Loeseneriella africana (PROTA)
Loeseneriella africana (Willd.) R.Wilczek ex N.Hallé
- Protologue: Thèses Fac. Sci. Univ. Paris, Monogr. Afr. Occ.: 99 (1958).
- Family: Celastraceae (Hippocrateaceae)
- Chromosome number: 2n = 56
- Hippocratea richardiana Cambess. ex St.-Hil. (1899),
- Hippocratea africana (Willd.) Loes. (1910).
- African paddle-pod (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Loeseneriella africana is very widespread in continental tropical Africa and is also found in South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Laos.
The split stems of Loeseneriella africana are widely used for tying in roof construction and in other building activities. In Ethiopia the stems are used for tying in the construction of bee hives and granaries and for weaving baskets. In Kenya the stems are used for making baskets for sifting grain, and in Kenya and Tanzania the bark is used for making rope. In Côte d’Ivoire the stems are used as chew-sticks to clean the teeth. The wood is used in Burkina Faso for making tools and handicrafts.
In traditional medicine in Senegal an infusion of dried leaves is drunk as a remedy for colds and a decoction of the whole plant is drunk to treat oedema. In Côte d’Ivoire the powdered leaves are taken in case of menstrual pains. In Burkina Faso a decoction of the leaves is used to treat children suffering from malaria or an inflammation of the spleen. In Togo ailing babies are given a decoction of the leafy twigs and in Benin a tonic is prepared from the leaves for newborns. In Nigeria a root extract is used as a cure for malaria and for the treatment of skin-infections. In the Central African Republic a patient’s body is washed with a leaf decoction to bring down fever. In DR Congo spreading, obstinate ulcers are treated with leaf preparations. In Malawi and Zimbabwe an infusion of the roots is taken by mouth as an aphrodisiac and also to cure abdominal pains.
The stems of Loeseneriella africana are tough, flexible, durable and resistant to termites, and they are therefore in high demand. The fruits are poisonous. Laboratory tests have revealed no significant activity against fungi and gram-positive or -negative bacteria. Ethanolic extracts of the roots have shown analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic properties in mice and rats, and anti-plasmodial activity in mice infected with Plasmodium berghei. Extracts of the leaves made with methanol and dichloromethane did not show significant activity in vitro against Plasmodium falciparum.
In closed vegetation usually a tall liana up to 15 m long, sometimes longer, in exposed situations a bushy or scandent shrub c. 2 m tall with densely branched crown; stem grooved, up to 10 cm in diameter; bark smooth and dark brown to purplish red, cracked in old plants; old branches terete, grey to brown, often with lenticels, sometimes with tendrils. Leaves opposite, simple, very variable in size and colour; stipules hairy, pointed, caducous; petiole 3–10 mm long; blade elliptical, 2–15 cm long, subacute to rounded at base, shortly acuminate or sometimes obtuse at apex, margin entire or toothed, shiny above, with 4–9 pairs of secondary veins. Inflorescence an axillary, regularly dichasial cyme 1–2.5 cm long, usually soft-hairy, several–many-flowered; peduncle 5–15 mm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, urn-shaped or flattened, 10–14 mm in diameter, green; pedicel 1–2.5 mm long; sepals 5, subequal, ovate to semiorbicular, with ciliolate margin; petals 5, free, triangular, 4–5 mm × 2 mm, free or attached to the disk, glabrous or short hairy on the outside; disk a basal cup with androgynophore of c. 6 mm long; stamens 3, fused to base of the disk, filaments white, anthers orange-red; ovary just below insertion of stamens, 3-celled, style c. 1.5 mm. Fruit of 3 dehiscent, flat, obovoid-oblong mericarps, each mericarp 6–9.5(–12) cm × 3–4 cm and 6–9-seeded. Seeds 3–4.5 cm long, with an ovate or oblong wing with marginal and median vein. Seedling with hypogeal germination.
Other botanical information
Loeseneriella africana is a polymorphic species and as a result many infraspecific taxa have been described. At present 4 varieties are recognized.
The Old World genus Loeseneriella comprises about 16 species. Apart from Loeseneriella africana several other species of the genus are used for their fibres.
Loeseneriella clematoides (Loes.) N.Hallé is a very tall liana with stems 40–100 m long. It is distributed from Guinea eastward to Uganda (but absent in Togo and Benin) and extending southward to Angola. In Gabon the stems are used for making hanging bridges. In DR Congo the bark is harvested from the wild and liquid from the bark is used as nose-drops to treat children with fever. The unsustainable harvesting of the bark has made it a scarce species at least in parts of DR Congo. The leaves are eaten as a vegetable. Edible ‘minsindu’ caterpillars feed on the plants.
Loeseneriella rowlandii (Loes.) N.Hallé (synonym: Hippocratea rowlandii Loes.) is a liana with stems up to 50 m long, distributed in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic and DR Congo. The flexible stems are used as ties in Ghana, especially to fasten rafters, and the fruit is used as a laxative.
Loeseneriella urceolus (Tul.) N.Hallé (synonym: Hippocratea urceolus Tul.) is a liana of forests and bushland restricted to Madagascar and the Comoros. A decoction of its leaves is used as a mouthwash.
Growth and development
Loeseneriella africana has a low growth rate and unlike more aggressive species of lianas, it seems to have no significant effect on the regeneration of forest trees. In West Africa flowering usually takes place in the second half of the dry season. The winged seeds are dispersed by wind.
Loeseneriella africana occurs from sea-level up to 2450 m altitude in a wide range of rainfall zones and in many different vegetation types, from rainforest to woodland and open rocky places. In the Sahelian and Sudanian zones it occurs in shade and is often riparian.
Propagation and planting
No attempts have been made to cultivate Loeseneriella africana but multiplication with seeds is easy. Natural regeneration takes place in the shade.
As the species is widespread there seems to be no risk of extinction. However, all species of the genus risk localized loss of genetic variation and extinction as a result of unsustainable harvesting and overexploitation.
In the future Loeseneriella africana will continue to be used locally but alternatives need to be explored and sustainable management options to be developed.
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Sources of illustration
- Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.
- R.B. Jiofack Tafokou, Ecologic Museum of Cameroon, P.O. Box 8038, Yaoundé, Cameroon
- C.H. Bosch, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Correct citation of this article
Jiofack Tafokou, R.B. & Bosch, C.H., 2011. Loeseneriella africana (Willd.) N.Hallé. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 20 January 2021.
- See the Prota4U database.