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(Mallow family)


• Medicinal / Folk-medicinal aspects: •
• Adverse effects: Although not well known as a family of dermatologically hazardous plants, many are capable of eliciting mechanical injuries from spines and thorns on the trunks, stems, or fruits. Mechanical injury may also be inflicted by irritating hairs and bristles present on leaves, stems, and on the inner side of fruit capsules. Contact allergic reactions to timbers from members of this family have occasionally been documented as have immediate and delayed contact allergic reactions to leaves, fruits, and seed oil. With the exception of some quinones in the heartwood of African black walnut, the causative substances remain unidentified. Actual or potential pseudophytodermatitis caused by mites or ants can be added to this list. •
• Veterinary aspects:  •

1000 species in 75 genera are found in tropical and temperate regions.

Included in this family is the well-known baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) whose trunk may reach 9 metres in thickness (Menninger 1967).

Members of this family provide the commercially important fibres jute (from Corchorus capsularis L. and Corchorus olitorius L.)a and kapok (from Ceiba pentandra Gaertn.b and, to a lesser extent, from Bombax ceiba L. and possibly other species of Bombax L. and Ceiba Mill.). Other species, including Abroma augustum (L.) L.f.,c Abutilon theophrasti Medik.,d Hibiscus cannabinus L.,e Hibiscus sabdariffa L.,f Sida rhombifolia L., and Urena lobata L.g provide jute-like fibres that are produced and used locally (Devil's cotton; Chinese hemp, Chinese jute, or Manchurian jute; bimli jute, Deccan hemp, Java jute, or kenaf; roselle; Queensland hemp or Cuba jute; and aramina fibre or Congo jute respectively) (Irvine 1961, Menninger 1967, Usher 1974, Brink & Achigan-Dako 2012, Mabberley 2017).

Balsa, the timber from Ochroma pyramidale (Cav. ex Lam.) Urb., is extremely light in weight and is much used in model aeroplane building and similar activities. It is also used locally in South America for making canoes.

The nuts of Cola spp. (kola) which are used in flavoured drinks contain caffeine and theobromine (Irvine 1961).

Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench
[syns Abelmoschus tuberculatus Pal & Singh, Hibiscus esculentus L.]
Gumbo, Ladies Fingers, Okra, Bhindi

The immature mucilaginous fruit is the vegetable named okra, a common vegetable in warm climates, much used in soups and stews (Howes 1974).

The hairs on the plant are a common source of inflammation and itching (Morton 1975). Weber (1937) included this species among plants known to cause dermatitis. Behl et al. (1966) observed allergic contact dermatitis in gardeners and housewives from this species. In a housewife working in a kitchen garden, dermatitis affected the left index finger and thumb. A positive patch test reaction was obtained. Patch tests carried out using the leaves of this species crushed in a small quantity of normal saline elicited a positive reaction in 1 of 5 contact dermatitis patients tested in New Delhi, India (Singh et al. 1978).

Abelmoschus moschatus Medik.
[syns Abelmoschus abelmoschus (L.) H.Karst., Hibiscus abelmoschus L., Hibiscus moschatus (Medik.) Salisb.]
Ambrette, Muskseed, Musk Mallow, Musk Okra

This species provides ambrette seed of perfumery (Arctander 1960). The powdered seed may be used as an insecticide. When mixed into a paste with milk, it may be employed as a topical remedy for itch (Wren 1975).

Abroma augustum (L.) L.f.
[syns Abroma molle DC., Ambroma augusta (L.) L.f., Theobroma augusta L.]
Cotton Abroma, Devil's Cotton, Perennial Indian Hemp, Abrome Royal

The bark yields a fibre. The plant possesses irritant hairs (Burkill 1935, Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962) which affect gardeners and those who prepare indigenous drugs (Behl et al. 1966).

Abutilon Mill.

Over 100 species are found in tropical and subtropical regions. Abutilon avicennae provides a useful fibre named Chinese jute.

The leaves of some species can produce irritant patch test reactions. Reactions registered as allergic should be accepted with caution (Hjorth 1968, Agrup 1969).

Abutilon indicum (L.) Sweet
[syn. Sida indica L.]
Indian Abutilon, Indian Mallow

In two cases of contact dermatitis attributed to Indian mallow, strong positive patch test reactions were observed (Underwood and Gaul 1948).

