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Useful Tropical Plants

Philenoptera cyanescens

(Schumach.) Roberty

Fabaceae

+ Synonyms

Lonchocarpus cyanescens (Schumach.) Benth.

Robinia cyanescens Schumach.

Common Name: African Indigo

Philenoptera cyanescens
Flowering stem
Photograph by: Marco Schmidt: African plants - A Photo Guide
© Marco Schmidt
Philenoptera cyanescens Philenoptera cyanescens Philenoptera cyanescens Philenoptera cyanescens

General Information

African indigo is a deciduous, scandent shrub growing up to 4 metres tall, or a climbing plant with stems up to 20 metres long[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
The plant is sometimes cultivated, partly semi-cultivated as privately owned, protected and tendered single plants for its leaves and fruit, which are used to make the dye indigo[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
]. Prior to the invention of synthetic dyes, there was a thriving export trade of the dyestuff to Europe. Traditional cloth, dyed with this plant, is still exported to America, Europe and various African countries[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References


Range

Western tropical Africa - Senegal to Equatorial Guinea.

Habitat

Coastal, riverine and fringing evergreen forest and thicket, and in wooded grassland and scrub vegetation, at elevations from sea-level up to 400 metres[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *
HabitDeciduous Shrub
Height3.00 m
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Semi-cultivated, Wild

Cultivation Details



Although many species within the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, this species is said to be devoid of such a relationship and therefore does not fix atmospheric nitrogen[
755
Title
Nodulation Plants in GRIN Taxonomy
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ars-grin.gov/~sbmljw/cgi-bin/taxnodul.pl?language=en
Publisher
United States Department of Agriculture
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An online database listing plants that have either positive or negative reports on root and stem nodulation with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
].

Edible Uses

The leaves are used as a condiment eaten with couscous[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Medicinal

The plant has long been used in traditional medicine in Africa. Modern research has confirmed the plant's anti-inflammatory activity, which is attributed to the presence of oleanane derivatives and glycyrrhetinic acid[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
A triterpene component of the plant has been found active against arthritis[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

The leaves and roots are applied as a poultice or dressing to treat skin diseases and ulcers[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. The roots are believed to be more effective[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. The root has been suggested as a possible treatment for leprosy[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
The ground-up root is applied to yaws, whilst washing with water containing the powdered root helps to cure sores[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

The leaves and bark are used as a laxative[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. A decoction of leafy twigs and roots is given to women during or after childbirth and is also taken as an aphrodisiac[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. This decoction is also used to treat arthritic conditions, venereal diseases and diarrhoea[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

The leaf sap is drunk as a treatment against intestinal disorders and dysentery[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Other Uses

The indican-containing leaves and young sprouts are used after fermentation to obtain the blue indigo dye, which is used for colouring textiles and other material[
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
]. The fermented material enters the market in kind of plant balls (aró in Yoruba). There is some export of the dye from Liberia to Europe[
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
].
All aerial parts of the plant yield an indigo dye, which has been used in West Africa at least since the 11th century[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. It is still used to dye blue to blue-black cotton cloth, bark cloth (formerly), raffia and other vegetable fibres, leather, hair and wood carvings[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. Yoruba women use the plant, locally called ‘elu’, as their source of indigo dye in the art of making ‘adire cloth’, a decorative technique similar to batik (a method of dyeing a fabric by which the parts of the fabric not intended to be dyed are covered with removable wax), creating pale blue patterns on a dark blue ground[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. The dye is also very important in the cottage industry in Sierra Leone where ‘gara cloth’ is made. ‘Gara’ is the Madinka word for the traditional indigo dye found in many types of textiles of Sierra Leone. The source of this dye is the ‘gara’ leaf obtained from Philenoptera cyanescens. At present the word ‘gara’ is used both for the dyeing process (using both synthetic and natural dyes) and for the dyed products[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. It is believed that in the middle of the 19th century Susu and Madinka traders from Guinea, who came to settle in Kabala in the northern province of Sierra Leone, encouraged the native Temne women to develop gara dyeing. Traditionally woven cloth known as ‘country cloth’ dyed with gara was used by chiefs for ceremonial dresses, bridal dowry, burial clothes, court fines and gifts to important visitors. At present gara is worn by a much wider circle of people for aesthetic and cultural reasons. It is used for daily and ceremonial uniforms in some schools and offices. In the hotel industry gara is used widely as napkins, tablecloths, bedspreads, curtains and as backdrop for conference halls and lounges[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
The leaves contain 0.1 - 0.3% of precursors of indoxyl and can yield an indigo dyestuff which contains up to 43% indigotin[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. During the dyeing process, in addition to indigotin and indirubin, a series of yellow flavonoid colorants such as quercetin, a quercetin glycoside, kaempferol and rhamnetin also become attached to the fibre, but they gradually disappear through wearing of the cloth, exposure to the sun and repeated washing[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
In Ghana the fruits are believed to yield a better dye than the leaves[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
The leaves and young shoots are bruised to a pulp and made up into balls about 10 - 12 cm in diameter, called ‘arô’ in Yoruba. These balls are dried in the sun and sold on markets. Sometimes only dry broken leaves and twigs are sold, not pulped into balls. The dye bath is prepared by soaking crushed balls in hot water, the number of balls depending on the desired intensity of the blue colour. Yoruba women in south-western Nigeria use from 50 balls for a bright blue up to 150 for a blue-black colour. The necessary alkalinity is obtained by adding lye from wood-ash. The solution is left to ferment for 6 - 8 days and the dye bath is then usually ready for the cloth to be steeped in it[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

The leaves are chewed with potash to stain the teeth black[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Propagation

Seed -

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