Haplophyllum tuberculatum (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Haplophyllum tuberculatum (Forssk.) A.Juss.

distribution in Africa (wild)
1, part of flowering plant; 2, part of stem with linear leaves. Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin
Protologue: Mém. Mus. Hist. Nat. 12: 528 (1825).
Family: Rutaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 18


  • Haplophyllum villosulum Boiss. & Hausskn. (1867).

Vernacular names

  • Plant of the mosquito (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Haplophyllum tuberculatum occurs throughout northern Africa, east through the Arabian Peninsula to Israel and Pakistan. In tropical Africa, it occurs in Sudan and Somalia.


In Sudan a decoction of the aerial parts is drunk to treat fever, as an antispasmodic and antiflatulent and to treat allergic rhinitis. A decoction of the leaves and stems is externally applied for ear and eye problems, to relieve toothache and pustules on the head. A decoction of the aerial parts is taken as a carminative and as a decongestant. A leafy stem extract is rubbed onto the skin to protect livestock from biting insects and flies.

In Egypt leafy stem infusions are taken to treat nausea, constipation, malaria and gastric disorders. In the north of Oman, the juice expressed from the leaves is externally applied as a remedy for headaches and arthritis. The juice is also used to remove warts and freckles and also to treat skin infections and parasitic diseases. In Saudi Arabia, a Haplophyllum tuberculatum leaf infusion is taken to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and gynaecological disorders.

Haplophyllum tuberculatum has a distinctive unpleasant odor, which makes it unattractive to grazing livestock.


Essential oils obtained from Haplophyllum tuberculatum contain mainly monoterpenes (77.8%), sesquiterpenes (13.8%) and hydrocarbons and has a strong lime scent. The essential oils, from the aerial parts from different provenances and different times of harvesting, varied considerably. Essential oil from Iranian plants contained c. 40 components. The main components of one sample were linalool (15.5%), α-pinene (7.9%) and limonene (5.3%), and of another sample limonene (27.3%) and α-pinene (21.9%). Essential oils from plants harvested in Oman contained c. 30 compounds and the main components were β -phellandrene (23.3%), limonene (12.6%), β-ocimene (12.3%), α-caryophyllene (11.6%), myrcene (11.3%) and α-phellandrene (10.9%). Essential oil from plants from Egypt contained c. 88 components; the main component of the oil was 3-carene, 48.2% when harvested in May and 23.8% when harvested in July. Essential oil from plants harvested in the United Arab Emirates in May contained as main components α-phellandrene (10.7–32.9%), β-caryophyllene (6.3–12.8%), β-pinene (7.6–8.0%), limonene (4.0–9.6%) and δ -3-carene (5.5–6.0%). However, the oil distilled from plants collected in April had as major components linalool (15.0%), linalyl acetate (10.6%), β-caryophyllene (9.7%) and α -terpineol (6.7%).

Haplophyllum tuberculatum also contains a range of alkaloids and lignans. From the aerial parts the quinoline alkaloids dihydroperfamine, skimmianine, evoxine, γ-fagarine, flindersine, folifine and haplofoline, the tyramine alkaloids tuberine, buchapine, haplotubinone, tubacetine, tubasenecine and haplotubine were isolated. From the aerial parts the lignan diphyllin, the arylnaphthalene lignans justicidin-A and -B were isolated as well as the lignan apioside tuberculatin.

An essential oil originating from Oman partially inhibited the growth of Escherichia coli, Salmonella choleraesuis, and Bacillus subtilis. The oil also affected the mycelial growth of Curvularia lunata and Fusarium oxysporum in a dose-dependent manner but had no effect on the germination of their spores. Different extracts from the aerial parts from plants originating from Libya showed good antimicrobial activity against Bacillus cereus, Bacillus subtilis, Enterococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Candida albicans. Tuberine showed significant antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Several extracts from the aerial parts showed significant antiplasmodial activity against Plasmodium falciparum 3D7 (chloroquine sensitive) and D2 (chloroquine resistant and pyrimethamine sensitive). An ethanol extract of the aerial parts possessed good insecticidal activity against Culex quinquefasciatus. A hexane extract of the aerial parts showed significant insecticidal activity against whitefly adults (Bemisia tabaci). A chloroform extract of the aerial parts showed moderate insecticidal activity against larvae of Spodoptera littoralis. Different extracts of the aerial parts showed significant reduction of egg hatching and juvenile motility and increased egg and juvenile mortality of the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne javanica. They also showed significant molluscidal activity against Biomphalaria alexandrina.

Total extracts of the aerial parts showed significant in vitro cytotoxicity against a range of tumour cell lines and normal peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Extracts from the aerial parts showed slight hepatoprotective effect on paracetamol-induced liver damage in mice.

