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Origin and Habitat: Caralluma adscendens is widespread and distributed in India, Ceylon and Burma, it is also found in the Arabian Peninsula, Sudan and West Africa (Nigeria, Ghana, Dahomey, Niger etc.) and thus has one of the largest distributions known for a stapeliad. his distribution is not unique in its extensiveness and here are several stapeliads now known to have a wide distribution in the tropical parts of the northern emisphere. The species is characterized by great morphological variations within it. As a result about six varieties have been described.
Habitat and ecology: It grows on dry habitat. Occasional in hilly region, especially scrub jungles in shallow soils overlying rocks.
- Caralluma adscendens (Roxb.) Haw.
Caralluma adscendens (Roxb.) Haw.
Syn. Pl. Succ. 47. 1812
- Caralluma adscendens (Roxb.) Haw.
- Caralluma dalzielii N.E.Br.
Caralluma adscendens var. attenuata (Wight) Gravely & Mayur.
Bull. Madras Gov. Mus. ser. nov., 4(1): 13. 1931
Caralluma adscendens var. carinata Gravely & Mayur.
Bull. Madras Gov. Mus. n.s., 4(1): 16 (t. I, fig. 11, t. II, fig. 6). 1931 [Apr 1931]
Caralluma adscendens var. fimbriata (Wall.) Gravely
Ind. Sp. Gen. Car. 13 1931.
Caralluma adscendens var. geniculata Gravely & Mayur.
Bull. Madras Gov. Mus. n.s., 4(1): 16 (t. I, fig. 7, t. II, figs. 7-8). 1931 [Apr 1931]
- Caralluma adscendens var. geniculata Gravely & Mayur.
- Caralluma geniculata (Gravely & Mayur.) Meve & Liede
Caralluma adscendens var. gracilis Gravely & Mayur.
Bull. Madras Gov. Mus. . n.s., 4(1): 14 (-15; t. I, fig. 8, t. II, fig. 5). 1931 [Apr 1931]
KANNADA (ಕನ್ನಡ): maakada singi, mangana kodu
MARATHI (मराठी): माकड शिंग Makad Shing
SANSKRIT (संस्कृतम्): Yugmaphallottama
TAMIL (தமிழ்): Cullí mulayan, Kullee Mooliyan, Kallimudayan
TELUGU (తెలుగు): kaarallamu, kundelu kommulu
Description: Caralluma adscendens (a succulent belonging to the family Asclepiadaceae) is an erect shrubby perennial herb, 20-30 cm tall, with xerophytic features and cactus-like appearance. The stems are fleshy, almost leafless, green, often striped reddish. The star-shaped, fleshy flowers are some of the worst smelling of the succulent plants. The foul-smelling blossoms are dropping, less than 2.5 cm across, usually green, finely dotted with purple, sometimes horizontally striped with purple or chestnut-brown with brownish lobes. In the wild, these blossoms are pollinated by flies, which are greatly attracted to the plant. Caralluma adscendens is highly variable with a geographically wide distribution and forms a controversial complex of related species and/or varieties. Six varieties are recognized, the nominate form, var. attenuata (Wight) Gravely & Mayur., var. carinata Gravely & Mayur., var. fimbriata (Wall.) Gravely & Mayur., var. geniculata Gravely & Mayur., and var. gracilis. But var. fimbriata and var. gracilis seem to be hardly discernible from var. adscendens. Caralluma adscendens is closely related to the Afro-Arabian Caralluma subulata, which has already been put into synonymy by Bruyns (1992).
Note: Caralluma adscendens is the type species of the genus Caralluma.
Stems: Stemlets leafless, creeping at first, then upright, 30 -65 cm long, basally 1.5-2 cm in diameter, branched, diminishing towards the apex and only 5-8 mm across, green, often striped reddish, four-angled, edges rounded or sharp slightly sinuate-dentate. Tubercles blunt, protruding, horizontally spreading. Sap watery.
Leaves: Rudimentary, minute tooth-like 5 4 mm long, present only on young branches, soon falling off, leaving a tooth-like projection on the angles.
Inflorescences: At the upper part of the shoots, 1- to 3-flowered in the leaf-axils, loosely scattered.