Adansonia digitata L.
[syns Adansonia bahobab L., Adansonia baobab Gaertn.]
Baobab, Monkey-Bread Tree, Sour Gourd, Upside-Down Tree, Pain de Singe, Affenbrotbaum

The seeds have a taste like ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe, fam. Zingiberaceae), and the leaves and powdered bark are used as a condiment. The blossoms are extremely malodorous and are pollinated by bats (Menninger 1967, Howes 1974).

The tree burns with an irritating smoke. It can be dangerous to walk over the place where the rotten tap-root of a baobab is, because one can drop down into a large cavity filled with decaying pulp (Irvine 1961).

Alcea rosea L.
[syn. Althaea rosea (L.) Cav.]
Hollyhock, Rose Mallow, Garten-Stockrose, Gewöhnliche Stockrose

Stuart (1911), referring to Althaea rosea, noted that in Chinese traditional medicine, the root stalk of this plant (which is known as shu kuei) when bruised is applied to all sorts of ulcers.

The hairy leaves, stems and pollen are irritant (McCord 1962). Hjorth (1968) observed irritant patch test reactions from the plant and noted that reactions registered as allergic should be accepted with caution. In two cases of contact dermatitis attributed to hollyhock, strong positive patch test reactions were observed.

Althaea officinalis L.
[syn. Malva officinalis (L.) K.F.Schimp. & Spenn.]
Marshmallow, Mallards, Sweet Weed, Guimauve, Gebräuchlicher Eibisch

The powdered or crushed roots make a good poultice, which may be relied upon to remove the most obstinate inflammation and prevent mortification … hence its alternative name "mortification root" (Wren 1975). Stuart (1979) refers to the external use of marshmallow as a poultice for leg ulcers.

Ayenia aculeata (Jacq.) Christenh. & Byng
[syns Asclepias armata Spreng., Buettneria aculeata (Jacq.) Jacq., Byttneria aculeata (Jacq.) Jacq., Chaetaea aculeata Jacq.]

Referring to Byttneria aculeata, which he described as being widely distributed in tropical America and a common weed on banana plantations, Standley (1937b) noted that this shrub is armed with short, hooked prickles. Describing poisonous and injurious plants in Panama, Allen (1943) noted that Buettneria aculeata is a very common and troublesome bramble with long arching canes that are thickly beset with thorns. He cautioned that cuts and scratches from the thorns become considerably inflamed, and seem to heal slowly.

Ayenia catalpifolia subsp. africana (Mast.) ined.
[syns Byttneria africana Mast., Byttneria catalpifolia subsp. africana (Mast.) Exell & Mend.]

Referring to Byttneria catalpifolia subsp. africana, Irvine (1961) noted that the long, thick, trailing stems, when cut yield quantities of practically pure and drinkable water. However, the fruits are covered with long, strong spines and are therefore a potential hazard.

Berrya cordifolia (Willd.) L.Laurent
[syns Berrya ammonilla Roxb., Espera cordifolia Willd.]
Halmalille, Trincomalee, Trincomali

According to Arnold (1988), Berrya amonilla [sic] was listed by Zschokke as having irritating qualities. No further detail was provided.

Bombax ceiba L.
[syns Bombax malabaricum DC., Gossampinus malabarica (DC.) Merr., Salmalia malabarica (DC.) Schott & Endl.]
Cotton Tree, Red Silk-Cotton Tree, Semal

The buttressed trunk is usually very spiny on young trees (Conn & Damas 2005j, Tang et al. 2007).

Brachychiton populneus (Schott & Endl.) R.Br.
[syn. Poecilodermis populnea Schott & Endl.]
Bottletree, Kurrajong, Whiteflower Kurrajong, Kurrajong-Flaschenbaum

Handling of the seeds caused irritation of the fingers and eyes (Hurst 1942).

Ceiba pentandra Gaertn.
[syns Eriodendron anfractuosum DC., Ceiba casearia Medik.]
Silk-Cotton Tree, Cotton Tree, Ceiba Tree, Kapok Tree, Kabu Kabu, Kekabu

Some varieties / cultivars have spiny trunks, others smooth (Irvine 1961, Menninger 1967). The tree is not recommended for town planting since the floss of the seed capsules (from which kapok is produced) is irritating to the eyes and nose (Irvine 1961).