The aqueous extract of the aerial parts of plants collected from Sudan significantly decreased the contractility and the heart rate but did not affect the flow rate of isolated perfused rabbit heart. The extract also showed a significant relaxation of the isolated rabbit jejunum, guinea-pig ileum, rat uterus, rat stomach strip and rat colon, thus demonstrating its antispasmodic potential. Dihydroperfamine showed direct relaxation on smooth muscles, as well as a hypotensive action.


Perennial herb, sometimes woody at base, up to 40(–60) cm tall, glabrous to short-hairy; stem usually much branched from the base, sometimes with basal sterile shoots, yellowish green to almost white; glands numerous on all parts, very variable, inconspicuous to strongly warty, yellow. Leaves alternate, strong smelling; stipules absent; petiole short below, absent above; blade very variable, from almost circular, c. 2 mm × c. 2 mm, to shortly obovate, elliptical, lanceolate or linear, 9–50 mm × 2–17 mm, base tapering, margins entire, lobed or sometimes deeply cut into 3 lobes. Inflorescence a lax corymbose cyme, terminal or in the upper leaf axils, 2–10(–15) cm in diameter, many-flowered, but flowers well-separated; bracts small, green. Flowers bisexual, 5-merous, regular; pedicel short; sepals deltoid-ovate to broadly lanceolate, c. 1 mm long, free; petals elliptical-oblong to oblong-ovate, 3–5.5 mm long, boat-shaped, narrowed into a claw, bright yellow, glabrous; anthers twice as many as the petals; ovary superior, almost round, 5-lobed, 5-celled, style 1.5–2.5 mm long. Fruit a 3–5-lobed capsule, 2.5–4.5 mm × 1.5–2 mm, glabrous to white hairy, with many inconspicuous to warty glands, segments apically opening, 5–10-seeded. Seeds kidney-shaped, c. 1.5 mm long, dark brown to grey or brownish-black, densely ridged.

Other botanical information

Haplophyllum comprises c. 67 species in temperate and subtropical Eurasia and northern Africa, extending to tropical East Africa. In tropical East Africa only 3 species occur.


Haplophyllum tuberculatum occurs in sandy or stony desert or degraded steppe, on a variety of soils, often on silt deposits, and also in dried watercourses, coastal plains, cultivated or fallow land and ruderal localities, from sea-level up to 1330 m altitude.

Propagation and planting

Haplophyllum tuberculatum can be propagated through seeds.

Genetic resources

Haplophyllum tuberculatum is widespread and sometimes common (e.g. in Egypt and Tunisia), but mostly it only occurs sparsely.


The content and composition of the essential oils obtained from Haplophyllum tuberculatum is very variable, and pharmacological activity of extracts of aerial parts may therefore differ considerably. The antimicrobial activity is very promising and deserves more attention.

As the aerial parts contain a variety of alkaloids, care should be taken by when using them internally. The safety profiles need to be established.

Major references

  • Abdelsalam, H. & Bogdadi, A., 2010. Antimicrobial activities of ten medicinal plants used in the folk medicine of Libya. Acta Horticultura 853: 419–422.
  • Al-Burtamani, S.K.S., Fatope, M.O., Marwah, R.G., Onifade, A.K. & Al-Saidi, S., 2005. Chemical composition, antibacterial and antifungal activities of the essential oil of Haplophyllum tuberculatum from Oman. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 96(1–2): 107–112.
  • Al Yousuf, M.H., Bashir, A.K., Veres, K., Dobos, A., Nagy, G., Mathe, I., Blunden, G. & Vera, J.R., 2005. Essential oil of Haplophyllum tuberculatum (Forrsk.) A.Juss. from the United Arab Emirates. Journal of Essential Oil Research 17(5): 519–521.
  • El-Tahir, A., Satti, G.M. & Khalid, S.A., 1999. Antiplasmodial activity of selected Sudanese medicinal plants with emphasis on Acacia nilotica. Phytotherapy Research 13(6): 474–478.
  • Javidnia, K., Miri, R. & Banani, A., 1006. Volatile oil constituents of Haplophyllum tuberculatum (Forssk.) A.Juss. (Rutaceae) from Iran. Journal of Essential Oil Research 18(4): 355–356.
  • Kallel, S., Ouadday, M.Z.B. & Ghrabi, Z., 2009. Evaluation of the nematicidal activity of Haplophyllum tuberculatum on Meloidogyne javanica. Nematologia Mediterranea 37(1): 45–52.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 1996. African ethnobotany: poisons and drugs. Chapman & Hall, London, United Kingdom. 941 pp.
  • Townsend, C.C., 1986. Taxonomic revision of the genus Haplophyllum (Rutaceae). Hooker's Icon. Plantarum 40: 1–336.
  • Ulubelen, A. & Oztürk, M., 2008. Alkaloids, coumarins and lignans from Haplophyllum species. Records of Natural Products 2(3): 54–69.
  • Varamini, P., Doroudchi, M., Mohagheghzadeh, A., Soltani, M. & Ghaderi, A., 2007. Cytotoxic evaluation of four Haplophyllum species with various tumor cell lines. Pharmaceutical Biology 45(4): 299–302.