Flowers: About 23 mm across, drooping; Pedicel 1-4 mm long, thin, vertical or bent downwards; Sepals 2-3 mm long, acute; Corolla light green, finely dotted with purple, sometimes horizontally striped with purple or chestnut-brown, flat to shortly campanulate, tube 1.5 mm deep; Corolla lobes narrow, spreading outwards, 1-3 cm long, 1.5 cm wide, lanceolate, bluntly tapering, apically brownish, margins, slightly revolute, and margins glabrous or frilly with hairs. Corona brownish to dark purple, bowl-shaped. Ci basally pouch-shaped, lobes 5 1 mm, deeply divided, appendages filiform, falcate, bent towards each other; Cs lobes broadly triangular, blunt. Pollinia ovoid. Several varieties have hairy petals.
Blooming season (in habitat): February-September, but mostly July-August.
Fruits (follicles): Paired, slender, 6-12 cm long, cylindric with one of the pairs often suppressed, round in cross section, green with purple streaks, tapering towards apex.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Caralluma adscendens group
- Caralluma adscendens (Roxb.) Haw.: (var. adscendens) Stems edges rounded or sharp; Tubrcles blunt, protruding, horizontally spreading; Flowers drooping; Corolla green, dotted with purple, lobes brownish, spreading outwards, glabrous. Distribution: widespread in India, Ceylon and Burma.
- Caralluma adscendens var. attenuata (Wight) Gravely & Mayur.: Tubercles strongly bent upwards; Flower not quite as drooping as in var. adscendens and var. fimbriata; Pedicel horizontally spreading; Corolla 1.5 cm in diameter, hairy. Distribution: widespread in Indian sub-continent.
- Caralluma adscendens var. carinata Gravely & Mayur.: stem often unhranched, edges acute; Tubercles as in var. attenuata; Flowers erect; Pedicel horizontally spreading; Corolla purple, lobes light maroon banded with yellow. Intermediate between var. attenuata and var. fimbriata in habit. Distribution: India.
- Caralluma adscendens var. fimbriata (Wall.) Gravely: Stems (at least close to the base) with rounded edges: Tubercles as in var. attenuata; corolla rather small, similar to var. attenuata. Distribution: India, Sri Lanka and Burma.
- Caralluma adscendens var. geniculata Gravely & Mayur.: stems ascending-erect, occasionally branched. Tubercles indistinctly set off. Pedicel ascending or horizontally spreading. Corolla yellow striped with dark-brown, tube opening widely. It is more related to Caralluma bhupinderiana. Distribution: India.
- Caralluma adscendens var. gracilis Gravely & Mayur.: Stems very slender and strongly branched with acute edges; inflorescence with 2 erect Flowers; Pedicels long, slender, ascending. Corolla lobes strongly revolute. Distribution: India.
- Caralluma dalzielii N.E.Br.: Distribution: Africa North of the equator (Sahelian zone in Africa east to Somalia).
- Caralluma subulata (Forssk.) Decne.: Distribution: Arabian Peninsula.
Notes: Caralluma adscendens is highly variable and has attracted several taxonomists to work out the complexities of this group. Variability in the floral morphology of C. adscendens is higher than what is typically found in other species. Almost every population shows its own features. Differences occurs in corolla structure, size, ciliation, striation, color variation, corona structure and position of insertion of pollinarium. Inner colouration of the corolla surface is predominantly purple, but creamy yellow colouration is found in Caralluma adscendens var. gracilis. Dense purple-red transverse stripes or streaks are found in all the six varieties of C. adscendens but each variety has different patterns and amount of striation. However the status of the varieties within C. adscendens seems questionable and intermediate forms are apparently common. Bruyns (1989) has drawn attention to the very great similarity among these varieties - Caralluma adscendens var. fimbriata from India, Caralluma subulata from Arabia and Caralluma dalzielii from West Africa. They may be conspecific.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Debasis Bagchi, Harry G. Preuss “Obesity: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, and Prevention” Second Edition CRC Press, 06 July 2012
2) Focke Albers, Ulrich Meve “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Asclepiadaceae: Asclepiadaceae” Volume 4 Springer, 2002
3) Hermann Jacobsen “A Handbook of Succulent Plants: Descriptions, Synonyms, and Cultural Details for Succulents Other Than Cactaceae” Volume 1 Blandford Press, 1960
4) George Watt ”A Dictionary of the Economic Products of India” Volume 2 Cambridge University Press, 23 january 2014
5) T. M. Ramakrishna, S. N. Ramaswamy, Govindappa D. Arekal “The Asclepiadaceae and Periplocaceae of Karnataka” Prasaranga, University of Mysore, 1995
6) Umberto Quattrocchi “CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology” CRC Press, 03 May 2012
7) R. P. Sharma, Business Manager, Indian Forester. “The Indian Forester” Volume 125 1999
8) “Plants of the Coast of Coromandel” 1: 28-29, t. 30. 1795
9) “Memoirs of the Wernerian Natural History Society” 1: 25. 1810
10) “Synopsis plantarum succulentarum” 47. 1812
11) “Taxon” 30: 696. 1981
12) “Journal of Pharmacy Research” 2(7): 1228-1229. 2009
13) “Studies in Natural Products Chemistry” Volume 40 Newnes, 25 June 2013
14) “Bradleya: Yearbook of the British Cactus and Succulent Society” Volune 10: 95 The Society, 1992
15) “Journal of Non-timber Forest Products”, Volumi 7-9 Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, 2000
16) Wikipedia contributors. "Caralluma adscendens." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Jun. 2015. Web. 16 Jul. 2015.