Colonies of stinging ants have been found inhabiting twigs of this tree (Wheeler 1942).

Corchoropsis crenata Siebold & Zucc.

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Corchorus L.

The bast fibre known as jute or gunny is produced from Corchorus capsularis L. and Corchorus olitorius L. The stems are cut and, through the action of water and micro-organisms, retted in water and the fibre then beaten out. Oil ("jute batching oil") is used for softening the fibre in order to facilitate the manufacture of jute yarns and textiles, which find numerous and varied applications as packaging textiles, geo-textiles, agricultural textiles, building and structural textiles, automobile textiles, protective textiles, home textiles, etc. (Finlow 1939, Kundu 1956a, Kundu 1956b, Samanta et al. 2020). Burlap is a coarsely-woven textile made from jute fibre.

Mineral oil used in the processing can produce folliculitis and oil-acne. In contrast to jute, flax (Linum) requires no added oil in its manufacture and oil-acne is less commonly observed in flax workers. Fish oil used for softening jute fibre can liberate irritating fatty acids as it decomposes. Potassium hydroxide, used as an additive, can produce irritation (White 1887, Curjel & Acton 1924, Stevens & Jordani 1938, Schwartz et al. 1957, Simons 1952). Eczema with ulceration of the skin of the legs from standing in water, and respiratory symptoms can occur in jute-workers (Bhar 1952). Burlap can also produce respiratory symptoms (Stevens & Jordani 1938). Kinnear et al. (1955) found no evidence of sensitisation to jute; skin cancer can result from exposure to oil used to treat the jute.

Corchorus hirsutus L.
[syns Corchorus arenarius Kunth, Corchorus lanuginosus Macfad.]
Jackswitch, Mallet, Woolly Corchorus

von Reis & Lipp (1982) noted the following on an herbarium sheet: "Caution! Powder dangerous to eyes."

Durio zibethinus L.
Durian, Durianbaum, Stinkfrucht, Zibetbaum

The large malodorous fruits, which are covered by a hard shell bearing many sharp conical spines (Smitinand & Scheible 1966), are a hazard to passers-by as they fall from the tree. Indeed, Menninger (1967) describes the durian as the world's most dangerous fruit. Eating the durian fruit, which is considered to be a delicacy in South East Asia, can cause irritation especially in the angles of the mouth (Fasal 1945).

Firmiana simplex (L.) W.Wight
[syns Firmiana platanifolia (L.f.) Schott & Endl., Hibiscus simplex L., Sterculia platanifolia L.f.]
Chinese Bottle Tree, Chinese Parasol Tree, Sycamore-Leaf Sterculia, Chinesischer Sonnenschirmbaum

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Fremontodendron californicum (Torr.) Coville
[syns Fremontia californica Torr., Fremontia crassifolia Eastw.]
California Flannel Bush, California Fremontia, Californian Slippery Elm

The leaves bear irritant brown hairs that easily rub off and can become airborne (Wilkinson et al. 1994).

According to Remington et al. (1918), the bark of Fremontia californica is said to have the same properties as slippery elm bark (see Ulmus rubra Muhl., fam. Ulmaceae), and to be used for a similar purpose.

Gossypium L.

Some 20 species are found in tropical and subtropical regions. Cultivated forms are grown in Old and New Worlds to provide cotton which consists of long hairs covering the seeds. Cotton seed oil is obtained by crushing the seeds; the oil cake, following expression, is used for cattle feed.

Commercial cotton may be derived from four main species (Howes 1974). The hairs of cotton plants are irritant (Behl et al. 1966).

Gossypium hirsutum L.
[syns Gossypium mexicanum Tod., Gossypium purpurascens Poir.]
American Cotton, Upland Cotton, Amerikanische Baumwolle, Cotonnier Américain

Pseudophytodermatitis, can result from contact with cotton and its derivatives. Cotton, like cereals and straw (Gramineae), can be infested with a mite, Pyemotes (pediculoides) (Van Thiel 1953). Nixon (1915a) provided an incident report of an eruption following the handling of bulk cotton seed cargoes from Alexandria. Two-thirds of the 50 men handling the cargoes were affected. The eruption was ascribed to a mite living in the cotton seed dust. Agricultural chemicals (Karimov 1970), a varnish used in cotton mills (Schwartz and Pool 1933), and chromates present in cotton used in upholstery (Nixon 1915b) have been implicated.

