ZANTEDESCHIA AETHIOPICA GENERAL DESCRIPTION

ZANTEDESCHIA AETHIOPICA
GENERAL DESCRIPTION
Scientific name
with author
Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng.
Plant photo – live
plant
Synonyms
Richardia africana; Calla moschata.
Family
Araceae
Vernacular/
traditional/
regional names
Aronskelk, varklelie, varkblom (Afrikaans); common arum lily, calla lily (English); nyiba, nyibiba, nyuba
(Pondo); mithebe (Sotho); inyiba, inyibiba, inyuba (Xhosa); intebe, ihlukwe (Zulu)
Botanical
description
Zantedeschia aethiopica is a tufted, robust, perennial herb of up to 1 metre in height, with large, fleshy
leaves developing from a tuberous rhizome. The leaves are hairless, glossy and dark green, with a spongy,
thick stalk. The numerous, tiny yellow or cream-coloured flowers are borne in a dense group and arranged
in a complex spiral pattern on a finger-like column called a spadix. The spadix is surrounded by a white
conspicuous spathe (a large, white leaf-like structure). A dense mass of small, yellow, fleshy, berry-like
fruits develop at the base of the spadix.
Reference
Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G. and Cunningham, A.B. (1996). Zulu Medicinal Plants: an inventory.
Natal University Press, Pietermaritzburg.
Geographical
distribution
Z. aethiopica occurs in large parts of South Africa. It is exceptionally widespread and forms large colonies
in wet or seasonally wet areas ranging from the coast to an altitude of 2250m.
Distribution map
ETHNOBOTANICAL INFORMATION
Medicinal uses
The washed and heated leaves are widely used as a dressing for wounds, boils, minor burns, insect bites,
stings and sores. Gout and rheumatism sufferers use a warmed leaf dressing as a poultice to ease the pain.
The leaves are also traditionally used as a treatment for headaches.
Pounded rhizome, used as a poultice, is an old Cape remedy for inflamed wounds. Traditionally the plant is
boiled and eaten. Boiled rhizomes, mixed with honey or syrup, are taken for asthma, bronchitis, heartburn
and rheumatism or gargled for a sore throat. Raw plant material causes swelling of the throat because of
microscopic, sharp calcium oxalate crystals.
References
Roberts, M. (1990). Indigenous healing plants. Southern Book Publishers, South Africa.
Rood, B. (2008). Uit die veldapteek. Protea Boekhuis, Pretoria.
Watt, J.M. and Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G. (1962). The medicinal and poisonous plants plants of southern and
eastern Africa. 2nd ed. Livingstone, London.
Wink, M. and van Wyk, B.-E. (2008). Mind altering and poisonous plants of the world. Briza, Pretoria.
QUALITY STANDARDS
Macroscopial
Z. aethiopica, a tufted, evergreen herb with tuberous rhizomes, grows from 0.6-1 metre but may get taller
in the shade. It has lush looking dark green leaves with an arrow head shape. The size varies according to
the amount of shade. The flowers appear in a main flush from August to January. The striking arum lily is
actually many tiny flowers arranged in a complex spiral pattern on the spadix. The tiny flowers are
arranged in male and female zones on the spadix. The top 7 cm are male flowers and the lower 1.8 cm
female. If you look through a hand-lens you may see the stringy pollen emerging from the male flowers
which consist largely of anthers. The female flowers have an ovary with a short stalk above it, which is the
style. The spadix is surrounded by the white or coloured spathe. The whiteness of the spathe is not caused
by pigmentation, but is an optical effect produced by numerous airspaces beneath the epidermis. The
flowers are faintly scented and this attracts various crawling insects and bees which are responsible for
pollinating the flowers. Cross pollination occurs as the anthers of each flower ripen before the ovaries. The
spathe turns green after flowering and covers the ripening berries. It rots away when these are ripe and
the succulent yellow berries attract birds. The leaves of the arum contain water stomata which can
discharge excess water by guttation.
