Pteleopsis suberosa (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Pteleopsis suberosa Engl. & Diels

distribution in Africa (wild)
1, branche en fleurs ; 2, partie de branche en fruits. Redessiné et adapté par G.W.E. van den Berg
Protologue : Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 39: 509 (1907).
Family: Combretaceae

Origin and geographic distribution

Pteleopsis suberosa occurs in West Africa, from Senegal east to Nigeria.


Different plant parts of Pteleopsis suberosa are widely medicinally used throughout West Africa. A decoction of the fresh roots is drunk or applied as enema as a poison antidote and purgative and to treat stomach-ache, gastric ulcers and dysentery. It is externally applied to treat dermatitis. The roasted pulverised root is rubbed on the head to treat a headache. The pulverised root bark, with bulbs of Allium cepa L., is put in hot water and the infusion taken to ease a difficult childbirth. An extract from the chopped up roots and young shoots is taken as a cough-medicine. A bark or leafy twig infusion is taken to treat amoebic dysentery, jaundice, toothache, coughs, sore throat and general weakness, and externally applied to treat haemorrhoids, itchy skin caused by filariasis, dermatitis, wounds, conjunctivitis, trachoma and cataract. A leaf decoction is taken to treat kwashiorkor, meningitis and epilepsy. A decoction of the leafy twigs with twigs and bark of Isoberlinia doka Craib & Stapf is drunk to treat convulsions in children or mixed with leafy twigs of Terminalia avicennioides Guill. & Perr. and taken orally or used for bathing in the treatment of epilepsy.

The leaves yield a yellow dye for dying fabrics. The straight stems are used for the production of pickets and poles, as well as small framework structures. The wood is used as firewood. From the bark cordage is made which is used for tying roof grasses. Young branches are used to make baskets, and are used as chew sticks. In Senegal Pteleopsis suberosa is left in the field to protect crops and to ensure fertility of the soil.

Production and international trade

Pteleopsis suberosa is only used on a local scale.


The bark and leaves are particularly rich in tannins and saponins. From the methanolic leaf extract the flavonoid gallocatechin and a range of flavonols having kaempferol, quercetin, and myricetin as aglycones were isolated. From stem bark a number of oleanane saponins was isolated.

The oleanane saponins were tested against Helicobacter pylori standard and several clinical virulence genotypes, and arunglucoside I showed a significant activity against three metronidazole-resistant strains. An aqueous extract of the stem bark and leaves showed anti-ulcerogenic properties against ulcer lesions induced by ethanol and indomethacin in rats. The butanol fraction of the methanol extract of the stem bark showed significant anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory activities on ethanol-induced gastric ulcers in rats and carrageenan-induced paw oedema in mice, and also possessed free radical scavenging activity in vitro. In a type II clinical test with 26 patients a preparation with powdered stem bark given daily during 30 days, 56% of the patients showed complete recovery. The only side-effect observed was constipation.

Several myricetin derivatives showed significant activity against androgen-insensitive human prostate cancer cells (DU-145). The methanolic leaf extract also exhibited activity against the cell growth. Several fractions of the butanol extract of the leaves demonstrated an evident inhibition of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1. An aqueous stem bark extract demonstrated a dose-dependent fixation to the receptor complex GABA-A-benzodiazepine, and also showed anticonvulsive activity in mice. The toxic dose of the aqueous stem bark extract is more than 2000 mg/kg, when orally administered to mice.

An aqueous extracts of the stem bark and leaves showed significant antifungal activity in vitro against a range of pathogenic fungi. A methanolic stem bark extract and a decoction showed moderate antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus in vitro. A decoction of the bark significantly decreased the number of coughs in citric acid-induced cough in guinea-pigs.


