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Plumeria - Zschokkea

(Dogbane or Vinca family)


Plumeria L.
Frangipani, Temple Tree

Members of this genus are typically small to medium sized trees which contain latex. They are widely cultivated in tropical regions.

Both Allen (1943) and Morton (1962a) noted that Plumeria species contain a somewhat caustic milky latex which, if allowed to remain on the skin, may cause a rash or even blistering in sensitive individuals. Standley (1927) did not find the latex irritant on his own skin.

The pleasantly fragrant flowers of various species and hybrids are used in Hawai‘i for flower garlands (known as leis) which cause no trouble except in susceptible individuals (Arnold 1968). The flowers are also offered in Buddhist temples (Willis 1973).

Many species previously included in the genus Plumeria are now considered to belong to the genera Coutinia Vell. or Himatanthus Willd.

Plumeria alba L.
[syns Plumeria inodora Jacq., Plumeria alba var. fragrans Kunth, Plumeria alba var. inodora G.Don]
Pagoda Tree

The latex is rubefacient and corrosive (Allen 1943, Behl et al. 1966). It has been used in the treatment of warts (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Plumeria rubra L.
[syns Plumeria acuminata W.T.Aiton, Plumeria acutifolia Poir., Plumeria bicolor Ruiz & Pav., Plumeria purpurea Ruiz & Pav., Plumeria tricolor Ruiz & Pav.]
Amapola, Dogbane, Frangipani, Nosegay, Temple Tree, Temple Flower, West Indian Jasmine, Bunga Kubor, Chempaka, Chempaka Biru, Pokok Kubor, Kamboja

The latex is described as irritant by Allen (1943). Both Quisumbing (1951), referring to Plumeria acuminata, and Perry & Metzger (1980), referring to Plumeria rubra, state that the latex is rubefacient.

Corner (1952) also considered Plumeria acuminata and Plumeria rubra as separate species, but principally as a convenient means by which pink and red-flowered varieties of frangipani could be distinguished from white-flowered varieties.

It should be noted that the botanically unrelated Hymenosporum flavum F.Muell. (fam. Pittosporaceae) is known by the common names frangipani, Australian frangipani, and woollum.

Rauvolfia Plum.
[syn. Rauwolfia Plum.]

This genus is the source of the rauwolfia alkaloids, and in particular reserpine which is used medicinally as an antihypertensive and sedative. The two species of greatest importance in this respect are R. vomitoria Afzel. and R. serpentina Benth. See also Vinca minor L.

Rauvolfia heterophylla Willd.

The latex is said to be irritant to susceptible subjects (Standley 1927).

Rauvolfia pentaphylla Ducke

The wood causes symptoms similar to those produced by Aspidosperma species (Freise 1937).

Rauvolfia tetraphylla L.
[syns Rauvolfia nitida Jacq., Rauvolfia canescens L.]

The milky sap of this plant is irritant (Oakes & Butcher 1962).

Rauvolfia vomitoria Afzel.

2,6-Dimethoxy-1,4-benzoquinone, a known contact allergen, has been reported to occur in this species (Hausen 1978a).

Rejoua novo-guineensis Markgraf
[syn. Tabernaemontana novo-guineensis Scheffer]

In the Solomon Islands, the sap has been mixed with coconut oil and rubbed on the skin to blister it (Kajewski 1895).

Rhabdadenia paludosa Miers

The copious latex is said to be vesicant in susceptible subjects (Allen 1943).

Tabernaemontana citrifolia L.

The timber derived from this tree is known as pegojo. It is used locally for general purposes in Central America (Hausen 1973) and in the West Indies. Pardo-Castello (1923) noted that it has caused dermatitis, apparently with systemic toxicity.

Tabernaemontana crassa Benth.

The wood is used in West Africa; the latex is caustic (Irvine 1961).

Tabernaemontana divaricata R.Br.
[syn. Tabernaemontana coronaria Willd.]
Moonbeam, Chandee, East Indian Rosebay, Susun Kelapa, Susoh Ayam

A female flower vendor, who held chandee flowers between four fingers of her left hand to thread garlands, developed a bullous eruption; a patch test produced bullae and ulceration (Behl & Captain 1979).

Nadkarni (1976) notes that in Indian indigenous medicine "the milky juice of the leaves is dropped in the eye to cure ophthalmia; also a cooling application to irritable surfaces, to wounds to prevent inflammation".

Tabernaemontana grandiflora L.

Jaffé (1943) isolated a proteolytic enzyme from the sap of the bark and green fruit of this Venezuelan shrub. It was named tabernaemontanain, and was found to resemble papain in its properties but was several times as active.

Tabernaemontana muricata Link ex Roem. & Schult.
[syns Anacampta rigida Markgr., Bonafousia muricata Markgr., Peschiera muricata A.DC., Phrissocarpus rigidus Miers, Tabernaemontana macrophylla Müll.Arg., Tabernaemontana rigida Leeuwenb.]

