Fibraurea tinctoria (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Fibraurea tinctoria Lour.

Protologue: Fl. Cochinch. 2: 626 (1790).
Family: Menispermaceae
Chromosome number: 2n= unknown


  • Fibraurea chloroleuca Miers (1871),
  • Fibraurea trotteri Watt ex Diels (1910).

Vernacular names

  • Indonesia: areuy gember (Sundanese), peron (Javanese), akar mangkedun (Bangka)
  • Malaysia: sekunyit (Johore), akar kunyit (Iban, Sarawak), war birar (Murut, Sarawak)
  • Thailand: kam-phaeng chetchan (central), kamin krua, kumin kua (peninsular)
  • Vietnam: hoàng dặng, nam hoàng nhuôm. (diacritics to be checked)

Origin and geographic distribution

F. tinctoria is widespread from north-eastern India and the Nicobar Islands, through Burma (Tenasserim), Thailand and Indo-China (Vietnam), east to southern China, and south to western and central Malesia. In Malesia it is found in Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak, Sabah), Brunei, Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, north-eastern Sulawesi) and the Philippines (Dinagat Island, north of Mindanao).


The stem provides a yellow dye, which is locally used. In Kalimantan, it is used to dye mattings made from rattan and Curculigo species. The dye is also used for colouring cloth in India and Indo-China, and formerly in Malaysia. The yellow dye is sometimes mixed with indigo to prepare a green dye.

F. tinctoria has several medicinal properties. A decoction of roots and stems is employed to treat dysentery, diabetes and eye diseases in Java, and as a stomach medicine in Sarawak.


The dye has been reported as being fairly permanent. The major alkaloid present in roots and stems is palmatine, a quaternary protoberbine derivate. Other alkaloids found include jatrorrhizine, colombamine and magnoflorine. The bitter substances of the columbin type fibraurin, chasmanthin and fibleucin have been isolated from bark and wood.

The plant has diuretic, analgesic and sedative activity.

The stems contain much water in the vessels as is common with climbers. The stem contains latex, the root a yellowish juice. The wood is bright yellow.


  • A large woody, dioecious, entirely glabrous climber, up to 40 m long and with stem diameter up to 5 cm; root spongy and flexile; young shoot-tips tendrilliform; bark of older stems greyish-buff, coarsely and irregularly striate.
  • Leaves spirally arranged, thinly coriaceous, simple and entire, exstipulate, elliptic to ovate, 10-20(-28) cm × (3.5-)5-14 cm, rounded, sometimes subpeltate at base, acuminate at apex, 3(-5)-nerved; petiole (2-)4-13 cm long, often drying blackish at least at the swollen base.
  • Flowers in axillary or ramiflorous lax panicles, with 6 whitish or yellowish inner sepals 2.5-4 mm long, and 2-3 minute outer ones, petals lacking; male flowers sweetly scented, with 6 stamens having very thick columnar filaments; female flowers with 3 ellipsoidal carpels and 6 rudimentary stamens.
  • Fruit composed of up to 3 yellow or orange drupes borne on a small knob-like carpophore.

The genus Fibraurea Lour. consists of 2 species: F. tinctoria and F. recisa Pierre. F. recisa differs from F. tinctoria in having only 3 stamens and a thinner endocarp. It is confined to Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China. The species have sometimes been confused in the literature. However, they are used for the same purposes. Possible confusion of F. tinctoria with Arcangelisia flava (L.) Merr. has also been reported.


F. tinctoria is usually found in lowland forest, primary as well as secondary or disturbed, up to 1200 m altitude. It is locally common, for instance in dry evergreen forest in Thailand, and in peat swamp forest in Sarawak. This species also occurs in bamboo forest and scrubby vegetations, along river banks and in logged forest. It grows on various soils: sandy loam, clayey soil, ultrabasic soil, sandstone and stony blackish soil.


For the preparation of a dye-bath, stems are collected, and the wood is cut into small pieces. Slices of the stems are also sold in pharmacies for medicinal purposes.


This species is another example of a dye-producing plant which has completely lost its importance. Although F. tinctoria was formerly used for dyeing in many places in its large area of distribution, it is now probably almost exclusively used in traditional medicine.


  • Bisset, N.G., 1985. Phytochemistry. Kew Bulletin 40(3): 540-541.
  • Forman, L.L., 1985. A revision of tribe Fibraureae (Menispermaceae) in Asia. The Menispermaceae of Malesia and adjacent areas 13. Kew Bulletin 40(3): 539-551.
  • Forman, L.L., 1986. Menispermaceae. In: van Steenis, C.G.G.J. (Editor): Flora Malesiana, Series 1. Vol. 10(2). pp. 207-209, fig. 9(a-h).
  • Siwon, J., Thijs, C., Verpoorte, R. & Baerheim Svendsen, A., 1978. Studies on Indonesian medicinal plants. The alkaloids of Fibraurea chloroleuca Miers. Pharmaceutisch Weekblad voor Nederland 113: 1153-1156.


R.H.M.J. Lemmens