References
Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G. and Cunningham, A.B. (1996). Zulu Medicinal Plants: an inventory.
Natal University Press, Pietermaritzburg.
South African National Biodiversity Institute. (2001). Zantedeschia aethiopica (L.) Spreng. http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantwxyz/zantedeschaeth.htm
Microscopial
CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS
Chemical
constituents –
compounds diagrams
Chemical
constituents –
compounds description
The whole plant contains more than ten phenylpropanoids such as 3-(3,4-dihydroxy-phenyl)-1,2propanediol, two cycloartane triterpenoids (24-methylene cycloartenol and cycloartenol), three lignans and
ten sterols. A major compound in leaves is α-linolenic acid. Insoluble calcium oxalates are present.
Chemical
constituents –
organoleptic
properties
The flowers are faintly scented. Fruits are succulent yellow berries.
Chemical
constituents –
TLC / HPLC / GC
Chemical
constituents –
NIR Spectroscopy
image
Chemical
constituents –
NIR
Purity tests /
Requirements
TLC and HPLC are used.
Assay
Not yet available.
USAGE
Plant part used
The leaves are mainly used, rarely the rhizomes.
Plant part used
photograph
Dosage forms
The fresh leaves are warmed and applied directly as plasters to the affected part. A large leaf is bound
around the head and used as a headache poultice. Boiled rhizomes, sweetened with honey or syrup, is
taken for asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism and heartburn or gargled for sore throat. A poultice, made from
pounded rhizomes, is used for inflamed wounds. Fresh plant parts contain microscopic, sharp, needleshaped calcium oxalate crystals and should be not eaten fresh.
References
Roberts, M. (1990). Indigenous healing plants. Southern Book Publishers, South Africa.
Wink, M. and van Wyk, B-E. (2008). Mind altering and poisonous plants of the world. Briza, Pretoria.
Pharmacology/
bioactivity
Rhizome, stem and leaf extracts are reported to show some antibiotic action. Insoluble, microscopic
calcium oxalate crystals calcium oxalates are present and ingestion of fresh plant parts causes swelling of
the throat and tongue. Z. aethiopica produces toxic effects in rabbits. These range from hypoaesthesia to
paralysis.
The triterpenoids and sterols may have pharmaceutical relevance as anti-inflammatory agents, but wound
healing is more likely due to protective sealing and moisturising of the wound rather than any chemical
reactions.
References
Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G. and Cunningham, A.B. (1996). Zulu Medicinal Plants: an inventory.
Natal University Press, Pietermaritzburg.
Van Wyk, B.-E. and Gericke, N. (2007). People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza,
Pretoria.
Contraindications
Adverse
reactions
Ingestion of fresh plant parts causes swelling of the throat and tongue due to microscopic, sharp calcium
oxalate crystals.
Reference
Wink, M. and van Wyk, B-E. (2008). Mind altering and poisonous plants of the world. Briza, Pretoria.
Precautions
Do not consume raw plant material.
Dosage and
preparation
The large, fresh leaves are warmed and then placed directly on wounds, boils and sores. Boiled rhizomes,
sweetened with honey or syrup, is taken for asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism and heartburn or gargled for
sore throat. A poultice, made from pounded rhizomes, is used for inflamed wounds. Traditionally the plant
is boiled and eaten. Plant parts contain needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals and should be not eaten
fresh. To do so causes swelling of the throat and tongue.
References
Roberts, M. (1990). Indigenous healing plants. Southern Book Publishers, South Africa.
Watt, J.M. and Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G. (1962). The medicinal and poisonous plants plants of southern and
eastern Africa. 2nd ed. Livingstone, London.
Source Reference
Van Wyk, B-E., van Oudtshoorn, B. and Gericke, N. (2009). Medicinal plants of South Africa. 2nd ed. Briza, Pretoria.
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