Type I hypersensitivity reactions to cotton seed oil (Brown 1929, Spies et al. 1942, Bernton et al. 1949, Figley 1949, Harris and Shure 1950, Plymyer 1959) are probably attributable to a water soluble proteinaceous fraction of the oil. Cotton seed was implicated in a death from allergy testing by intradermal injection of 0.02ml of an extract (Harris & Shure 1959). Atopic patients scratch-test sensitive to cotton seed protein were found to be unaffected by ingestion of cottonseed oil (Bernton et al. 1949). In discussion of this paper, reference was made to mouth ulceration and oedema of the lips from ingestion of the oil in a sensitive individual. However, patch tests with the oil in sensitive atopic patients were negative. Taub (1945) listed sources of contact with cotton seed oil which was formerly much used in topical therapy and in cosmetics.

Cross-sensitivity was observed to kapok (Ceiba, fam. Bombacaceae) (Brown 1929). Respiratory diseases (byssinosis) can occur in cotton textile workers (Merchant et al. 1972).

Cancer of the scrotum in cotton spinners was reviewed by Brockbank (1941).

[Further information available but not yet included in database]

Grewia occidentalis L.
[syns Grewia chirindae Baker f., Grewia microphylla Welm., Grewia trinervis E.Mey.]
Crossberry, Four Corners, Lavender Starflower, Kreuzbeere

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Heritiera javanica (Blume) Kosterm.
[syns Heritiera cochinchinensis (Pierre) Kosterm., Tarrietia cochinchinensis Pierre]

This species is a source of timber known as mengkulang, kembang, or chumprak.a,b,c Citing "Timber Development Association" as the source of their information, Woods & Calnan (1976) noted that the sawdust from chumprak (Tarrietia cochinchinensis) irritates the throat and nose.

Heritiera simplicifolia (Mast.) Kosterm.
[syn. Tarrietia simplicifolia Mast.]

This species is a source of timber known as mengkulang, kembang, or chumprak.a,b The wood is said to be irritant (Orsler 1973). No further information was provided.

Heritiera utilis (Sprague) Sprague
[syns Tarrietia utilis (Sprague) Sprague, Triplochiton utile Sprague]

This species is a source of timber known as niangon, ogoué, or wishmor.a,b,c Referring to "Niangou (tarrieta utilis)", Raymond (1959) noted that the timber can produce dermatitis in construction workers.

Herrania purpurea (Pittier) R.E.Schult.
[syn. Theobroma purpurea Pittier]
Cacao de Montaña

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Hibiscus L.

300 species are found in tropical and subtropical regions. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is used to blacken the eyebrows and shoes and the young leaves are eaten as spinach (Irvine 1961).

Hjorth (1966a) observed allergic contact dermatitis from species of the genus with significant positive patch test reactions. A case of periocular eczema was traced to Hibiscus (Kaalund-Jørgensen 1951).

Hibiscus aethiopicus var. ovatus Harv.
[syns Hibiscus asperifolius Eckl. & Zeyh., Hibiscus leiospermus Harv.]
White Hibiscus

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Hibiscus elatus Sw.
[syns Paritium elatum (Sw.) G.Don, Talipariti elatum (Sw.) Fryxell]
Blue Mahoe, Cuban Bast, Majagua, Mountain Mahoe

The wood smells peppery when worked and causes sneezing (Stone 1924, Record & Mell 1924).

Hibiscus engleri K.Schum.
[syns Hibiscus irritans R.A.Dyer, Hibiscus subphysaloides Hochr.]

Referring to Hibiscus irritans, Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) noted that practically all parts of the plant are covered with sharp stellate hairs which can penetrate and become embedded in the skin.

Hibiscus panduriformis Burm.f.
[syn. Hibiscus velutinus DC.]

The stem is thickly covered with short white hairs amongst which are irritating bristles (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Hibiscus sabdariffa L.
[syns Hibiscus digitatus Cav., Hibiscus sabdariffa var. altissima Wester]
Fiber Hibiscus, Florida Cranberry, Indian Sorrel, Jamaican Sorrel, Roselle

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Lagunaria patersonia (Andrews) G.Don
[syns Hibiscus patersonii R.Br., Hibiscus patersonius Andrews]
Norfolk Island Hibiscus, Paterson's Lagunaria, Pyramid Tree, White Oak

The name of this plant was originally published as Lagunaria patersonii,a and this name remains in common use notwithstanding the correction of the name in accordance with the rules of the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants.b Indeed, Gardner (2006) argues that the name as originally published should be conserved.

