Various publications since the year 2000 have offered different treatments of this genus and the subtribe Espeletiinae to which it belongs. The subtribe has been variousy interpreted as comprising anything from 3 - 8 distinct genera and 90 - 154 species. We are following the proposed treatment by Mauricio Diazgranados [
], although some other modern treatments still place this species in the genus Espeletia[
Baillieria neriifolia (Bonpl. ex Humb.) Kunth
Clibadium neriifolium (Bonpl. ex Humb.) DC.
Espeletia neriifolia (Bonpl. ex Humb.) Sch.Bip. ex Wedd.
Trixis neriifolia Bonpl. ex Humb.
Common Name: Frailejón de Árbol
Libanothamnus neriifolius is an evergreen, branching shrub with stout stems; it can grow around 2 - 4 metres tall. The leaves are aggregated towards the end of the branches, where they form dense whorls[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of an aromatic resin.
Northern S. America - Venezuela, Colombia.
Open, windswept regions, usually above the tree line, in humus-rich moist soils; at elevations from 1,500 - 3,300 metres[
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Libanothamnus neriifolius is a plant of higher elevations in the tropical regions of the Andes, mainly at elevations between 1,500 - 3,300 metres. The plants are usually found above the tree line in open, windswept regions known as Páramos, where the climate is wet and cool with a relative humidity that can be around 110%. The high elevation means there are high levels of UV radiation and a daily seasonality with night-time temperatures able to fall below zero at any time of the year.
The plant requires an open position in a humus-rich soil that does not dry out and a good supply of clean water. The various species do not generally grow well outside of their native habitat or other similar habitats, though some have occasionally been cultivated successfully at lower elevations or in greenhouses in the temperate zone.
We have no specific information for this species, but the leaves of most (if not all) members of this genus can be used to make a bitter but tasty, refreshing tea that also has medicinal benefits[
]. One medium-sized leaf is washed then boiled vigorously for at least 10 minutes, the liquid is then drunk whilst hot. Cinnamon is also traditionally added for a bit of flavour[
The essential oil from the leaves has been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal activity, inhibiting the development of Staphylococcus aureus, Candica albicans and Candida krusei[
The essential oil has been shown to contain several components, including sabinene (25.6%), limonene (18.6%) and alpha thujene (18.1%)[
Another analysis of the essential oil of the leaves identified 20 compounds, with 87.28% of monoterpenic hydrocarbons. The main components were beta-phelandrene (29.04%), alpha-phelandrene (19.86%) , alpha-pinene (13.57%) and alpha-thujene (12.35%)[
In addition, the genus Libanothamnus has been shown to contain kauren-type diterpenes that are interesting both chemically and pharmacologically[
We have no further specific information for this species, but most (if not all) species in this and several other related genera are used medicinally in the High Andes. In particular, the plant contains essential oils and resin, and an infusion of the leaves is used traditionally to aid breathing at higher elevations; to treat respiratory conditions (including altitude sickness, bronchitis, influenza, cough and asthma) and to treat digestive problems[
A resin is obtained from the plant[
]. Called 'Incienso de los Criollos', it is used as an incense in churches[
Most, if not all, species in this and in several other related genera yield an abundant, aromatic resin. It can be used as an incense, or to extract oil of turpentine, which is used as a solvent for paints and varnishes[
The leaves make an excellent camping mattress or pillow. Simply harvest dry leaves, evenly pile them, then lie down to compress them a bit. Stuff them inside a plastic bag to make a decent pillow, or heap them under your tent for a little extra comfort in the night[
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