Brachylaena ramiflora (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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distribution in Africa (wild)
1, part of branch with male flowering heads; 2, male flowering head; 3, branch with female flowering heads; 4, female flowering head; 5, fruit without pappus. Redrawn and adapted by Achmad Satiri Nurhaman

Brachylaena ramiflora (DC.) Humbert


Protologue: Mém. Soc. Linn. Normandie 25: 54 (1923).
Family: Asteraceae (Compositae)

Origin and geographic distribution

Brachylaena ramiflora occurs in Comoros and in eastern and central Madagascar.

Uses

The wood, known in Madagascar as ‘hazotokana’ and in Comoros as ‘m’gou’, is mainly used for poles in house construction, piles for bridges, exterior carpentry, railway sleepers, fence posts, axles of carts, mortars and handles. It is suitable for ship building, vehicle bodies, sporting goods and musical instruments. It can be used for flooring, carving and turnery, but its tendency to splitting and the high shrinkage rates make it less suitable for these purposes. In Comoros the wood is used for carpentry and furniture.

In traditional medicine, decoctions of leaves and sometimes bark are applied against malaria, stomach-ache, blennorrhoea, constipation and other intestinal complaints, arterial diseases, coughs and colds, as vermifuge, and in mixtures with other plants to treat diabetes. Leaf decoctions are considered to have stimulant and aphrodisiac properties. The wood is used in the treatment of epilepsy.

Production and international trade

Brachylaena ramiflora wood is used locally in Comoros and Madagascar and rarely traded on the international timber market.

Properties

The heartwood is golden-yellow to pale greenish brown, darkening upon exposure to yellowish brown, and distinctly demarcated from the 4–6 cm wide, whitish sapwood. The grain is straight to interlocked, texture fine and even.

The wood is heavy with a density of 890–1060 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. In small dimensions it air dries fairly rapidly and with little degrade. Boards of 2.5 cm thick take 3–4 months to air dry to 25% moisture content; boards of 4 cm thick take 10–11 months. Logs and quarter-sawn logs may split during drying. The rates of shrinkage are high, from green to oven dry 5.2–7.7% radial and 7.3–11.3% tangential. Once dry, the wood often shows considerable movement in service.

The wood is hard but somewhat brittle and fissile. At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 110–189(–245) N/mm², modulus of elasticity 14,500–18,630 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 70–95 N/mm², shear 5.5–10.5 N/mm², cleavage 13–20 N/mm and Chalais-Meudon side hardness 6.0–11.5.

The wood is difficult to saw and work; considerable power is needed, but the wood has only moderate blunting effect on cutting edges and saw teeth. A 10–15° cutting angle is recommended in planing operations. The wood takes a fine polish and smooth surface, and the use of a filler is unnecessary. Pre-boring is needed for screwing and nailing is difficult because the wood splits easily. It has appropriate waxing and varnishing properties, but is difficult to glue and paint. The wood is very durable with an expected outdoor service life of 25–50 years. It is highly resistant to all insect and fungal attacks. The heartwood is extremely resistant to impregnation with preservatives.

Leaf extracts showed pronounced in-vitro activity against Plasmodium falciparum. Onopordopicrine 3 has been isolated as active compound. This compound also showed cytotoxic, antibacterial and antifungal activities. An ethanol extract also showed anti-ulcer activity. In tests the extracts were not distinctly toxic.

Several triterpenoids and 2 triterpene esters have been isolated from small twigs. All these compounds showed weak cytotoxicity against human ovarian cancer cell lines.

Description

  • Semi-deciduous, dioecious, small to medium-sized tree up to 20 m tall; bole branchless for up to 10 m, up to 60(–140) cm in diameter, without buttresses; bark surface deeply longitudinally fissured, corky, pale grey, inner bark thin, brown; young twigs densely greyish short-hairy.
  • Leaves arranged spirally, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 0.5–3 cm long; blade elliptical to ovate or obovate, 3–20 cm × 2–7 cm, cuneate to rounded at base, short-acuminate to rounded or acute at apex, papery to slightly leathery, glabrous above, more or less whitish to greyish or yellowish short-hairy and glandular below, pinnately veined with 5–11 pairs of lateral veins.
  • Inflorescence an obconical head 5–12 mm long, 14–28-flowered, usually clustered in axils of fallen leaves; involucral bracts in several series, glabrous to short-hairy, green.
  • Florets unisexual, 5-merous; corolla whitish yellow to greenish yellow, with cylindrical tube; male florets with recurved corolla lobes up to 2.5 mm long, exserted stamens having fused whitish anthers, and rudimentary ovary; female flowers with corolla lobes up to 0.5 mm long, inferior ovary and long slender style 2-branched at apex.
  • Fruit a cylindrical achene 1.5–2.5 mm long, glandular, crowned by pappus of numerous bristles 3–8.5 mm long, 1-seeded.