Attached to the inner portion of the seed capsule are numerous short barbed hairs, that will attach themselves to the skin, and are very irritating, being not unlike those of the velvet bean, commonly called cowitch (Mucuna pruriens DC., fam. Leguminosae) (Bick 1921). Southcott & Haegi (1992) similarly noted that the pod, when opened, displays many stiff bristles, which readily penetrate the skin on contact. Whilst horticulturalists, landscape and other categories of gardeners (Hunt 1968/70, Cariñanos & Casares-Porcel 2011) have long known that the large seed pods contain irritant hairs, case reports in the medical literature describing the skin reaction seem to be lacking.

Malachra L.

Six species are found in warm regions of America and in the West Indies. The plants have rough hairs.

Malachra alceifolia Jacq.
[syns Malachra hispida Sessé & Moc., Malachra rotundifolia Schrank]
Bastard Okra, Wild Okra, Yellow Leafbract

This species was listed as a cause of mechanical injury by Oakes & Butcher (1962).

Malachra urens Poit. ex Ledeb.
[syn. Urena urens (Poit. ex Ledeb.) M.Gómez]

This species was reported to produce dermatitis (Pardo-Castello 1923).

Malva sylvestris L.
Blue Mallow, Common Mallow, Garden Mallow, High Mallow, Mauls, Mauve des Bois, Wilde Malve

Wren (1975) notes that this species may be used as a substitute for marshmallow (Althaea officinalis L.); and that a cataplasm of the leaves applied to bee or wasp stings "eases the smart". Stuart (1979) also refers to its use as a soothing poultice.

Mansonia altissima (A.Chev.) A.Chev.
[syn. Achantia altissima A.Chev.]
African Black Walnut, Mansonia, Bété

The wood was introduced from Nigeria into the world market in the thirties and its irritant properties were soon recognised (Bridge 1935). The fine dust from working the wood produced sneezing, sore throat, nosebleeds, headache and dermatitis (Horner & Wigley 1936, Bourne 1956, Salamone et al. 1969). Handbook of Hardwoods (1956), Hublet et al. (1972), Orsler (1969), Oleffe et al. (1975a), Reinl (1965) and Zafiropoulo et al. (1968) refer to dermatitis from the wood. Salamone et al. (1969) found skin irritation with a follicular eruption in a minority of their patients; patch tests to the wood produced negative reactions. Mucosal irritation affected many more.

Hand-sanding of the wood was responsible for dermatitis in seven workers; the fine dust was responsible; cabinet-makers, sawyers and planers were not affected (Bourne 1956).

In 27 workers in the furniture industry who developed dermatitis, patch tests to aqueous extracts of the wood produced positive reactions in 70% of cases alcoholic extracts in only 26% (Hanslian and Kadlec 1965). Species of this genus are among the six commoner causes of contact dermatitis from woods in France (Zafiropoulo et al. 1968).

Borrie (1956) investigated 283 cases of dermatitis of the eyelids and found contact dermatitis to represent the third largest group (47 cases). Of these two cases were caused by mansonia wood, one by teak wood (Tectona grandis L.f., fam. Labiatae), two by chrysanthemum (Dendranthema, fam. Compositae) and one by turpentine (Pinaceae).

Woods and Calnan (1976) reported four patients contact sensitive to mansonia wood. One was a female cleaner who only swept up sawdust and had dermatitis of the feet While the three men were a joiner, a cabinet-maker and a sawmill grinder. Positive patch test reactions were observed to mansonia wood dust. Teak (Tectona grandis L.f., fam. Labiatae) produced a positive patch test reaction in one of the cases, weakly positive (+) in another. Cross-sensitivity to Dalbergia was observed in one case an to Entandrophragma in another.


Mascré and Paris (1939) found in the bark a cardiac glycoside which they called mansonine. Several other glycosides related to strophanthin have since been found in the bark and heartwood (Frèrejacque 1951, Sandermann and Dietrichs 1959). Sandermann and Dietrichs isolated a quinone, mansonia-quinone from the heartwood and showed by patch tests that it was the skin-sensitiser in their case. Schulz (1962) obtained positive patch tests with mansonia-quinone in three more patients who gave negative results with the glycosides and other constituents. At least nine quinones have now been isolated, and shown to have a sesquiterpenoid structure (Marini-Bettolo et al. 1965, Galeffi et al. 1969).

