Family : Apocynaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to central-western Africa (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone) where it lives in the forests along the banks of water streams or in swampy grounds, from the sea level up to about 600 m of altitude.
The name of the genus is the combination of the Greek adjective “πλεῖος” (pleios) = full and of the substantive “καρπός” (karpós) = fruit, hence with many fruits; the name of the species is the Latin adjective “muticus, a, um” = mutilated, rounded, with reference to the apex of the fruits.
Common names: efi, kakana, mogba popo (Ivory Coast); kanwene (Ghana).
The Pleiocarpa mutica Benth. (1876) is a shrub or small evergreen tree with stems up to 6 m of long and of 1-5 cm of diameter, with smooth brown bark; a white latex is present in all its parts. The leaves, on a 0,5-1 cm long petiole, are opposite, simple, oblong-elliptic with long pointed apex and entire margin, 6-18 cm long and 3-8 cm broad, coriaceous, of intense glossy green colour. Axillar inflorescences on the woody part of the stems bearing numerous sessile flowers with 5 ovate-oblong sepals, 2 mm long, hypocraterimorphous white corolla (corolla with spread lobes perpendicular to a long thin tube) with 1,2-2,2 long tube, 5 oblong lobes with obtuse apex, 0,7-1,2 cm long, and ovary formed by 5 monovular carpels (the genus differentiates from the other of the family as the carpel has 3-5 carpels instead of two); the flowers give off a strong fragrance.
The fruits are obovoid or globose berries, 1,5-2 cm long, with just pointed or obtuse apex, initially green, then yellow to orange when ripe, containing brown seeds, 0,8-1,2 cm long.
It reproduces by seed in sandy loam rich of organic substance maintained humid at the temperature of 24-26 °C.
Species appreciated in the origin sites thanks to the medicinal virtues attributed, that moreover has a remarkable ornamental potential due to the intensely perfumed flowers abundantly produced and almost continuously. Cultivable in the tropical and subtropical climate regions as isolated specimen or for fences in parks and gardens, even small. Requires an esposition in full sun or partial shade and draining soils, preferably sandy, maintained almost constantly humid. Barks and roots are utilized since remote times in the traditional medicine especially as febrifuges and antimalarials, laboratory studies have evidenced the presence of numerous alkaloids of possible interest for the official pharmacopoeia. The wood, yellow, hard and heavy, is utilized for fabricating small objects of common use.
Synonyms: Hunteria pleiocarpa Hallier f. (1899); Pleiocarpa salicifolia Stapf (1902); Pleiocarpa tricarpellata Stapf (1915); Pleiocarpa bakueana A.Chev. (1920); Pleiocarpa ternata A.Chev. (1920).
The photographic file of Giuseppe Mazza