Argomuellera macrophylla (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Argomuellera macrophylla Pax

Protologue: Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 19: 90 (1894).
Family: Euphorbiaceae

Origin and geographic distribution

Argomuellera macrophylla occurs from Guinea east to Ethiopia and south throughout Central Africa to Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.


In Côte d’Ivoire the leaf sap is taken as a purgative and emetic in the treatment of poisoning and ascites. Powdered dried leaves are sometimes taken as an aphrodisiac. In Kenya the honey from the flowers is considered to be poisonous, causing joint problems.


Monoecious, unbranched shrub or small tree up to 4(–9) m tall; young twigs densely short-hairy. Leaves alternate, crowded at twig ends, simple; stipules linear to lanceolate, 3–4 (–15) mm long, rough hairy; petiole up to 1.5 cm long, densely hairy; blade elliptical-oblanceolate to oblong-elliptical, (10–)25–40 cm × 5–12 cm, base cuneate, apex acuminate, margins toothed, leathery, sparingly short-hairy above, densely hairy beneath, later often glabrescent, pinnately veined with 20–25(–30) pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary raceme up to 25 cm long, with flowers in interrupted clusters, usually each cluster consisting of 1 female and several male flowers; axis densely hairy; bracts triangular-ovate, c. 2 mm long, short-hairy. Flowers unisexual, sweet–scented; pedicel (3–)5–6 mm long; petals absent; male flowers with 2–4, ovate to lanceolate sepals, 4–5 mm long, hairy outside, greenish to white, disk glands numerous, bright orange, stamens 30–120, free, 5–7 mm long; female flowers with 5–9, triangular-ovate sepals 3–4 mm long, hairy outside, disk annular, ovary superior, c. 2 mm in diameter, slightly 3-lobed, 3-celled, densely hairy, styles 3, c. 3 mm long, recurved, stout, fused at base, yellow. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule c. 7 mm × 13 mm, smooth, evenly short-hairy, green, 3-seeded. Seeds nearly globose, c. 5 mm × 4 mm, smooth, brown-marbled.

Other botanical information

Argomuellera comprises 11 species, 5 of which occur in continental tropical Africa and 6 in Madagascar and the Comoros. Argomuellera macrophylla is the only species with a wide distribution area.


Argomuellera macrophylla occurs in the forest undergrowth, in West Africa often in drier types of forest, in East Africa often in riverine forest and dry evergreen lakeshore forest up to 1300(–1850) m altitude.

Genetic resources

Argomuellera macrophylla has a very wide distribution in tropical Africa, and does not seem to be threatened by genetic erosion.


Argomuellera macrophylla has only few medicinal uses and nothing is known on its phytochemistry and pharmacology; it is therefore likely to remain of local importance only.

Major references

  • Burkill, H.M., 1994. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 2, Families E–I. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 636 pp.
  • Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1996. Euphorbiaceae, subfamilies Phyllantoideae, Oldfieldioideae, Acalyphoideae, Crotonoideae and Euphorbioideae, tribe Hippomaneae. In: Pope, G.V. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 1–337.

Other references

  • Ichikawa, M., 1987. A preliminary report on the ethnobotany of the Suiei Dorobo in northern Kenya. African Study Monographs, Supplement 7: 1–52.
  • Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1987. Euphorbiaceae (part 1). In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 407 pp.


  • G.H. Schmelzer, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Schmelzer, G.H., 2007. Argomuellera macrophylla Pax. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 7 March 2019.