Mansonia nymphaeifolia Mildbr.

The wood can produce dermatitis (Bois Tropicaux 1966).

Neesia Blume

Corner (1952) described the fruits as large, dry, woody, bluish grey, and beautifully studded with small spines like a durian [Durio zibethinus L.; see above], splitting open half-way into 5 parts, the inside of the cavities lined with chaffy, yellow, very irritating bristles. He further noted that the fallen fruits of [unspecified species of] Neesia are occasionally met with in the forest [in Malaya]. They are most striking and attractive, but they must be handled with the greatest caution to prevent the bristles touching the skin: if their points once penetrate, it is impossible to get rid of them until the skin is naturally sloughed off. Burkill (1935) also referred to the irritating bristles present on the inner side of the woody fruit capsules.

Neesia altissima (Blume) Blume
[syn. Esenbeckia altissima Blume]

This species is the source of a lesser used timber known as durian or bengang. However, the name durian is also used for the timber derived from numerous other species of Neesia Blume, of Coelostegia Benth., of Durio Adans., and from Kostermansia malayana Soegeng., all in the family Malvaceae.a,b According to Malaysian Timber Industry Board (2017), the fruits are ovoid pentagonal capsules with a pointed apex, externally covered by dark brown pyramidal tubercles, dehiscent at the apex in five valves, and containing numerous black ellipsoid seeds with a yellow aril; the inner walls of the capsules are thickly covered by orange-coloured irritating hairs.

Nesogordonia papaverifera (A.Chev.) Capuron ex N.Hallé
[syn. Cistanthera papaverifera A. Chev.]

Woods and Calnan (1976) received a personal communication that some complaints of irritation by wood were received by the Forestry Department of Ibadan, Nigeria.

Ochroma pyramidale (Cav. ex Lam.) Urb.
[syns Bombax pyramidale Cav. ex Lam., Ochroma bicolor Rowlee, Ochroma lagopus Sw.]
Balsa, Cork Wood, Cotton Tree, Down Tree, West Indian Balsa, Balsabaum

The wood, known as balsa or corkwood, is said to be irritant (Hanslian & Kadlec 1966).

Pachira quinata W.S.Alverson
[syns Bombacopsis fendleri Pittier, Bombacopsis quinata Dugand, Bombax fendleri Benth., Pachira fendleri Seem., Pochota fendleri W.S.Alverson & M.C.Duarte]
Cedro Espino

Referring to Bombacopsis fendleri, Standley (1937b) noted that the trunk of this tree is densely armed with hard, sharp prickles. This tree provides a valuable timber.

Pseudobombax munguba (Mart.) Dugand
[syns Bombax munguba Mart., Pseudobombax amapaense A.Robyns]

Wheeler (1942) recorded that twigs of Bombax mungaba [sic] on the Rio Purus, Amazonas, had been found inhabited by Pseudomyrma sericea Mayr. [= Pseudomyrmex sericeus (Mayr, 1870), fam. Formicidae; a stinging ant].

Pterospermum Schreb.

Hausen (1970) cites Lewin (1928) as the source of trade reports of skin irritation and itching produced by amboina, a timber identified incorrectly as being derived from Pterospermum indicum, a name of no botanical standing.

According to Woods & Calnan (1976), Pterospermum indicum is an incorrect name given by Lewin (1928) to [the botanical source of] amboina (or amboyna) wood, which is in fact obtained from Pterocarpus indicus Willd. (fam. Leguminosae).a,b

Pterospermum diversifolium Blume
[syn. Pterospermum hastatum Blanco]

The wood is listed as injurious by Sandermann & Barghoorn (1956).

Pterygota macrocarpa K.Schum.
[syn. Pterygota cordifolia A.Chev.]
African Pterygota

Woods & Calnan (1976), referencing data from an unpublished survey of sawmills and woodworking factories in Ibadan, Nigeria, noted that a sawyer who had developed mild papular dermatitis on exposed skin, when patch tested with the sawdust from seven woods he had recently worked with, showed weak positive (±) patch test reactions to sawdust from Pterygota macrocarpus [sic] and Terminalia ivorensis A.Chev. (fam. Combretaceae), and a positive (2+) reaction to sawdust from Spondias mombin L. (fam. Anacardiaceae). Control tests were not recorded.

