Anthocleista liebrechtsiana (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Anthocleista liebrechtsiana De Wild. & T.Durand

Protologue: Bull. Soc. Roy. Bot. Belg. 38(2): 96 (1899).
Family: Loganiaceae (APG: Gentianaceae)
Chromosome number: 2n = 60

Vernacular names

  • Lesser forest fever tree (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Anthocleista liebrechtsiana occurs from Ghana east to the Central African Republic and south to Zambia and Namibia.


In Congo a stem bark decoction of Anthocleista liebrechtsiana is taken to treat hernia and a root decoction is taken to treat stomach-ache in women, ovarian problems, venereal diseases, hernia, bronchitis and fever and also to induce labour and as a purgative. Sap of young leaves, root powder and bark pulp are used to treat sores, abscesses, as a haemostatic and for cicatrization. Sap is applied topically to treat otitis or ophthalmia.


Anthocleista liebrechtsiana contains the secoiridoid glycoside swertiamarin (swertiamaroside), a compound used in Asian medicine. Patent applications have been submitted for its use in hair-growth products and hepatitis medicines.


Few-stemmed shrub or small tree up to 12 m tall; bole up to 30 cm in diameter; twigs without spines. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; petiole 1–9 cm long, auricled; blade very narrowly obovate to linear, 15–40 cm × 3–8 cm, in young plants up to 75 cm × 15 cm, base long-decurrent into the petiole, apex rounded. Inflorescence an erect terminal dichasial cyme 10–35 cm long, many-flowered. Flowers bisexual, regular; sepals 4, free, broadly ovate or orbicular, 4–8 mm long; corolla with narrowly cylindrical tube 22–34 mm long, contracted at base, greenish white, lobes 10–12, oblong-lanceolate, 10–18 mm long, apex obtuse, spreading, white; stamens as many as corolla lobes and alternating with them, exserted, filaments fused; ovary superior, obovoid, 5–7 mm × 3–4 mm, stigma obovoid-cylindrical, notched at apex. Fruit a globose to ovoid berry 1.5–2.5 cm × 1–2 cm, rounded at apex, thin-walled, green or pale yellow, many-seeded. Seeds obliquely ovoid, 1.5–2.5 mm × 1–1.5 mm, brown.

Other botanical information

Anthocleista comprises 14 species and occurs in tropical Africa, including Comoros and Madagascar.


Anthocleista liebrechtsiana occurs in open localities in swamps and periodically inundated forests from sea-level up to 400 m altitude.

Genetic resources

Anthocleista liebrechtsiana is widespread and not under pressure from genetic erosion, although it is uncommon in West Africa.


In view of the medicinal uses on record, the limited chemical and pharmacological data available and the many medicinal uses of other Anthocleista species, research into the properties of Anthocleista liebrechtsiana is recommended.

Major references

  • Burkill, H.M., 1995. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 3, Families J–L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 857 pp.
  • Jensen, S.R. & Schripsema, J., 2002. Chemotaxonomy and pharmacology of Gentianaceae. In: Struwe, L. & Albert, V. (Editors). Gentianaceae - Systematics and Natural History. Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom. pp. 573–631.
  • Leeuwenberg, A.J.M., 1961. The Loganiaceae of Africa. 1. Anthocleista. Acta Botanica Neerlandica 10: 1–53.
  • Leeuwenberg, A.J.M., 1983. Loganiaceae. In: Launert, E. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 7, part 1. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, London, United Kingdom. pp. 327–374.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.

Other 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.
  • Kanemura, K., 2006. [Hair growth stimulants comprising natural products.] In Japanese. Japan Kokai Tokkyo Koho. 3 pp.
  • Keay, R.W.J., 1989. Trees of Nigeria. A revised version of Nigerian trees (1960, 1964) by R.W.J. Keay, C.F.A. Onochie and D.P. Stanfield. Clarendon Press, Oxford, United Kingdom. 476 pp.
  • Leeuwenberg, A.J.M. (Editor), 1980. Angiospermae: Ordnung Gentiales. Fam. Loganiaceae. Die natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien. Second Edition. Band 28 b-1. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, Germany. 255 pp.
  • Tchouto, M.G.P., 2004. Plant diversity in a Central African rain forest: implications for biodiversity conservation in Cameroon. Tropenbos Cameroon Series 7, Tropenbos International, Wageningen, Netherlands. 208 pp.
  • Zhang, L.-L., 2005. [Method for manufacturing swertiamarin soft capsule for treating hepatitis.] In Chinese. Faming Zhuanli Shenqing Gongkai Shuomingshu. 8 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., 2007. Anthocleista liebrechtsiana De Wild. & T.Durand. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 9 October 2019.