Deciduous shrub or small tree, 6–7(–10) m tall; bole almost straight, spindly and cylindrical, up to 35 cm in diameter, with a narrow crown; bark very distinctive, coarsely and densely covered with corky warts, dark grey to red-brown, slash red-brown; young branches grey, more or less short-hairy, turning reddish. Leaves (almost) opposite, sometimes alternate, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 5–15(–25) mm long, glabrous; blade ovate or elliptical to oblong, 4–11 cm × 2–5 cm, apex obtuse to acuminate, base rounded, slightly short-hairy, becoming glabrous, greyish green, leathery, pinnately veined with 6–8 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary, umbel-like fascicle, 1–1.5 cm in diameter; peduncle c. 10 cm long. Flowers (3–)4-merous, usually bisexual, regular, greenish yellow; pedicel short; receptacle cup-shaped; calyx lobes triangular; petals 3–4, clawed; stamens 6–8; ovary inferior. Fruit a 3–4 winged nut c. 2 cm × 1.5 cm, pale green, brown at maturity.

Other botanical information

Pteleopsis is a small genus of about 10 species, all in tropical Africa. It is intermediate in many characters between Combretum and Terminalia.

Growth and development

The flowers of Pteleopsis suberosa appear early in the dry season and fruiting occurs when the tree is without leaves.


Pteleopsis suberosa occurs in open wooded savannah, on silt near temporary ponds and on fine gravel, at low altitudes. It is sometimes invading cultivated fields.

Propagation and planting

Propagation of Pteleopsis suberosa is by seed and root suckers. Average 1000-seed weight is 25.32 g. Germination was stimulated by smoke.


Pteleopsis suberosa can be coppiced.


The leaves can only be harvested during the rainy season. The stem bark and roots can be harvested throughout the year.

Genetic resources

Pteleopsis suberosa is irregularly distributed through West Africa; it is not very common although sometimes locally abundant. It is unlikely to be threatened by genetic erosion.


Extracts of Pteleopsis suberosa showed promising anti-gastric ulcer activity in rodents and also in a preliminary clinical test. However, a toxicity profile is needed before a medicine can be formally marketed. Several compounds, isolated from the bark, also showed promising anti-cancer activity in vitro and more research is needed to evaluate their potential.

Major references

  • Arbonnier, M., 2002. Arbres, arbustes et lianes des zones sèches d’Afrique de l’Ouest. CIRAD, MNHN, UICN. 573 pp.
  • Baba-Moussa, F., Akpagana, K. & Bouchet, P., 1999. Antifungal activities of seven West African Combretaceae used in traditional medicine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 66: 335–338.
  • De Leo, M., Braca, A., Sanogo, R., Cardile, V., De Tommasi, N. & Russo, A., 2006. Antiproliferative activity of Pteleopsis suberosa leaf extract and its flavonoid components in human prostate carcinoma cells. Planta Medica 72(7): 604–610.
  • De Leo, M., De Tommasi, N., Sanogo, R., D'Angelo, V., Germanò, M.P., Bisignano, G. & Braca, A., 2006. Triterpenoid saponins from Pteleopsis suberosa stem bark. Phytochemistry 67(24): 2623–2629.
  • Germanò, M.P., D'Angelo, V., Biasini, T., Miano, T.C., Braca, A., De Leo, M., De Pasquale, R. & Sanogo, R., 2008. Anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities of the n-butanol fraction from Pteleopsis suberosa stem bark. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 115(2): 271–275.
  • Germanò, M.P., Sanogo, R., Guglielmo, M., De Pasquale, R., Crisafi, G. & Bisignano, G., 1998. Effects of Pteleopsis suberosa extracts on experimental gastric ulcers and Helicobacter pylori growth. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 59(3): 167–172.
  • Keay, R.W.J., 1954. Combretaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 1. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 264–281.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Ponticelli, S., Braca, A., De Tommasi, N. & De Falco, S., 2008. Competitive ELISA-based screening of plant derivatives for the inhibition of VEGF family members interaction with vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 1. Planta Medica 74(4): 401–406.
  • Sanogo, R., 2008. Anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities of the n-butanol fraction from Pteleopsis suberosa stem bark. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 115(2): 271–275.