Rhodognaphalon brevicuspe (Sprague) Roberty
[syns Bombax chevalieri Pellegr., Bombax brevicuspe Sprague]

Alone, the timber derived from this species, was listed by Oleffe et al. (1975a) as a cause of dermatitis in the Belgian wood industry.

Sida alba L.
[syns Malvinda alba (L.) Medik., Sida affinis J.A.Schmidt]
Spiny Sida, Spring Sida

Because of their morphological similarities, some authorities consider Sida alba and Sida spinosa L. [see below] to be conspecific. Although both species bear spine-like stipules at the bases of their petioles, and their common names suggest that the plants are spiny, neither appears to have been recognised as a dermatological hazard.

Sida spinosa L.
[syn. Sida angustifolia Lam.]
Indian Mallow, Prickly Fanpetals, Prickly Sida, Spiny Sida

At the base of the petiole, there is a pair of linear stipules; some of the lower leaves also have a blunt green spine below the base of their petioles.a According to the eFlora of North America,b the specific epithet refers to a small spur, which is not a spine, that occurs on the abaxial side of the petiole at the juncture with the stem.

Sida urens L.
[syns Sida congensis D.Dietr., Sida verticillata Cav.]
Bristly Sida, Nettle-Leaved Sida, Stinging Sida, Tropical Fanpetals

According to Pammel (1911), this species occurs in tropical America and produces mechanical injuries because of the hairs with which it is covered. Dalziel (1937) noted that the plant is recognised in West Tropical Africa as a weed with slightly irritating hairs.

Sparrmannia africana L.f.
[syn. Sparmannia acerifolia hort. ex Steud.]
African Hemp, Cape Stock-Rose, Indoor Linden, Zimmerlinde

The hairs of the leaf have an irritant effect on the skin. Patch tests to the leaf produced positive reactions in 90% of 511 patients but extracts of the leaf produced negative reactions (Schulze 1940). He concluded that contact sensitivity was not involved but Kuske and Bandi (1958) observed that a small number of persons tested showed eczematous reactions to the leaves.

Sterculia L.

180 species are found in tropical regions.

The seed pods of several species possess small hairs which cause intense itching on penetration of the skin (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Sterculia africana (Lour.) Fiori
[syns Sterculia triphaca R.Br., Triphaca africana Lour.]
African Star Chestnut, Mopopaja Tree, Tick Tree

Citing an earlier author, Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) noted that the hollow woody fruit is covered with a brown felt of acicular hairs which are very troublesome to the skin if the fruit is handled carelessly.

Sterculia apetala (Jacq.) H.Karst.
[syns Clompanus apetala (Jacq.) Kuntze, Helicteres apetala Jacq.]
Bellota, Panama Tree, Camaruca, Sterculier de Panama, Panama-Stinkbaum

The inside of the seed pods is covered with a velvety brown lining made up of thousands of minute irritant hairs that are easily detached, penetrating the skin causing intense irritation (Standley 1937b, Allen 1943, Dahlgren & Standley 1944). This tree provides a useful timber.

Sterculia appendiculata K.Schum. ex Engl.
Tall Sterculia

Citing an earlier author, Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) noted that the boat-shaped fruit is covered with irritating sharp spikes.

Sterculia caribaea R.Br.
[syn. Clompanus caribaea (R.Br.) Kuntze]
Chicha, Mahoe, Zapote

This tree is a locally important source of timber. The wood dust is irritant (Anon 1957, MacKenna and Horner 1954, Zafiropoulo et al. 1968). Woods and Calnan (1976) could find no case reports to support the inclusion by MacKenna and Horner (1954) of the wood among those woods whose "chief, if not only effect, is on the skin".

Sterculia murex Hemsley
Lowveld Chestnut

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Sterculia rogersii N.E.Br.
Common Star-Chestnut, Small-Leaved Star-Chestnut, Ulumbu Tree

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Sterculia urens Roxb.
[syn. Cavallium urens (Roxb.) Schott & Endl.]
Indian Tragacanth, Karaya, Mucara, Sterculia

Irritant hairs are present on the stems and fruits (Arnold 1968).

