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Gastrolobium - Kotschya

(Pea or Bean family)


Gastrolobium R.Br.

This is a genus comprising some 110 species found in western and south-western Australia (Mabberley 2008). They have a reputation for poisoning livestock (Gardner & Bennetts 1956) as a result of their ability to assimilate fluorine from the environment and store it as fluoracetate (Twigg et al. 1996). See also Dichapetalum cymosum Engl. (fam. Dichapetalaceae).

Gastrolobium spinosum Benth.
Prickly Poison

Several varieties are recognised, these being distinguished from one another by their leaf form. The typical form has broad, stalkless prickly-margined leaves but at the other end of the range plants are found without any leaf prickles apart from a terminal spine (Gardner & Bennetts 1956).

Gastrolobium trilobum Benth.
[syn. Gastrolobium spinosum Benth. var. trilobum S.Moore]
Bullock Poison

Gardner & Bennetts (1956) provide a plate showing the distinctive prickly leaves of this shrub.

Genista L.

The genus comprises about 87 species distributed from the Canary Islands through Europe and Mediterranean regions to western Asia (Mabberley 2008). Some may be found in cultivation as ornamentals (Hunt 1968/70). Several form spiny shrubs or shrublets capable of inflicting mechanical injury:

Genista anglica L. — Needle Furze, Petty Whin
Genista germanica L.
Genista hispanica L. — Spanish Gorse
Genista horrida Boiss. ex Spach
Genista scorpius DC.
[syn. Spartium scorpius L.]
Genista sylvestris Scop. — Dalmatian Broom
[syns Genista dalmatica Bartl., Genista michelii Spach] 

Gleditsia L.
[syn. Gleditschia Scop.]

The genus comprises 14 species found mostly in India, Japan to New Guinea, but also in eastern North America and in north-eastern Argentina (Mabberley 2008). They form trees usually bearing stout branched thorns. Gleditsia triacanthos L., the honey locust, may be found in cultivation as an ornamental tree.

Gleditsia chinensis
[syn. Gleditschia chinensis auct. ex Steud.]

The tree is thickly beset with thorns, which in Chinese traditional medicine are called tien ting. They are used in decoction (as are the leaves) as a wash in the treatment of ulcers and skin diseases. They are also used as needles for opening abscesses (Stuart 1911).

Glycine max
[syn. Glycine hispida]
Soy Bean

The hairs on the pods are irritant to the mouth and gut and have been used for criminal poisoning (Burkill 1935).

The plant is used for green fodder and yields soya beans. An oil is obtained from the seeds. A 'milk' made from the ground beans (soya) can have goitrogenic effects (Kingsbury 1964).

Soybean meal was reported to cause respiratory allergy (Virchow 1965). Oil of Soya Bean has caused an acneiform folliculitis in industrial workers (Greenberg and Lester 1954). The beans when deliberately infected with Aspergillus are used to make Soy Sauce. Ketchup (Catsup) is derived from a Malaysian word, kechap: various flavours are added to ketchups and the fungus which is added may be derived from Hibiscus (Burkill 1935). Some yield aflatoxin.


18 species are found in temperate and sub-tropical America, temperate Eurasia, North Africa and south-east Australia.

Glycyrrhiza glabra L.
Liquorice, Licorice

The crude drug Liquorice or Licorice Root, otherwise known as Radix Glycyrrhizae, is derived from this species. Three distinct varieties are recognised: Glycyrrhiza glabra subsp. glabra provides so-called Spanish Liquorice; Glycyrrhiza glabra var. glandulifera A.I. Galushko provides so-called Russian Liquorice; Glycyrrhiza glabra var. violacea Boiss. provides so-called Persian Liquorice (Remington et al. 1918, Trease & Evans 1966). In traditional Chinese medicine, the drug is known by the name gan cao or kan tsao. The name gan cao may apply also to liquorice root derived from Glycyrrhiza inflata Batalin or Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch. ex DC. (Huang 1993). Stuart (1911) and Remington et al. (1918) identify Glycyrrhiza echinata L. and Glycyrrhiza lepidota Nutt. ex Pursh as other sources of liquorice.

In a text on Chinese materia medica, Stuart (1911) noted that a preparation of the root mixed with honey is applied to burns, boils, and other sores. In NW Moroccan traditional medicine, the roots are chewed to treat mouth infections (Merzouki et al. 2000).

Nugmanova & Kalitina (1979) described three cases of contact dermatitis caused by liquorice, which may have been derived from Glycyrrhiza glabra or Glycyrrhiza uralensis.

Excessive consumption of liquorice can produce symptoms similar to those of aldosteronism (Conn et al. 1968).

Gliricidia sepium Kunth ex Walp.
[syn. Robinia sepium Jacq.]

