgraf, F., 1976. Apocynaceae. Flore de Madagascar et des Comores, famille 169. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 318 pp.
  • Raponda-Walker, A. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon. Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.


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

Correct citation of this article

de Ruijter, A., 2006. Alafia lucida Stapf. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 12 April 2019.