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This is a family of 16 genera comprising 300–350 species, mostly of twining shrubs, found in tropical regions. The family is considered to be taxonomically intermediate between the Leguminosae and the Averrhoaceae.

Vickery & Vickery (1980) found 4-hydroxycoumarin and related compounds in species of Cnestis Juss., Agelaea Sol., and Byrsocarpus Schumach. & Thonn. Lewis & Elvin-Lewis (1977) note that the seeds of Rourea glabra Kunth and R. volubilis Merrill have been used for criminal poisoning.

Bristles and hairs on two species have been noted to cause skin irritation.

Cnestis Juss.

Some forty species are native to warm regions of Africa, Madagascar, and Malaysia.

Cnestis corniculata Lam.

The scarlet bristles on the capsule are very irritating to the skin (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Cnestis natalensis Planch. & Sond.

Penetration of the skin by rigid brown hairs, present on the inside and outside of the capsule, can produce severe itching (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).


  • 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]
  • [Others yet to be added. Details available on request]

Richard J. Schmidt

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