The dried exudate of the tree forms karaya gum (Indian tragacanth) which has in the past been used to adulterate Gum Tragacanth from Astragalus (Trease & Evans 1966, Smith & Montgomery 1959) but is now itself an article of commerce. Hog or Caramaria gum is an inferior grade mixed with fragments of bark. The resin of Anacardium occidentale is used as a substitute for karaya gum and Gum Arabic (Acacia) (Figley 1940). Karaya gum can cause atopic symptoms and urticaria (Figley 1940, Bowen 1939, Feinberg and Schoenkermah 1940, Greenberg and Lester 1954). According to Schwartz et al. (1957) karaya gum in hand cream can cause contact dermatitis.

Theobroma L.

20 species are found in tropical America. Several provide cacao, cocoa or chocolate. Cocoa butter is formed by pressing the seeds (beans).

Theobromine is present in the beans (Budavari 1996).

Theobroma cacao L.
[syns Theobroma leiocarpum Bernoulli, Theobroma sphaerocarpum A.Chev.]
Cacao, Chocolate Tree, Cacaoyer, Kakaopflanze

Early reports of dermatitis in chocolate-makers were reviewed by Prosser White (1934). Gardiner (1922) reported six cases. Schwartz et al. (1957), Samitz (1950), Queries and Minor Notes (1921), Weber (1937), Key (1961) provide additional reports. Morris (1954) reported a positive patch test reaction to chocolate. Dermatitis in a chocolate factory and subsequent "hardening" were observed by Goldsmith and Hellier (1954). Greenberg and Lester (1954) reviewed reports of irritation by cocoa butter and considered it innocuous. Cocoa butter is considered to be a known allergen and is therefore removed from certain brandname cosmetics (Anon 1973).

Thespesia populnea (L.) Sol. ex Corrêa
[syn. Hibiscus populneus L.]
Indian Tuliptree, Pacific Rosewood, Polynesian Rosewood

This plant was listed as vesicant for the skin by Quisumbing (1951). The leaves are used for counter-irritant purposes.

Tilia americana L.
American Basswood, American Lime, American Linden, Whitewood, Bois Blanc, Tilleul d’Amérique, Amerikanische Linde

American lime or bass wood was included in a list of irritant plants and woods by Schwartz et al. (1947, 1957).

Triplochiton scleroxylon K.Schum.
[syns Samba scleroxylon (K.Schum.) Roberty, Triplochiton nigericum Sprague]

This species from West Africa forms a large tree from which a useful timber is derived. The timber is known as obeche or African whitewood. Other colloquial names include abachi, wawa, and samba. The wood was at one time sold in Liverpool as satinwood (Irvine 1961).

Bridge (1937) reported a case of asthma due to the sawdust, skin tests being positive to this wood and negative to other woods. Oehling (1963) described 3 cases of asthma from the wood, one also sensitive to Terminalia. Contact urticaria could be produced by rubbing obeche wood on the skin. Orsler (1973) received trade reports of asthma and general symptoms from the wood dust. Woods and Calnan (1976) received a personal communication of dermatitis from a lavatory seat made of the wood, with a positive patch test reaction. Hausen (1970) found no alkaloids or quinones in the wood. Hublet et al. (1972) and Oleffe et al. (1973) reported unspecified muco-cutaneous effects from the wood in Belgium. The wood seems to be less noxious than mansonia (Zafiropoulo et al. 1968).

Daniels et al. (2002) reported that a proprietary Wau Wa Cream made in Ghana, labelled as containing extract of wau wa root (this species) and being sold in the UK as a remedy for eczema, actually contained 0.013% clobetasol propionate, a semi-synthetic corticosteroid that is not known to occur naturally.

Triumfetta Plum. ex L.

176 species are found in tropical regions. The fruits (burrs) possess hooked spines, which cling to the wool of sheep (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Triumfetta rhomboidea Jacq.
[syns Triumfetta angulata Lam., Triumfetta bartramia L., Triumfetta vahlii Poir.]
Chinese Burr

The seeds stick on touch to clothes and animal skin.

Triumfetta semitriloba Jacq.
[syns Triumfetta hirta Vahl, Triumfetta oxyphylla DC., Triumfetta rubricaulis Kunth]
Burweed, Sacramento Burbark

This species can produce mechanical injury (Oakes and Butcher 1962).


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