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(Indian Almond family)


Some 600 species of trees and shrubs in 20 genera are found in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

The fruits of Combretum butyrosum Tul., which grows in tropical Africa, yield a butter-like substance known as chiquito (Willis 1973).

A number of species provide useful timbers.

Some of the timbers are capable of inducing dermatitis. The myrmecophilous nature of a few species makes them potential dermatological hazards when growing in the wild.

Buchenavia tomentosa Eichler
[syn. Terminalia tomentosa Mart.]

von Reis & Lipp (1982) found a record on an herbarium sheet that this tree is infested by ants.

Combretum Loefl.

The 250 species are found in tropical regions excluding Australia. Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) note that the leaf of a Combretum species, when used as an ophthalmic remedy, stings the eyes.

Combretum erythrophyllum Sond.
Hiccup Nut

The tree is probably irritant (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962). The fruit, when eaten, causes persistent hiccup (Greshoff 1909).

Combretum gueinzii Sond.

The leaf, when pounded and soaked in water, yields a red dye (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Combretum kraussii Hochst
Mdubu, Umbubu

The sawdust has been recorded as a cause of dermatitis of the hands of African forestry workers. A child who walked barefoot on the sawdust developed blisters between the toes (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Hausen (1973) refers to reports of injurious effects of the wood.

Combretum platypetalum Welw.

Application of the powdered root to cuts in the skin produces pain (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Combretum roxburghii Spreng.
[syn. Combretum decandrum Roxb.]

Referring to Combretum decandrum, Roy (1974) recorded that this tree thrives on soils rich in nickel, and, furthermore, hyperaccumulates nickel. A level of 3200 ppm nickel was found in this species. The contact sensitising capacity of nickel and its salts is well documented (Spruit et al. 1980, Cronin 1980).

Conocarpus erectus L.
Button-wood, West Indian Alder

Irvine (1961) recorded that the sap is used as a styptic.

Myrobalanus oblongata Kuntze
[syn. Terminalia oblongata F.Muell.]

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Quisqualis indica L.
[syn. Combretum indicum Jongkind]
Rangoon Creeper, Drunken Sailor

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Terminalia alata D.Dietr.
Indian Laurel

Woods & Calnan (1976) described a veneer preparer with extensive dermatitis who showed positive patch test reactions to this wood, and to teak (Tectona grandis L.f., fam. Labiatae), Honduras mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla King, fam. Meliaceae), jacaranda (fam. Bignoniaceae), rosewood (Dalbergia L.f. species, fam. Leguminosae), primula (fam. Primulaceae), and to R- and S-dalbergiones.

Terminalia australis Cambess.

The wood can produce dermatitis (Hanslian & Kadlec 1966).

Terminalia buceras Wright
[syn. Bucida buceras L.]

Hollow twigs on this species have been reported to house biting ants (Wheeler 1942).

Terminalia catappa L.
Indian Almond, Malabar Almond, Country Almond, Sea Almond, Ketapang, Lingtak

This tropical Asian tree is frequently planted for shade. The trunk is generally set with short woody spines. The fruit is edible.

Various species of biting and stinging ants have been found inhabiting hollow twigs on this tree (Wheeler 1942).

Terminalia glaucescens Planch.

The root bark, when applied to wounds, produces a burning effect like iodine (Irvine 1961).

Terminalia ivorensis A.Chev.
Black Afara, Blackbark, Brimstonewood, Idigbo, Ivory Coast Almond, Satinwood, Shinglewood, Framiré

This species is the source of timber known as idigbo or black afara.a The wood dust produces dermatitis and respiratory symptoms (Orsler 1973), and is listed as irritant by Zafiropoulo et al. (1968). Woods & Calnan (1976), referencing data from an unpublished survey of sawmills and woodworking factories in Ibadan, Nigeria, noted that a sawyer who had developed mild papular dermatitis on exposed skin, when patch tested with the sawdust from seven woods he had recently worked with, showed weak positive (±) patch test reactions to the sawdust from this species and from Pterygota macrocarpus [sic; = Pterygota macrocarpa K. Schum.] (fam. Malvaceae), and a positive (2+) reaction to sawdust from Spondias mombin L. (fam. Anacardiaceae). Control tests were not recorded. The wood contains a yellow dye (Hausen 1981).

Terminalia sericea Burchell

Decoctions of the roots used in herbal medicine have caused fatal poisoning (Lewis & Elvin-Lewis 1977).

Terminalia subspathulata King
Malayan Terminalia, Jelawei, Pelawei

This species is known to produce dermatitis in Malaya (Kochummen 1972).

