Monographs Details: Strychnos castelnaeana Baill.
Authority: Krukoff, Boris A. 1965. Supplementary notes on the American species of Strychnos VII. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 12: 1-94.
Description:Distribution and Ecology - Distribution: For information on its distribution, it is best to refer to Baillon, as his information given in 1879 is not only accurate but even cannot be amplified to any extent (1: 309). This species is known from the western part of the Amazon basin and its range is probably more or less similar to those of S. javariensis, S. Smithiana and certain other species, and is centered around the border common to Peru, Brazil and Colombia.In the States of Amazonas, Brazil, it has been collected in the basin of the upper Rio Solimoes, (including its tributaries, Rio Iça and the lower Rio Javari). It has been collected in Peru and doubtless occurs also in adjacent Colombia.
Discussion:It is curious that this plant (the famous “Guré” of the Tecunas) has never been collected by anyone who was not particularly interested in curare. In the 19th century it was collected only by Castelnau, Weddell, Jobert, Schwacke and Crevaux, whereas in modern times only by Froes and myself. It is incredible that Ducke (a “field botanist” as he used to refer to himself) never saw living plants of the two historical American species of Strychnos, that is, of S. toxifera and S. Castelnaeana (31: 23, 38), this in spite of persistent efforts to locate the latter near Esperança and Tabatinga on his numerous trips there and where both species doubtless occur. They look fascinating, probably because of their historical interest as they are entering curare as its main ingredient.
For information on the position of this species in Ducke’s key made on the basis of fruit characters, see under S. rondeletioides.
This species is well known as the main ingredient of curare of Indian tribes inhabiting the basin of the upper Solimoes and its tributaries, that is, the region centering around the border common to Peru, Brazil and Colombia. It is of interest to note that in the first physiological experiments conducted by La Condamine in Leiden in 1745, the material used was the curare of the Tecunas of Brazil brought back by La Condamine from his trip across the South American continent, and therefore likely prepared of the bark of S. Castelnaeana as a main ingredient. This curare (pot curare), with S. Castelnaeana as the main ingredient, is still not known chemically, unlike “calabash curare” (with S. toxifera as the main ingredient) and “bamboo curare” (with Chondodendron tomentosum, as the main ingredient) which were studied recently by chemists very extensively.
This species was studied by Folkers & Unna in 1937. For the alkaloid content, toxicity and curare activity of the total extracts, see (39: 690, 691). This work was done on Krukoff 7533, 7534, 7537, 7538, 7541, and 7548 all from the basin of the upper Rio Solimoes, Amazonas, Brazil, and included samples of stem bark of mature plants, as well as stem and root bark of young plants. No alkaloids were isolated in this study.
Distribution:Peru South America
| Brazil South America
| Colombia South America