Acokanthera abyssinica K.Schum.
Acokanthera deflersii Schweinf. ex Lewin
Acokanthera friesiorum Markgr.
Acokanthera ouabaio Cathelineau ex Lewin
Acokanthera scabra Schweinf. ex Markgr.
Arduina schimperi (A.DC.) Baill.
Carissa deflersii (Schweinf. ex Lewin) Pichon
Carissa friesiorum (Markgr.) Cufod.
Carissa inepta Perrot & Vogt
Carissa schimperi A.DC.
Common Name: Arrow Poison Tree
Arrow poison tree is a dense, round, evergreen shrub, or a spreading, sparsely-branched tree growing up to 9 metres tall[
]. The bole is short[
]. There are two main types of Acokanthera schimperi:- a large-leaved (up to 11 cm) and a small-leaved one[
]. A third type that is climbing and has shortly and sharply recurved leaf margins has been reported in Kenya[
This species, and other members of the genus, are among the most commonly used plant species for the preparation of poison in East Africa[
]. An ornamental plant, it is used to provide shade or live fences in parks or around houses. It is also employed medicinally and is an important food in times of famine[
All parts of the plant, except the pulp of the fully ripe fruit, are highly poisonous[
]. They contain large amounts of cardiac glycosides (cardenolides), of which nearly 20 have been identified[
]. The plant is widely used as an arrow poison in Africa[
The only treatment against the poison is immediate excision of the flesh around the wound, or sucking the blood from the wound[
Birds have been known to drop dead on sucking nectar from the flowers[
East tropical Africa - Eritrea south to Tanzania and west to Uganda, Rwanda and eastern DR Congo.
Margins of dry forest, in relict forest, thickets, grasslands and bushland, at elevations from 1,100 - 2,400 metres[
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A plant of moderate elevations in the tropics, it is also found at lower elevations, though this appears to be associated with human introduction[
]. It is found wild at elevations from 1,100 - 2,400 metres[
]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 17 - 23°c, but can tolerate 15 - 28°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 500 - 700mm, but tolerates 400 - 1,000mm[
Prefers a sunny position in well-drained, red or black rocky soils, but also grows on black cotton soil and poor soil of dry sites[
]. Established plants are drought resistant[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, tolerating 5 - 7[
The plant has a moderate rate of growth[
The fruits are edible and an important famine food[
]. They are sweet and slightly bitter when fully ripe[
]. They are also used to make jams[
]. The unripe fruits and seeds are highly poisonous, and several cases of accidental poisoning of children have been recorded[
The latex in the fruits is used as chewing gum by children[
All parts of the plant, except the fully ripe fruit, contain high levels of cardiac glycosides and are very poisonous[
]. Internal medicinal use of this plant should not be carried out without expert guidance. Plants from the coastal zone of Kenya contain a high percentage of the glycoside ouabain, and could thus have medical and commercial potential in congestive heart failure treatment[
The leaves are used both internally and externally in traditional medicine. An infusion is gargled to treat tonsillitis[
]. The dried, pulverized leaves are taken with honey as an antifertility medicine[
Externally, the leaves and bark are applied to the skin to treat skin disorders[
A mixture made from the leaves, bark and butter is used for gall-bladder problems[
A decoction of the bark has been used when menstruation does not stop[
A hot infusion of the pounded root is drunk in small quantities to treat sexually transmitted diseases, and also as an aphrodisiac[
The smoke of dried roots and twigs is insect repellent; too much smoke is harmful for humans as well[
The wood is very hard and compact and branches are used in making spear shafts[
The wood is used as firewood and to make charcoal[
Seed - the seeds have high moisture content and lose viability easily under ambient conditions and on storage[
]. Seed germination is low[
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