Other botanical information

Three varieties have been distinguished in Brachylaena ramiflora: var. ramiflora which is widely distributed above 500 m altitude in Madagascar, var. bernieri (Baill.) Humbert which is characterized by slightly larger female flowers and occurs in humid forest below 200 m altitude in eastern Madagascar, and var. comorensis Humbert which is characterized by leaves narrowing into a comparatively long apex and is restricted to humid forest in Comoros.

Brachylaena comprises about 11 species and occurs in eastern and southern mainland Africa and in Madagascar. Madagascar has 5 species, all endemic except Brachylaena ramiflora that is also found in Comoros. The wood of some other Brachylaena spp. is used for similar purposes as that of Brachylaena ramiflora.

Brachylaena merana

Brachylaena merana (Baker) Humbert is a small to medium-sized tree up to 25(–40) m tall with bole up to 60(–100) cm in diameter, occurring widely in Madagascar in rainforest as well as deciduous and riverine forest up to 2000 m altitude. The wood is valued for construction, carpentry and railway sleepers. It has been used for traditional tombs. Leaf decoctions are used in traditional medicine to treat pulmonary and stomach complaints, as a tonic, and to stimulate the appetite.

Brachylaena microphylla

Brachylaena microphylla Humbert is a small tree up to 12 m tall with bole up to 35 cm in diameter, occurring in southern Madagascar in dry forest and bushland up to 1600 m altitude. The wood is sometimes used for construction. It has been exported to India as a substitute of sandalwood (from Santalum album L.) for use in ritual cremation ceremonies.

Brachylaena perrieri

Brachylaena perrieri (Drake) Humbert is a small tree up to 10 m tall with bole up to 30 cm in diameter, occurring in western and central Madagascar in deciduous forest up to 1000 m altitude. The wood is used for fence posts. Leaf decoctions are used in traditional medicine to treat liver complaints, as a tonic, and to stimulate the appetite.

Brachylaena stellulifera

Brachylaena stellulifera Humbert is a small tree up to 15 m tall with bole up to 30 cm in diameter, occurring in western Madagascar in deciduous forest. It has no documented uses.

Anatomy

Wood-anatomical description (IAWA hardwood codes):

  • Growth rings: 2: growth ring boundaries indistinct or absent.
  • Vessels: 5: wood diffuse-porous; 13: simple perforation plates; 22: intervessel pits alternate; (23: shape of alternate pits polygonal); 24: intervessel pits minute ( 4 μm); 30: vessel-ray pits with distinct borders; similar to intervessel pits in size and shape throughout the ray cell; (36: helical thickenings in vessel elements present); (37: helical thickenings throughout body of vessel element); 41: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 50–100 μm; (42: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 100–200 μm); 49: 40–100 vessels per square millimetre; 58: gums and other deposits in heartwood vessels.
  • Tracheids and fibres: 61: fibres with simple to minutely bordered pits; 66: non-septate fibres present; 70: fibres very thick-walled.
  • Axial parenchyma: 76: axial parenchyma diffuse; 78: axial parenchyma scanty paratracheal; 79: axial parenchyma vasicentric; (80: axial parenchyma aliform); (82: axial parenchyma winged-aliform); 83: axial parenchyma confluent; 85: axial parenchyma bands more than three cells wide; 90: fusiform parenchyma cells; 91: two cells per parenchyma strand; 92: four (3–4) cells per parenchyma strand.
  • Rays: 97: ray width 1–3 cells; 104: all ray cells procumbent; (106: body ray cells procumbent with one row of upright and/or square marginal cells); 115: 4–12 rays per mm.
  • Storied structure: 118: all rays storied; 120: axial parenchyma and/or vessel elements storied; 122: rays and/or axial elements irregularly storied.
(E. Ebanyenle, P.E. Gasson & E.A. Wheeler)

Growth and development

Leaves usually fall towards the end of the dry season or beginning of the rainy season, at the same time when new leaves develop. Flowering heads start developing at the end of the rainy season in May–June. Usually they open in September–October. Bees and flies probably visit the male flower heads for the pollen and may serve as pollinators when they visit trees with female flowers, which do not produce pollen but are visually similar. Fruit development after flowering is very rapid. The fruits with their pappus hairs are dispersed by wind.

Ecology

Brachylaena ramiflora usually occurs in rainforest up to 2000 m altitude. It may persist as isolated individuals in secondary vegetation because its corky bark gives it some resistance to fire and because after cutting coppice shoots may develop.

Management

In general, larger trees of Brachylaena ramiflora occur scattered in the forest. In the 1950s, an average of 2–3 exploitable trees per ha were recorded in forests in Madagascar.

Harvesting

Traditionally, felling of trees to be used for construction purposes is done before the flowering season.

Yield

Usually a tree produces only about 1 m³ of usable wood.

Handling after harvest

The wood is immersed in water for a period of about one year before it is traditionally used for cart axles.