Other references

  • Abd-El-Kawy, M.A., El-Kashoury, E.A., El-Fishawy, A.M., Atta, A.H. & Soliman, F.M., 1989. Alkaloids and lignans of Haplophyllum tuberculatum (Forssk.) A.Juss. Egyptian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 30(1–4): 299–308.
  • Abdel-Shafy, A., Soliman, M.M. & Salwa, M.H., 2007. In vitro acaricidal effect of some crude extracts and essential oils of wild plants against certain tick species. Acarologia 47(1–2): 33–42.
  • Ali, B.H., Bashir, A.K. & Rasheed, R.A., 2001. Effect of the traditional medicinal plants Rhazya stricta, Balanitis aegyptiaca and Haplophylum tuberculatum on paracetamol-induced hepatotoxicity in mice. Phytotherapy Research 15(7): 598–603.
  • Ali, M.B., Mohamed, A.H., Bashir, A.K. & Salih, A.M., 1992. Pharmacological investigation of Haplophyllum tuberculatum. International Journal of Pharmacognosy 30(1): 39–45.
  • Al Rehaily, A.J., Al-Howiriny, T.A., Ahmad, M.S., Al-Yahya, M.A., El-Feraly, F.S., Hufford, CD. & McPhail, A.T., 2001. Alkaloids from Haplophyllum tuberculatum. Phytochemistry 57(4): 597–602.
  • Al-Shamma, A., Al-Douri, N.A., Phillipson, J.D., 1979. Alkaloids from Haplophyllum tuberculatum from Iraq. Phytochemistry 18(8): 1417–1419.
  • Al-Yahya, M.A., Al Rehaily, A.J., Mohammed, S.A., Mansourn, S., Farouk, S., 1992. New alkaloids from Haplophyllum tuberculatum. Journal of Natural Products 55(7): 899–903.
  • Akuodor, G.C., Idris-Usman, M.S., Mbah, C.C., Megwas, U.A., Akpan, J.L., Ugwu, T.C., Okoroafor, D.O. & Osunkwo, U.A., 2010. Studies on anti-ulcer, analgesic and antipyretic properties of the ethanolic leaf extract of Gongronema latifolium in rodents. African Journal of Biotechnology 9(15): 2316–2321.
  • Brunke, E.J., Hammerschmidt, M.A., Abd-El-Kaway, E.A., El-Kashoury, A., El-Fishawy, A.M. & Soliman, F.M., 1991. Essential oil of Haplophyllum tuberculatum. Herba Hungarica 30(3): 34–39.
  • Gnan, S.O. & Sherida, G.M., 1986. Antimicrobial activity of (+)-tuberine. Journal of Food Protection 49(5): 340–341.
  • Khalid, S.A. & Waterman, P.G., 1981. Alkaloid, lignan and flavonoids constituents of Haplophyllum tuberculatum from Sudan. Planta Medica 43(2): 148–152.
  • Mohamed, A.H., Ali, M.B., Bashir, A.K. & Salih, A.M., 1996. Influence of Haplophyllum tuberculatum on the cardiovascular system. International Journal of Pharmacognosy 34(3): 213–217.
  • Mohsen, Z.H., Jaffer, H.J., Al-Saadi, M. & Ali, Z.S., 1989. Insecticidal effects of Haplophyllum tuberculatum against Culex quinquefasciatus. International Journal of Crude Drug Research 27(1): 17–21.
  • Sheriha, G.M., Abouamer, K., Elshtaiwi, B.Z., Ashour, A.S., Abed, F.A. & Alhallaq, H.H., 1987. Quinoline alkaloids and cytotoxic lignans from Haplophyllum tuberculatum. Phytochemistry 26(12): 3339–334.
  • Stephan, Z.A., Al-Askari, A.A. & Antoon, B.G., 1989. Effect of Haplophyllum tuberculatum plant extract on root-knot nematode. International nematology Network Newsletter 6(2): 31–32.
  • Yari, M., Masoudi, S. & Rustaiyan, A., 2000. Essential oil of Haplophyllum tuberculatum (Forssk.) A.Juss. grown wild in Iran. Journal of Essential Oil Research 12(1): 69–70.

Sources of illustration

  • Townsend, C.C., 1986. Taxonomic revision of the genus Haplophyllum (Rutaceae). Hooker's Icon. Plantarum 40: 1–336.


  • N.S. Álvarez Cruz, Unidad de Medio Ambiente, Delegación del CITMA, Cor. Legón 268 / Henry Reeves y Carlos Roloff, Sancti Spiritus C.P. 60100, Cuba

Correct citation of this article

Álvarez Cruz, N.S., 2011. Haplophyllum tuberculatum (Forssk.) A.Juss. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 26 June 2022.