Chrozophora plicata (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
Introduction
List of species


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Chrozophora plicata (Vahl) A.Juss. ex Spreng.


Protologue: Syst. veg. 3: 850 (1826).
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 22

Synonyms

  • Chrozophora rottleri (Geiseler) A.Juss. ex Spreng. (1826).

Origin and geographic distribution

Chrozophora plicata occurs from Senegal east to Somalia and south throughout East Africa to northern South Africa. It also occurs from Egypt and Saudi Arabia east to tropical Asia.

Uses

In Sudan pounded stems or whole plants are applied to wounds to improve healing. In Ethiopia an infusion of the seeds and leaves is taken as a laxative. The plant is also used medicinally in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India, e.g. against jaundice and to purify blood.

In Senegal the plant is not browsed by most stock, except occasionally by sheep and goats, as it causes vomiting and diarrhoea. In Kenya camels graze it. The fruits yield a purplish blue dye, which is used in East Africa to dye mats.

Properties

The fresh shoots of Chrozophora plicata force-fed to Nubian goats and desert sheep caused all animals to die, and the main signs of poisoning were salivation, dyspnoea, bloat, loss of appetite, dullness, diarrhoea, paralysis of the hind limbs and lateral deviation of the head and neck. The main lesions were haemorrhage in the lungs, heart and kidneys, pulmonary cyanosis and oedema, and serious atrophy of the cardiac fat and renal pelvis. Hematological changes indicated the development of anaemia.

The seed oil resembles cotton-seed oil in its proportions of linoleic, oleic and saturated acids. The total linolenic and linoleic acid content varied from 60–75%. No chemical analyses have been effected on the aerial parts of Chrozophora plicata, but from the aerial parts of the related Chrozophora tinctoria (L.) Raf. (synonym: Chrozophora obliqua (Vahl) A.Juss. ex Spreng.) occurring from north-western India to the Mediterranean, several toxic dolabellane diterpene glucosides, dolabellane diterpenoids and phenylpropanoid glucosides have been isolated. Although rats fed 10% leaves in their diet had a low growth rate, bouts of soft faeces, lesions of internal organs and alterations in blood and urea, no death occurred among the rats.

Description

Monoecious, annual to perennial herb up to 50 cm tall; stem angular, much-branched from the base, densely hairy with stellate hairs, yellowish or pinkish. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules small; petiole 1–4(–7) cm long; blade broadly ovate to rhombic-ovate, 1.5–7 cm × 1–5.5 cm, base cuneate to shallowly cordate with 2 purple glands, apex rounded to obtuse, margins entire or shallowly toothed, densely hairy with stellate hairs, 3–5-veined at base. Inflorescence a condensed axillary raceme 1.5–4 cm long, with male flowers at the top and female flowers at base; bracts small. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous; calyx with stellate hairs; male flowers with short pedicel, calyx with lanceolate lobes c. 3 mm long, petals elliptical-oblong, c. 3 mm long, yellowish orange or pinkish, stamens 15, filaments fused into a column; female flowers with long pedicel, extending up to 2(–3) cm in fruit, sepals linear-lanceolate, 1.5–2 mm long, petals minute or absent, ovary superior, 3-celled, densely short-hairy, styles 3, 1.5–2 mm long, fused at base, deeply 2-fid, red. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule 4–5 mm × 7–9 mm, densely stellate-hairy, reddish or bluish purple when ripe, 3-seeded. Seeds ovoid, c. 3.5 mm long, smooth or minutely dotted, pale or dark brown to blackish.

Other botanical information

Chrozophora comprises 7–8 species and is distributed in Africa, southern Europe and Asia.

Chrozophora oblongifolia

Another Chrozophora species with medicinal use in Africa is Chrozophora oblongifolia (Delile) A.Juss. ex Spreng., occurring in north-eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Pakistan. In Sudan a stem or leaf extract is taken to treat gonorrhoea. The chloroform and methanol extracts show considerable antibacterial activities.

Ecology

Chrozophora plicata occurs on flood plains of rivers, along drainage channels, usually in damp or desiccating black clay soils and alluvial soils, on mudflats and sandbanks, up to 1200 m altitude. It is also a weed of arable land.

Genetic resources

Chrozophora plicata has a wide distribution and is relatively common. The species is therefore not threatened by genetic erosion.

Prospects

Chrozophora plicata has few medicinal uses, and is poisonous to livestock. It will therefore 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.
  • Farouk, A., Bashir, A.K. & Salih, A.K.M., 1983. Antimicrobial activity of certain Sudanese plants used in folkloric medicine. Screening for antibacterial activity. 1. Fitoterapia 54(1): 3–7.
  • Galal, M. & Adam, S., 1988. Experimental Chrozophora plicata poisoning in goats and sheep. Veterinary and Human Toxicology 30(5): 447–452.
  • Jansen, P.C.M., 1981. Spices, condiments and medicinal plants in Ethiopia, their taxonomy and agricultural significance. Agricultural Research Reports 906. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands. 327 pp.
  • Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1987. Euphorbiaceae (part 1). In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 407 pp.

Other references

  • Adam, S.E.I., Al-Redhaiman, K.N. & Al-Qarawi, A.A., 1999. Toxicity of Chrozophora obliqua. Phytotherapy Research 13: 630–632.
  • Barker, C., Dunn, H.C. & Hilditch, T.P., 1950. African drying oils. V. Some Nigerian and Sudanese drying oils. Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry, London, Transactions and Communications 69: 71–75.
  • Govaerts, R., Frodin, D.G. & Radcliffe-Smith, A., 2000. World checklist and bibliography of Euphorbiaceae (with Pandaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 1620 pp.
  • Hasan, S.Q., Ahmad, I., Sherwani, M.R.K., Ansari, A.A. & Osman, S.M., 1980. Studies on herbaceous seed oils. X. Fette, Seifen, Anstrichmittel 82(5): 204–205.
  • Mahmoud, M.A., Khidir, M.O., Khalifa, M.A., Bashir el Amadi, A.M., Musnad, H.A.R. & Mohamed, E.T.I., 1995. Sudan: Country Report to the FAO International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources (Leipzig 1996). Khartoum, Sudan. 86 pp.
  • Mohamed, K.M., 2001. Phenylpropanoid glucosides from Chrozophora obliqua. Phytochemistry 58(4): 615–618.
  • 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.

Author(s)

  • 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. Chrozophora plicata (Vahl) A.Juss. ex Spreng. 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 2021.