Genetic resources

There are no indications that Brachylaena ramiflora is threatened at present, although with the ongoing forest destruction in many regions in Madagascar and its selective exploitation it may become endangered in the near future. Evaluation of the present status of the species is needed.

Prospects

Brachylaena ramiflora is a locally valued source of durable wood for construction. Under natural conditions, growth is probably slow as is the case in other Brachylaena spp., and this is a serious limitation for sustainable exploitation of natural populations. No information is available on planted trees, but research is recommended because growth rates may be more acceptable under favourable conditions and with appropriate management.

The preliminary results of pharmacological investigations are promising and warrant further research as a basis for drug development.

Major references

  • Beentje, H.J., 2000. The genus Brachylaena (Compositae: Mutisieae). Kew Bulletin 55(1): 1–41.
  • CTFT (Centre Technique Forestier Tropical), 1955. Hazotokana. I. - Fiche botanique et forestière. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques 40: 13–16.
  • Guéneau, P., Bedel, J. & Thiel, J., 1970–1975. Bois et essences malgaches. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 150 pp.
  • Parant, B., Chichignoud, M. & Rakotovao, G., 1985. Présentation graphique des caractères des principaux bois tropicaux. Tome 5. Bois de Madagascar. CIRAD, Montpellier, France. 161 pp.
  • Rakotovao, G., Rabevohitra, R., Gerard, J., Détienne, P. & Collas de Chatelperron, P., en préparation. Atlas des bois de Madagascar. FOFIFA-DRFP, Antananarivo, Madagascar.
  • Sallenave, P., 1955. Propriétés physiques et mécaniques des bois tropicaux de l’Union française. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent sur Marne, France. 129 pp.
  • Sallenave, P., 1971. Propriétés physiques et mecaniques des bois tropicaux. Deuxième supplément. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 128 pp.
  • Widodo, S.H., 2001. Crescentia L. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 191–194.

Other references

  • Boiteau, P., 1986. Médecine traditionnelle et pharmacopée. Précis de matière médicale malgache. Agence de coopération culturelle et technique, Paris, France. 141 pp.
  • 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.
  • Chaturvedula, V.S., Schilling, J.K., Miller, J.S., Andriantsiferana, R., Rasamison, V.E. & Kingston, D.G., 2002. Two new triterpene esters from the twigs of Brachylaena ramiflora from the Madagascar rainforest. Journal of Natural Products 65(8): 1222–1224.
  • Debray, M., Jacquemin, H. & Razafindrambao, R., 1971. Contribution à l’inventaire des plantes médicinales de Madagascar. Travaux et Documents No 8. ORSTOM, Paris, France. 150 pp.
  • Humbert, H., 1962. Composées (Compositae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), famille 189, tome 2. Firmin-Didot et cie., Paris, France. pp. 339–622.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Rafidiarison, H.M., 2002. Contribution à l’étude d’une plante endémique de Brachylaena ramiflora. Mémoire de fin d’étude pour l’obtention du diplôme d’Ingénieur en Génie Chimique, Département Génie Chimique, Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique d’Antananarivo, Université d’Antananarivo, Madagascar. 118 pp.
  • Rakotoarizah, V.N., 2003. Essais d’isolement de principes actifs de Brachylaena ramiflora. Mémoire de fin d’étude en vue d’obtention du diplôme d’Ingénieur en Génie Chimique, Département Génie Chimique, Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique d’Antananarivo, Université d’Antananarivo, Madagascar. 57 pp.
  • Rasoanaivo, P., Ratsimamanga-Urverg, S., Ramanitrahasimbolo, D., Rafatro, H. & Rakoto-Ratsimamanga, A., 1999. Criblage d’extraits de plantes de Madagascar pour recherche d’activité antipaludique et d’effet potentialisateur de la chloroquine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 64: 117–126.
  • Sallenave, P., 1964. Propriétés physiques et mécaniques des bois tropicaux. Premier supplément. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 79 pp.
  • Schatz, G.E., 2001. Generic tree flora of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 477 pp.

Sources of illustration

  • Beentje, H.J., 2000. The genus Brachylaena (Compositae: Mutisieae). Kew Bulletin 55(1): 1–41.
  • Humbert, H., 1962. Composées (Compositae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), famille 189, tome 2. Firmin-Didot et cie., Paris, France. pp. 339–622.

Author(s)

  • S. Rakotonandrasana, Centre National d’Application des Recherches Pharmaceutiques, B.P. 702, 101 Antananarivo, Madagascar
  • V. Rasamison, Centre National d’Application des Recherches Pharmaceutiques, B.P. 702, 101 Antananarivo, Madagascar

Correct citation of this article

Rakotonandrasana, S. & Rasamison, V., 2010. Brachylaena ramiflora (DC.) Humbert. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Louppe, D. & Oteng-Amoako, A.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>.

Accessed 25 April 2019.