Terminalia superba Engl. & Diels
Limba, Afara, Korina

Splinters of limba cause wounds that become increasingly inflamed and resist healing (Sandermann & Barghoorn 1956). Vesicular dermatitis of the fingers, apparently caused by limba sawdust, was observed by Nordin (1947). Contact dermatitis from the wood dust in ten Swiss workers was reported by Hartmann & Schlegel (1980). Other reports of contact dermatitis are cited by Hausen (1981) who failed to demonstrate any sensitising capacity and noted that although the timber is widely used in the wood industry, skin irritations are rare.

The wood can also cause respiratory disorders such as asthma and bleeding of the nose and gums, and also contact urticaria (Sandermann & Barghoorn 1956, Oehling 1963, Hartmann & Schlegel 1980, Hausen 1981).


Ingestion of yellow wood (Terminalia oblongata F.Muell.) by cattle can result in photosensitisation (Everist 1962 McBarron 1976).


  • Cronin E (1980) Contact Dermatitis. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone [WorldCat]
  • Everist SL (1962) A review of the poisonous plants of Queensland. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 74(1): 1-20 [url] [url-2]
  • Greshoff M (1909) Phytochemical investigations at Kew. Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) (10): 397-418 [doi] [url]
  • Hanslian L and Kadlec K (1966) Drevo z hlediska hygienického (VII). Biologicky silne agresívní dreviny. Drevo 21: 157-160.
  • Hartmann A, Schlegel H (1980) Durch Holz verursachte Gesundheitsschäden in der Schweiz. [Health hazards caused by wood in Switzerland]. Schweizerische Medizinische Wochenschrift 110(8): 278-281 [pmid]
  • Hausen BM (1973) Holzarten mit Gesundheitsschädigenden Inhaltstoffen. Stuttgart: DRW-Verlag.
  • Hausen BM (1981a) Woods Injurious to Human Health. A manual. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter [WorldCat]
  • Irvine FR (1961) Woody Plants of Ghana. With special reference to their uses. London: Oxford University Press [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Kochummen KM (1972) Personal communication to Mitchell JC from the Forest Research Institute, Kepong, Selangor, Malaya. In: Mitchell J, Rook A (1979). Botanical Dermatology. Plants and plant products injurious to the skin. Vancouver: Greengrass, p. 172 [WorldCat]
  • Lewis WH, Elvin-Lewis MPF (1977) Medical Botany. Plants affecting man's health. New York: John Wiley [WorldCat]
  • McBarron EJ (1976) Medical and Veterinary Aspects of Plant Poisons in New South Wales. New South Wales: Dept. Agriculture.
  • Nordin JV (1947) Yrkessjukdomar (Occupational Diseases) 2: 605.
  • Oehling A (1963) Berufsallergie im Holzgewerbe. Allergie Asthma 9: 312.
  • Orsler RJ (1973) Personal communication to JC Mitchell from the Forest Products Research Laboratory, Princes Risborough, England. In: Mitchell J, Rook A (1979). Botanical Dermatology. Plants and plant products injurious to the skin. Vancouver: Greengrass, p. 172 [WorldCat]
  • Roy S (1974, publ. 1978) Geobotany in the exploration for nickel in the ultramafics of Sukinda Valley, Orissa. Quarterly Journal of the Geological, Mining and Metallurgical Society of India 46: 251-256
  • Sandermann W, Barghoorn A-W (1956) Gesundheitsschädigende Hölzer. (Ein Übersichtsbericht). [Harmful woods. (An overview report)]. Holz als Roh- und Werkstoff 14(3): 87-94 [doi] [url]
  • Spruit D, Bongaarts PJM, Malten KE (1980) Dermatological effects of nickel. In: Nriagu JO (Ed.) Nickel in the Environment, pp. 601-609. New York: John Wiley [WorldCat]
  • von Reis S, Lipp FJ (1982) New Plant Sources for Drugs and Foods from The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press [WorldCat]
  • Watt JM, Breyer-Brandwijk MG (1962) The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Wheeler WM (1942) Studies on neotropical ant-plants and their ants. Part I. The neotropical ant plants. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard 90(1): 3-154 [url] [url-2]
  • Willis JC (1973) A Dictionary of the Flowering Plants and Ferns, 8th edn. (Revised by Airy Shaw HK). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat]
  • Woods B, Calnan CD (1976) Toxic woods. British Journal of Dermatology 95(Suppl 13): 1-97 [doi] [url] [url-2] [pmid]
  • Zafiropoulo A, Audibert A and Charpin J (1968) À propos des accidents dûs à la manipulation des bois exotiques. Revue Fr. Allerg. 8: 155.

Richard J. Schmidt

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