Terminalia brachystemma (PROTA)
Terminalia brachystemma Welw. ex Hiern
- Protologue: Cat. afr. pl. 1: 340 (1898).
- Family: Combretaceae
- Chromosome number: 2n = 24, 26
- Kalahari cluster-leaf, Kalahari sand cluster-leaf, Kalahari sand terminalia (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Terminalia brachystemma occurs from southern DR Congo and Tanzania south to northern South Africa.
A root decoction is taken to treat stomach-ache, urinary schistosomiasis, haematuria and toothache. A root infusion is taken for bile emesis while the bark or root powder is added to porridge and taken to treat constipation and diarrhoea, depending on the dosage.
The wood is used for construction and to make poles and tool handles. The root bark is made into cordage and used in fence and hut construction and tying of bundles.
From the leaves chebulanin, betulinic acid, ursolic acid, catechin, isoorientin, orientin, isovitexin and punicalagin were isolated. Punicalagin showed good activity against several Candida spp. in vitro. Acetone leaf extracts showed significant antifungal activity against Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans, Aspergillus fumigatus, Microsporum canis and Sporothrix schenkii. Root, leaf and fruit extracts showed low activity against the trematode Schistosoma mansoni and the cestode Hymenolepis diminuta.
Small deciduous or semi-deciduous tree or shrub, up to 5–8 m high, crown flat-rounded; bark grey to dark-brown, longitudinally fissured; branchlets short-hairy or glabrous with purplish-brown bark peeling off. Leaves spirally arranged, simple, entire, (almost) sessile; stipules absent; blade broadly obovate to obovate-elliptical, 9–15 cm × 5–7 cm, apex obtuse to rounded, sometimes shortly cuspidate, base narrowly cuneate, leathery, glabrous or sparsely short-hairy, especially on the midrib, pinnately veined with 10–20 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescences an axillary spike 7.5–11 cm long, often in axils of fallen leaves, glabrous or sparsely to densely rough hairy. Flowers bisexual or male, regular, 5-merous, white; receptacle spindle-shaped, glabrous to variously roughly hairy; sepals triangular, apex acuminate; petals absent; stamens 10, 3–3.5 mm long. Fruit a winged nut, elliptical to elliptical-oblong, 4–5.5 cm × 2.3–2.5 cm, apex obtuse to rounded and notched, base cuneate, purplish or reddish-brown, stipe 5–7 mm long, 1-seeded.
Other botanical information
Terminalia is a pantropical genus of about 200 species. In tropical mainland Africa about 30 species occur naturally, in Madagascar about 35. Terminalia brachystemma hybridizes easily with Terminalia sericea Burch. ex DC. and hybrids are commonly found throughout its distribution area.
Terminalia phanerophlebia Engl. & Diels occurs in southern Mozambique and north-eastern South Africa. Root extracts or infusions are used to treat venereal diseases, diarrhoea, dysentery, colic, pneumonia, cough, skin diseases, schistosomiasis and gonorrhoea, and applied as an eye wash to treat ophthalmia. Leaf extracts are taken to treat diarrhoea and stomach complaints, and a leaf infusion to treat cough. Pulverized leaves are applied as a dressing to wounds.
Growth and development
In Namibia Terminalia brachystemma flowers in October and fruits from December to May.
Terminalia brachystemma occurs in dry and open woodland, often on sand, or in swamp forest, from sea-level up to 2000 m altitude.
Propagation and planting
Average 1000 seed weight varies from 257 to 343 g.
Terminalia brachystemma is relatively common throughout its distribution area and is not at risk of genetic erosion.
Terminalia brachystemma will probably remain of local medicinal importance as a medicinal plant. Its confirmed antifungal activity merits further research.
- Bingham, M.H., 1990. An ethno-botanical survey of Senanga West. Senanga West Agricultural Development Area, Department of Agriculture, Republic of Zambia. 27 pp.
- Coates Palgrave, K., 2002. Trees of southern Africa. 3rd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 1212 pp.
- Gelfand, M., Mavi, S., Drummond, R.B. & Ndemera, B., 1985. The traditional medical practitioner in Zimbabwe: his principles of practice and pharmacopoeia. Mambo Press, Gweru, Zimbabwe. 411 pp.
- Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
- Wickens, G.E., 1973. Combretaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 99 pp.
- Leyens, T. & Lobin, W., 2009. Manual de plantas úteis de Angola. Bischöfliches Hilfswerk Misereor, Aachen, Germany. 181 pp.
- Liu, M., Katerere, D.R., Gray, A.I. & Seidel, V., 2009. Phytochemical and antifungal studies on Terminalia mollis and Terminalia brachystemma. Fitoterapia 80(6): 369–373.
- Masoko, P. & Eloff, J.-N., 2005. The diversity of antifungal compounds of six South African Terminalia species (Combretaceae) determined by bioautography. African Journal of Biotechnology 4(12): 1425–1431.
- Mølgaard, P., Nielsen, S.B., Rasmussen, D.E., Drummond, R.B., Makaza, N. & Andreassen, J., 2001. Anthelmintic screening of Zimbabwean plants traditionally used against schistosomiasis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 74: 257–264.
- E.N. Matu, CTMDR/KEMRI, P.O. Box 54840–00200, Nairobi, Kenya
Correct citation of this article
Matu, E.N., 2012. Terminalia brachystemma Welw. ex Hiern. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). Prota 11(2): Medicinal plants/Plantes médicinales 2. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 18 July 2021.
- See this page on the Prota4U database.