Syn.: Apocynum salicifolium Medik., Asclepias angustifolia Schweigg., Asclepias cornuta (Decne.) Cordem., Asclepias crinita (G. Bertol.) N. E. Br., Asclepias fruticosa L., Asclepias glabra Mill., Asclepias salicifolia Salisb., nom. illeg., Asclepias virgata Balb., Gomphocarpus angustifolius (Schweigg.) Link, Gomphocarpus arachnoideus E. Fourn., Gomphocarpus cornutus Decne., Gomphocarpus crinitus G. Bertol.
Family: Apocynaceae Juss.; Asclepiadaceae R. Br.
Gomphocarpus fruticosus
Distribution: Native to eastern and southern Africa, also Yemen, Oman and southern parts of Saudi Arabia. It is naturalized in Senegal, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan, Madagascar, Mauritius, in northern Africa, the Azores, southern Europe, eastern Australia and New Zealand.
Ecology: It grows in grasslands, along roadsides, railway lines and fields, in disturbed sites, waste areas, on river banks, from sea level up to 2500 m asl.
Gomphocarpus fruticosus
Description: Shrubs up to 1.5(–2.5) m tall, much branched from the base; branches erect, densely hairy when young, woody at base. Leaves opposite, short petiolate, linear to narrowly linear-elliptical, (2.5–)4–12 cm × (0.2–)0.3–0.8(–1.3) cm, entire, base cuneate, apex attenuate, yellowish-green, sparsely to densely hairy on veins. Inflorescences nodding umbel, 4–7(–12)-flowered; peduncle 1.5–3(–4) cm long; bracts filiform, deciduous; flowers 5-merous; pedicel 1–2.5 cm long; sepals lanceolate or triangular, 2–5 mm long, attenuate; corolla reflexed, white, yellowish or pink, lobes ovate, 5–8 mm × 3–5 mm, acute, margins ciliate; corona lobes attached 1–1.5 mm above base of staminal column, laterally compressed, 2–4 mm × 1.5–3 mm, as tall as the column. The fruits are follicles, ovoid, tapering into a long beak, 4–7 cm × 1.5–2.5 cm, papery, pale green, sometimes tinged reddish, short-hairy, soft spiny.
Use: All parts of Gomphocarpus fruticosus are toxic, the latex causes skin irritation. The plant is used in traditional medicine, throughout eastern, southern Africa and Madagascar a leaf or root infusion or root and leaf powder in water is taken as an emetic.
Note: The genus Gomphocarpus comprises about 21 species in tropical Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. In Gomphocarpus fruticosus 5 subspecies are distinguished, for example in the Arabian Peninsula occurs Gomphocarpus fruticosus subsp. setosus, G. f. subsp. flavidus is known from Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.
Gomphocarpus fruticosus
Gomphocarpus fruticosus
Gomphocarpus fruticosus
These images were taken in Madagascar, Fianarantsoa, Iarintsena (by Ljuba Procházková, October 31, 2014).