17) Plowes, D. (1995). "A reclassification of Caralluma R. Br. (Stepelieae: Asclepiadaceae)". Haselotnia 3: 49–70.
18) Plowes, D. (2011). "When is a Caralluma not a Caralluma?" Asklepias 107: 3–22.
19) Karuppusamy, S., A. Ugraiah & T. Pullaiah (2012). "Morphological and reproductive variations within Boucerosia umbellata complex (Family: Apocynaceae, subfamily: Asclepiadoideae).” The International Journal of Plant Reproductive Biology 4: 53–60.
20) K.M. Prabhu Kumar, U.C. Murshida, Binu Thomas, Satheesh George, Indira Balachandran & Gilbert, M.G. (1990). "A review of Caralluma R. Br. and its segregates.” Bradleya 8: 1–32.
21) S. Karuppusamy “Notes on Caralluma adscendens (Roxb.) Haw. var. attenuata (Wight) Grav. & Mayur. (Apocynaceae: Asclepiadoideae)” Journal of Threatened Taxa | www.threatenedtaxa.org | 26 August 2014 | 6(9): 6282–6286
22) Gravely, F.H. & P.V. Mayuranathan (1931). “The Indianspecies of the genus
Caralluma (Fam. Asclepiadaceae).” Bulletin of Madras Government Museum 4: 1–28.
Cultivation and Propagation: Caralluma adscendens is a relatively quick-growing species and not as difficult to cultivate as was originally thought. It can stand drought for quite a period, which is the only time when it loose its leaves. Keep dry in Winter. Water a little more than other succulents in Summer.
Traditional uses: This species has been in use for centuries in India. It is commonly used as a vegetable in semiarid regions of India. It is eaten raw or cooked with spices, or preserved in chutneys and pickles, and is often found as a roadside shrub or boundary marker. It is also classified as famine food. In arid and semiarid regions, when no food is available, this is consumed as a substitute for food. Indians are known to chew chunks of Caralluma adscendens (especially Caralluma adscendens var. fimbriata) to suppress hunger when on a day's hunt. The cactus is used by the South Indians to suppress appetite and enhance endurance. They make their living as hunters, wood collectors, plant collectors, foragers, etc. They do not eat or carry cooked food with them while they go into the forests for hunting. To ensure that they are not hungry and that they have enough endurance to last them on their forays into the forest, they chop off the stems of this succulent and chew a handful of them. By doing so, they do not feel hungry and thirsty. They can hunt and stay out for hours together without food or water. The tribesmen also state that their energy levels are maintained without food and water and that they do not feel any fatigue or tiredness. In a day, the consumption of Caralluma adscendens var. fimbriata as a vegetable in the manner used by the tribesmen was about 100 g. Caralluma adscendens var. fimbriata and Hoodia gordonii received a growing interest in the past 20 years because it was claimed that they presented appetite-suppressant and weight loss properties. The bioactive compounds that were isolated from C. adscendens var. fimbriata and H. gordonii were glycosteroids, specifically 14b-hydroxypregnane derivatives.
Medical uses: Anti inflammatory, antipyretic, antinociceptive, antifungal, antidote and anthelmintic, used in treatment of rheumatism, diabetes, leprosy, tumour, fungal diseases, snake, scorpion bite. Young stem ground with onion and tamarind and made into a paste used to cure digestive problems.
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