Cava et al. (1968) isolated (±)-vincamine and (+)-vincamine from the bark of Tabernaemontana rigida. Vincamine has caused contact dermatitis in the pharmaceutical industry (see Vinca L. and Vinca minor L. below).

Tabernaemontana macrophylla has been identified as the source of a timber known as pequerete, which is used in Brazil for constructional work (Hausen 1973). It produces effects similar to those produced by Aspidosperma species (Freise 1937). According to the Wood Explorer Database (http://www.thewoodexplorer.com/; accessed February 2010), pequerete is derived from Tabernaemontana citrifolia L., a more northerly species found in Central America and the West Indies.

Tanghinia venenifera Poir.
[syns Cerbera tanghin Hook., Cerbera venenifera Steud.]
Ordeal Tree

The poisonous seeds have a long history as an ordeal poison (Lewis & Elvin-Lewis 1977), their usefulness being associated with the cardiac glycosides that they contain.

On the Malay Peninsular, the oil from the seeds has been rubbed on the skin as a rubefacient, and as a cure for itching. It has also been applied to the hair as an insecticide (Burkill 1935).

Thevetia ahouai A.DC.
[syns Ahouai nitida Pichon, Cerbera ahouai L., Cerbera nitida Kunth, Plumeriopsis ahouai Rusby & Woodson, Thevetia nitida A.DC.]
Broad-Leaved Thevetia

According to Allen (1943), the milky latex of Thevetia nitida produces a skin rash in many individuals.

Thevetia peruviana K.Schum.
[syns Cascabela peruviana Raf., Cascabela thevetia Lippold, Cerbera peruviana Pers., Cerbera thevetia L., Thevetia neriifolia Juss. ex Steud., Thevetia peruviana Merr., Thevetia thevetia Millsp.]
Lucky Nut, Mexican Oleander, Trumpet Flower, Yellow Oleander, Laurier Jaune, Oléandre du Pérou, Gelbe Oleander

Referring to Thevetia neriifolia, Allen (1943) asserted that the milky juice will cause blistering and inflammation on contact with the skin of susceptible individuals. Morton (1958) similarly noted that the milky sap of Thevetia peruviana may cause dermatitis. Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) and Hurst (1942) record from the same source that the milky juice has been used as a vesicant.

The cardio-active glycosides present throughout the plant render it dangerously toxic. Many human fatalities have been reported (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962, Lewis & Elvin-Lewis 1977, Morton 1958).

Thevetia thevetioides K.Schum.
[syns Thevetia yccotli A.DC., Cerbera thevetioides Kunth, Cascabela thevetioides Lippold]
Giant Yellow Oleander, Giant Thevetia, Peruvian Yellow Oleander, Yellow Oleander, Yoyotli

Felter & Lloyd (1898), referring to Thevetia yccotli, noted that the fruit of this tropical American tree is applied to haemorrhoids.

Vinca L.

The five species retained in this genus are natives of Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa, but some are widely naturalised. Certain species formerly included in this genus are now differentiated as Catharanthus species, and this has led to some confusion with regards to the source of the so-called vinca alkaloids used in medicine (see also Catharanthus).

A Vinca species has been listed as a sensitiser (Shelmire 1940). Van Hecke (1981) reports a case of allergic sensitivity to vincamine tartrate in a pharmaceutical industry worker who exhibited airborne eczematous contact dermatitis to an unnamed Vinca species.

Vinca major L. is very commonly found in gardens in Britain, and is used in herbal medicine as an astringent. No proven cases of dermatitis attributable to this species have been reported.

Vinca minor L.

Eighteen from 48 workers employed in the pharmaceutical industry preparing vinca alkaloids developed contact dermatitis (Valér 1965). Sensitivity to the crude alkaloid extract from the plant was demonstrated. Cross sensitivity to ajmaline, reserpine (both being indole alkaloids), and tryptophan, but not to ergot alkaloids was demonstrated.

Vincamine is the major alkaloid of Vinca minor, but also occurs in V. major L., V. difformis Pourret, V. herbacea Waldst. & Kit., and V. erecta Regel & Schmalh. (Taylor & Farnsworth 1973). It is used clinically as an hypotensive agent.

Wrightia antidysenterica R.Br.
[syns Nerium antidysentericum L., Nerium zeylanicum L., Walidda antidysenterica Pichon, Wrightia zeylanica R.Br.]
Coral Swirl, Snowflake, White Angel

This plant has been confused with Holarrhena antidysenterica Wall. ex A.DC. as the source of the crude drug kurchi. See Holarrhena pubescens Wall. ex G.Don above.

Zschokkea aculeata Ducke

The wood of this South American tree produces symptoms similar to those produced by Aspidosperma species (Freise 1937).

Richard J. Schmidt

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