Other references

  • Adjanohoun, E.J., Adjakidjè, V., Ahyi, M.R.A., Aké Assi, L., Akoègninou, A., d’Almeida, J., Apovo, F., Boukef, K., Chadare, M., Cusset, G., Dramane, K., Eyme, J., Gassita, J.N., Gbaguidi, N., Goudote, E., Guinko, S., Houngnon, P., Lo, I., Keita, A., Kiniffo, H.V., Kone-Bamba, D., Musampa Nseyya, A., Saadou, M., Sodogandji, T., De Souza, S., Tchabi, A., Zinsou Dossa, C. & Zohoun, T., 1989. Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Bénin. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 895 pp.
  • Adjanohoun, E.J., Aké Assi, L., Floret, J.J., Guinko, S., Koumaré, M., Ahyi, M.R.A. & Raynal, J., 1979. Médecine traditionelle et pharmacopée - Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques au Mali. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 291 pp.
  • Adjanohoun, E.J. & Aké Assi, L., 1979. Contribution au recensement des plantes médicinales de Côte d’Ivoire. Centre National de Floristique, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. 358 pp.
  • Baba-Moussa, F., Akpagana, K. & Bouchet, P., 1998. Comparison of the antimicrobial activity of leaves and stem bark of Pteleopsis suberosa G. Don (Combretaceae). Acta Botanica Gallica 145(3): 233–238.
  • Baerts, M. & Lehmann, J., 2011. Pteleopsis suberosa. [Internet] Prelude Medicinal Plants Database. Metafro-Infosys, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium Accessed September 2011.
  • Bisignano, G., Germano, M.P., Nostro, A., Sanogo, R., Capasso, F., Evans, F.J. & Mascolo, N., 1996. Drugs used in Africa as dyes: II. Antimicrobial activities. In: Capasso, F. & Evans, F.J. (Editors). Proceedings of the VIII congresso nazionala della Societa Italiana di farmacognosia and 1st joint meeting of Belgian, Dutch, Spanish and Italian research groups on pharmacognosy, Naples, Italy, 9–14 June 1996. Phytotherapy Research 10, Supplement 1: 161–163.
  • Bognounou, F., Savadogo, P., Thiombiano, A., Tigabu, M., Boussim, I.J., Oden, P.C. & Guinko, S., 2009. Impact of disturbance from roadworks on Pteleopsis suberosa regeneration in roadside environments in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Journal of Forestry Research 20(4): 355–361.
  • Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
  • De Pasquale, R., Germano, M.P., Keita, A., Sanogo, R. & Iauk, L., 1995. Antiulcer activity of Pteleopsis suberosa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 47(1): 55–58.
  • Kerharo, J. & Adam, J.G., 1974. La pharmacopée sénégalaise traditionnelle. Plantes médicinales et toxiques. Vigot & Frères, Paris, France. 1011 pp.
  • Nacoulma-Ouédraogo, O. & Millogo-Rasolodimby, J., 2002. Les frotte-dents comme produits cosmétiques et médicinaux au Burkina Faso. Etudes de la flore et la végétation de Burkina Faso 7: 49–54.
  • Nana, H.M., Ngane, R.A., Kuiate, J.R., Mogtomo, L.M., Tamokou, J.D., Ndifor, F., Mouokeu, R.S., Etame, R.M., Biyiti, L. & Zollo, P.H., 2011. Acute and sub-acute toxicity of the methanolic extract of Pteleopsis hylodendron stem bark. Journal of Ethnopharmacology137(1): 70–76.
  • Occhiuto, F., Sanogo, R., Germanò, M.P., Keita, A., D'Angelo, V. & De Pasquale, R., 1999. Effects of some Malian medicinal plants on the respiratory tract of guinea-pigs. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 51(11): 1299–1303.
  • Traoré, K., Keita, A., Diallo, D., Diakité, C., Mariko, M.D. & Agrhaly, A., 1995. Essai clinique préliminaire de l'activité de la poudre d'écorce de Pteleopsis suberosa Engl. & Diels (Combretaceae) dans le traitement des ulcères gastro-duodénaux. Revue de médecines et pharmacopées africaines 9(2): 15–19.

Sources of illustration

  • Berhaut, J., 1974. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 2. Balanophoracées à Composées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Sénégal. 695 pp.


  • R. Sanogo, Département Médecine Traditionnelle (DMT), B.P. 1746, Bamako, Mali

Correct citation of this article

Sanogo, R., 2012. Pteleopsis suberosa Engl. & Diels. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 2 March 2020.