STROPHANTHUS GRATUS, popularly called the Climbing Oleander, is a spectacular climbing shrub native to the deciduous forests of tropical West Africa. The plant exudes a milky latex in/from its stems and leaves. It belongs to the Dogbane family Apocynaceae.
The leaves are opposite, glossy and evergreen. The plant climbs and spreads producing large, showy, delightfully fragrant, purple-white flowers in terminal clusters. The flowers are bell-shaped and open at night. The corolla tube is long and a dark purple. Its lobes are crinkled, with a pale rose-purple inner crown.
The other species of the genus such as the African Corkscrew-flower S. speciosus and the Chinese S. Divaricatus are well known in tropical gardens. S. wallichii and S. wightianus, native to India, produce numerous small flowers in terminal cymose or corymbose inflorescences. The flowers are pinkish or brownish with long, narrow, often twisted petals with greenish or yellowish cross bands.
The plant thrives well in the warmer areas of plains and hills and bears numerous fragrant floral bunches during July to February. It grows vigorously, but seldom bears fruit under Indian conditions. Strophanthus is suitable for pergolas and trellises. It prefers warm conditions with plenty of sunlight and thrives well even in adverse situations. The plant is generally propagated from stem cuttings and is also free from pests and diseases under Indian conditions.
The plant is used by the folk healers of tropical West Africa to cure fever, skin ulcerations and wounds. African hunters use the seeds as an arrow poison. Quabain, a substance obtained from the seed, is a powerful cardiac stimulant comparable to "digitoxin" obtained from the Foxglove. The tropical African S. sarmentosus is known to be a good source of cortisone.
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