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• Medicinal / Folk-medicinal aspects: In West Africa, the crushed roots and/or leaves are used externally to treat parasitic skin lesions. •
• Adverse effects: The crushed roots may blister the skin. •
• Veterinary aspects: •

This is a family of 3 species of lianas in three monotypic genera found in the forests of West Africa (Mabberley 2017). The best known, and the only species likely to be found in cultivation – in collections of insectivorous plants (Chase et al. 2009) – is Triphyophyllum peltatum Airy Shaw.

Dioncophyllum thollonii Baill.

Referring to the plant incorrectly as Dionchophyllum thollonii, Bouquet & Paris (1967) noted that Congolese traditional doctors use the plant to treat leprosy: the freshly pulped roots are applied to leprous macules, but care is taken not to let the plaster remain in contact with the skin for too long because it has a vesicant action. Plumbagin, a naphthoquinone previously reported to exhibit vesicant activity, was found in the roots. See also Plumbaginaceae.

Habropetalum dawei Airy Shaw
[syn. Dioncophyllum dawei Hutch. & Dalziel]

In Sierra Leone, where this scrambling or climbing shrub grows naturally, the young pounded leaves are said to be used as a fish poison; mixed with palm oil and applied to the affected foot, they are said to be very effective in killing jiggers [= tungiasis, caused by the chigoe flea or sand flea Tunga penetrans (Linnaeus, 1758), fam. Hectopsyllidae] (Airy Shaw 1951).

Triphyophyllum peltatum Airy Shaw
[syn. Dioncophyllum peltatum Hutch. & Dalziel]

Airy Shaw (1951) recorded that, in Liberia, the plant has an important place in native medicine, the inner bark and leaves being beaten up fine and rubbed on parts of the body affected with elephantiasis.


  • Airy Shaw HK (1951) On the Dioncophyllaceae, a remarkable new family of flowering plants. Kew Bulletin 6(3): 327-347 [doi] [url]
  • Bouquet A, Paris R (1967) Note sur le Dionchophyllum thollonii Baill. [A note on Dionchophyllum thollonii Baill.]. Plantes Médicinales et Phytothérapie 1(4): 214-220 [url] [url-2]
  • Chase MW, Christenhusz MJM, Sanders D, Fay MF (2009) Murderous plants: Victorian Gothic, Darwin and modern insights into vegetable carnivory. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161(4): 329-356 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Mabberley DJ (2017) Mabberley's Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses, 4th edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat] [doi] [url]

Richard J. Schmidt

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