According to an herbarium note found by von Reis Altschul (1973) on a specimen of this plant collected in El Salvador, the leaves are used to kill rats and as a poultice to bring boils to a head.

Goniorrhachis marginata Taub.
Guarabu, Itapicuru

The heartwood contains the known allergen 4-methoxydalbergione (of Dalbergia spp.) (De Sousa et al. 1967).

The genus Goniorrhachis Taub. is monotypic, the single species being found growing naturally in south-eastern Brazil (Mabberley 2008).

Goodia lotifolia Salisb.
Golden Tip, Clover Tree, Clover-leaved Poison

Cattle are said to eat the plant greedily and as a result to develop "black scours". The tongues become black and the hides acquire a bluish tint and become rough and bound (Maiden 1895).

Gossweilerodendron balsamiferum Harms
[syn. Pterygopodium balsamiferum Vermoesen]
Agba, Tola Branca, Pink Mahogany

The tree is reported to cause dermatitis in woodworkers (Zafiropoulo et al. 1968, Hausen 1970, Hublet et al. 1972, Oleffe et al. 1975a). Splinters (slivers) are known in the industry to be particularly prone to cause "festering" sores in the skin (Wilkinson 1971). The pink resin of the tree is burnt as an illuminant in Africa (Dalziel 1937). Respiratory irritation from the wood has not been noted (Orsler 1969).

According to Woods and Calnan (1976) the wood "tola" which was reported by Symanski (1957) to produce asthma was probably this species rather than Oxystigma oxyphyllum LĂ©onard.

They reported two cases of dermatitis in machinists from agba with positive patch test reactions to the wood; one of the machinists also showed a positive patch test reaction to Distemonanthus.


Four species are native to tropical America, eleven to tropical Africa.

Guibourtia copallifera
[syn. Copaifera]

A gum copal derived from the tree is used in pharmacy for varnishes, lacquers and sealing wax and in the preparation of patent leather (Dalziel 1937, Oliver 1959).


Three species are native to Mexico, Central America, the West Indies and South-West Africa.

Haematoxylum campechianum

The heart-wood contains haematoxylin, used for dyeing and for making ink and microscopical stains. Dermatitis of the hands was said to be caused by haematoxylin in gloves. Patch tests to the glove gave positive reactions. The dye itself was not used for patch testing (Sezary and Deval 1932). Hypersensitivity to natural dyes can occur but dermatitis is rare among dyers or weavers of dyed furs (Schwartz et al. 1957). These authors also discussed skin hazards in the manufacture of ink, tannin, sumac (Toxicodendron, fam. Anacardiaceae), cutch (Acacia catechu), fustic (Maclura tinctoria D.Don ex Steud., fam. Moraceae), cashew nut shell oil (Anacardium occidentale, fam. Anacardiaceae) and turpentine (Pinus spp., fam. Pinaceae).


25 species are native to Mexico, Cuba and tropical South America.

Hymenaea sp.

The wood is valuable. The wood causes skin irritation (Freise 1932).

Hymenaea courbaril

A resin (copal or anime) exudes from the stem and is often found in lumps underground near the trees, as in Agathis and Trachylobium. Dermatitis from copal resin is noted under Agathis. Copal resins are used in varnishes.

Indigofera spp.

700 species are found in warm regions.

Several species provide the dye, indigo. Dermatitis was common in the synthetic indigo dyeing process of textiles but there is no evidence that either the synthetic or natural indigo dye is irritant (Prosser White 1934). Women employed in shelling indigo develop an exceptionally long right thumb nail (Schwartz et al. 1957). Indigo appears to be at the most, only mildly irritant to the eye (Grant 1962).


200 species are native to tropical and sub-tropical America and the West Indies.

Inga vera

The authenticity of a report of dermatitis from this wood (Schwartz et al. 1957) is doubtful since the colloquial name grenadilla is also applied to Brya ebenus and Dalbergia.

Intsia palembanica Miq.
[syn. Afzelia palembanica (Miq.) Baker]
Merbau, Borneo Teak, Malacca Teak

The hands of wood-workers become stained black from handling the wood (Burgess 1966). Lapachol, a sensitiser of teak (Tectona grandis L.f., fam. Labiatae) is reported from some species (Thomson 1971, Krogh 1964). Orsler (1973) received unconfirmed reports of irritation from this species and from Instia bijuga.

Koompassia excelsa Taub.
[syn. Abauria excelsa Becc.]
Tualang, Sialang

The sap is irritant to the skin and produces an inflammation like erysipelas (Burkill 1935). The hard timber of the felled tree is highly inflammable, more so when fresh than dead (Corner 1952).

Kotschya ochreata Dewit & Duvign.
[syn. Smithia ochreata Taub.]

The plant has haemostatic properties (Irvine 1961).

Richard J. Schmidt

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