Fatoua villosa (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Fatoua villosa (Thunb. ex Murray) Nakai

Protologue: Bot. Mag. Tokyo 41: 516 (1927).
Family: Moraceae
Chromosome number: n= 13


Fatoua pilosa Gaudich. (1826), Fatoua japonica (Thunb. ex Murray) Blume (1856).

Vernacular names

  • Indonesia: akar kuning (Malay, Timor), ranggitan (Javanese), utu guraci (Ternate)
  • Philippines: sikir (general), malbas-damo (Tagalog), sarungkar-a-babassit (Iloko)
  • Vietnam: dâu bích, duối cỏ.

Origin and geographic distribution

Fatoua comprises 2 species, one endemic to Madagascar, the other distributed from eastern Asia to Australia. F. villosa occurs from Japan and China to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Sulawesi, Java, the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Moluccas, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and northern Australia. It has escaped from cultivation and naturalized in the United States, where it is likely to become a weed.


In Indonesia, the ground yellow roots of F. villosa , known as "greges otot", used to be smeared on the legs of children with weak legs. In the Philippines, a decoction of the roots is given against fevers and is effective for swollen gums when used as a gargle. An infusion of the roots is prescribed for irregular menstruation and as a diuretic. In Taiwan, the chewed leaf is considered a remedy against stomach-ache. In Indo-China, the crushed and roasted roots are used to prepare a depurative medicine for women after childbirth.


The methanol root extract of F. villosa has been found to contain phototoxins that possess a UV-A light (@labda@ 320-380 nm) activated anti-microbial activity using Escherichia coli (ATCC 12407) as test organism. Subsequent high pressure liquid chromatography analysis revealed that the compound responsible was 5-methoxypsoralen (5-MOP or bergapten). 5-Methoxypsoralen belongs to the linear (or 6,7-) furanocoumarins, compounds which are known to have phototoxic activity. The isomeric angular (or 7,8-) furanocoumarins, however, appear to be inactive in this respect. Dermatosis may arise after plants containing linear furanocoumarins come into direct contact with the skin, if this is immediately followed by exposure to UV-A light, e.g. from the sun. The mechanism of photosensitization by linear furanocoumarins is based on interference with DNA base pairs. Energy provided by UV-A irradiation leads to the formation of additional products between the furanocoumarin and cytosine and thymine bases. This bridge-building inhibits the replication and transcription of DNA and, consequently, the synthesis of RNA and proteins and the occurrence of cell division.

Due to this mechanism of DNA synthesis inhibition, psoralens like 5- and 8-methoxypsoralen and the synthetical 4,5',8-trimethylpsoralen are used in therapy for the treatment of psoriasis. Psoriasis is a non-infectious skin disease, characterized by an abnormal production of the outermost layer of the skin, which forms scales and peels off, often in large amounts. Therapy might consist of application of psoralens orally or locally, followed by irradiation with UV-A light.


A monoecious, annual or perennial, ascending or erect, often half-woody herb up to 100 cm tall, without latex; stem with hooked hairs. Leaves alternate, simple, ovate to broadly ovate, 4-11 cm × 2-6 cm, cordate to cuneate at base, acute to acuminate at apex, margin dentate, hirsute, long-petioled; stipules free, lateral. Inflorescence an axillary, peduncled, bisexual, capitate cyme. Flowers unisexual, small, green, with valvate tepals; male flowers with 3-4 tepals, fused up to halfway, stamens 3-4, incurved in bud but exserted when mature, pistillode minute; female flowers sessile with 4 tepals, free or fused at base, ovary superior, 1-locular with a single ovule, style lateral, filiform. Fruit a warty, achene-like drupe, asymmetrically globular to ovoid, enclosed by the enlarged but not fleshy perianth. Seed with endosperm.

Growth and development

Female flowers of F. villosa predominate in inflorescences positioned in the lower and middle parts of the stem, male ones in those of the upper parts.

Other botanical information

Recently, some authors have recognized F. villosa and F. pilosa as distinct species, but it is doubtful whether this distinction is valid.


F. villosa occurs in dry thickets, grassy places, on walls, stony sites and cliffs at 0-1200 m altitude. It may form a carpet in light secondary forest.

Genetic resources and breeding

F. villosa is common in its area of distribution and is found in various anthropogenic habitats. The risk of genetic erosion appears to be limited, in view of its rather weedy nature.


The furanocoumarins present in the roots of F. villosa merit further research on its potential as a local or industrial source of psoralens for application in the treatment of psoriasis.


  • Backer, C.A. & Bakhuizen van den Brink Jr., R.C., 1965. Flora of Java. Vol. 2. Wolters-Noordhoff, Groningen, the Netherlands. p. 14.
  • Chew, W.-L., 1989. Moraceae. In: George, A.S. (Editor): Flora of Australia. Vol. 3. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, Australia. pp. 15-68.
  • Heyne, K., 1927. De nuttige planten van Nederlands-Indië [The useful plants of the Dutch East Indies]. 2nd edition. 3 volumes. Departement van Landbouw, Nijverheid en Handel in Nederlandsch-Indië. p. 546.
  • Liao, J.-C., 1996. Moraceae. In: Huang, T.-C. (Editor): Flora of Taiwan. 2nd edition. Vol. 2. Editorial Committee of the Flora of Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China. pp. 136-195.
  • Perry, L.M., 1980. Medicinal plants of East and Southeast Asia. Attributed properties and uses. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States & London, United Kingdom. p. 271.
  • Quisumbing, E., 1978. Medicinal plants of the Philippines. Katha Publishing Co., Quezon City, the Philippines. pp. 230-231.
  • Rohwer, J.G., 1993. Moraceae. In: Kubitzki, K., Rohwer, J.G. & Bittrich, V. (Editors): The families and genera of vascular plants. Volume II. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany. pp. 438-453.
  • Samuelsson, G. (Editor), 1992. Drugs of natural origin, a textbook of pharmacognosy. Swedish Pharmaceutical Press, Stockholm, Sweden. pp. 96-99.
  • Swain, L.A. & Downum, K.R., 1990. Light-activated toxins of the Moraceae. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 18: 153-156.
  • Yamazaki, T., 1982. The seed formation of Fatoua villosa (Moraceae). Journal of Japanese Botany 57: 358--365.

Other selected sources

190, 280, 478, 767, 1128.


M.S.M. Sosef & S.F.A.J. Horsten