Albertisia cordifolia (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Albertisia cordifolia (Mangenot & J.Miège) Forman

Protologue: Kew Bull. 30(1): 83 (1975).
Family: Menispermaceae


  • Epinetrum cordifolium Mangenot & J.Miège (1951).

Origin and geographic distribution

Albertisia cordifolia is endemic to the south-eastern coastal region of Côte d’Ivoire, where it occurs in a small area near Abidjan.


In Côte d’Ivoire the root of Albertisia cordifolia is used to treat anaemia and oedema of the legs. Root pulp with some water is used as nose drops and administered as a sedative to agitated people, complementing treatment with the root of Rauvolfia vomitoria Afzel. Root pulp is inserted into the vagina to treat uterus complaints and applied externally as a haemostatic. Men suffering from gonorrhoea take an enema of root pulp. A root maceration is taken as an enema or in draught as aphrodisiac and stimulant.


The roots of Albertisia cordifolia contain the bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids cycleanine, isochondrodendrine and norcycleanine. Cycleanine is a neuromuscular stimulant in small doses and paralyses at high doses.

Albertisia cordifolia is considered poisonous to sheep.


Dioecious scandent shrub or liana up to 15 m long; young branches yellowish hairy, old branches with greyish or brownish glabrous bark. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 3–12 cm long, thickened at both ends, white-hairy; blade ovate to elliptical, 8–25 cm × 5–17 cm, base cordate, apex acute or shortly acuminate, papery to thinly leathery, glabrous except for the veins, pinnately veined but with 5–7 basal veins. Inflorescence an axillary few-flowered cyme; male inflorescence 2–5-flowered, with peduncle up to 1.5 cm long, female inflorescence 1–2-flowered with peduncle up to 2 mm long. Flowers unisexual, regular, pedicel 2–4 mm long; sepals 9 in 3 whorls, greyish hairy outside, glabrous and blackish inside, 3 outer sepals triangular, c. 1 mm long, next 3 sepals triangular-ovate, 2–4 mm long, 3 inner ones elliptical-oblong, 6–9 mm long, yellowish; petals 6, kidney-shaped, c. 0.5 mm long; male flowers with c. 20 stamens fused into a staminal column 2–2.5 mm long, anthers fused into a conical head c. 2 mm long; female flowers with superior ovary consisting of 6 silky hairy carpels. Fruit composed of 4–6 sessile drupes, each drupe ovoid to nearly globose, 2–3.5 cm × 2–2.5 cm, short-hairy, orange, 1-seeded. Seed ovoid to broadly ellipsoid, 2–3 cm × 2–2.5 cm. Seedling with hypogeal germination; epicotyl 4–7 cm long; cotyledons remaining within the fruit-stone.

Albertisia cordifolia flowers from April to June and fruits ripen about 2 months later. The seeds are probably dispersed by animals that feed on the fruit.

Other botanical information

Albertisia comprises 18 species, 13 in Africa and 5 in tropical Asia. Other species occurring in Côte d’Ivoire are Albertisia mangenotii (Guillaumet & Debray) Forman in the south-western part of the country and Albertisia scandens (Mangenot & J.Miège) Forman in southern Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Leaf sap of both species is applied to treat toothache, and leaf sap of Albertisia scandens is also applied to skin affections.


Albertisia cordifolia occurs in secondary formations inside dense humid forest at low altitude.


Albertisia cordifolia roots are only collected from the wild.

Genetic resources

The area of distribution of Albertisia cordifolia is small with an estimated width of 13 km and its habitat is shrinking which may bring it in danger of extinction.


Albertisia cordifolia will probably remain locally important as a medicinal plant.

Major references

  • Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
  • de Koning, J., 1983. La forêt de Banco. Part 2: La Flore. Mededelingen Landbouwhogeschool Wageningen 83–1. Wageningen, Netherlands. 921 pp.
  • Holmgren, M., Poorter, L., Siepel, A., Bongers, F., Buitelaar, M., Chatelain, C., Gautier, L., Hawthorne, W.D., Helmink, A.T.F., Jongkind, C.C.H., Os-Breijer, H.J., Wieringa, J.J. & van Zoest, A.R., 2004. Ecological profiles of rare and endemic species. In: Poorter, L., Bongers, F., Kouamé, F.N’. & Hawthorne, W.D. (Editors). Biodiversity of West African forests. An ecological atlas of woody plant species. CAB International, Wallingford, United Kingdom. pp. 101–389.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Troupin, G., 1962. Monographie des Menispermaceae africaines. Mémoires in-8. Académie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer, Classe des Sciences Naturelles et Médicales, Nouvelle série 8(2), Brussels, Belgium. 313 pp.

Other references

  • Bouquet, A. & Debray, M., 1974. Plantes médicinales de la Côte d’Ivoire. Travaux et Documents No 32. ORSTOM, Paris, France. 231 pp.
  • Debray, M., 1966. Contribution a l’étude du genre Epinetrum (Ménispermacées) E. cordifolium Mangenot et Miège et E. mangenotii Guillaumet et Debray de Cote d’Ivoire. Mémoires No 18, ORST0M, Paris, France. 74 pp.
  • Debray, M., Plat, M. & Le Men, J., 1966. Alcaloides des Menispermacees africaines Epinetrum cordifolium et Epinetrum mangenotii: isolement de la cycleanine, de la nor-cycleanine et de l’isochondrodendrine. Annales Pharmaceutiques Françaises 24(7–8): 551–558.
  • Forman, L.L., 1975. The Menispermaceae of Malesia and adjacent areas. Part 3, the tribe Triclisieae in Asia, the Pacific and Australia. Kew Bulletin 30(1): 77–100.
  • Hawthorne, W. & Jongkind, C., 2006. Woody plants of western African forests: a guide to the forest trees, shrubs and lianes from Senegal to Ghana. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 1023 pp.
  • Oliver-Bever, B., 1986. Medicinal plants in tropical West Africa. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. 375 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., 2008. Albertisia cordifolia (Mangenot & J.Miège) Forman. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 7 February 2019.