Ancistrocladus is a genus of woody lianas in the monotypic family Ancistrocladaceae. The branches climb by twining other stems or by scrambling with hooked tips. [3] They are found in the tropics of the Old World.

Ancistrocladus heyneanus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Ancistrocladaceae
Planch. ex Walp.[1]
Genus: Ancistrocladus

See text

  • Wormia Vahl (1810), nom. illeg.
  • Bembix Lour. (1790), nom. rej.
  • Bigamea Endl. (1840).
  • Ancistrella Tiegh.(1903).[2]


The APG II system, of 2003 (unchanged from the APG system, of 1998), also recognizes this family and assigns it to the order Caryophyllales in the clade core eudicots.

Recent molecular and biochemical evidence (see the AP-Website) suggests the carnivorous taxa in the order Caryophyllales (the families Droseraceae and Nepenthaceae and the species Drosophyllum lusitanicum and Triphyophyllum peltatum) all belong to the same clade. This family Ancistrocladaceae would belong to this same clade, although the plants in the family are not carnivorous.

A close relationship between this family and the family Dioncophyllaceae (containing the carnivorous species T. peltatum) is supported by similar pollen and petiole structure. The Cronquist system, 1981, placed the family in the order Violales (together with Dioncophyllaceae). The Takhtajan system placed the family in its own order Ancistrocladales.


The only genus in the family Ancistrocladaceae is Ancistrocladus, a little-known genus of about 20 species. These are palaeotropical, climbing, twining plants, found in lowland to submontane, wet to seasonal evergreen or swamp forests. The sparingly branched, sympodial stem is complex and can exceed 10 cm in diameter. It is along one side attached to the tree with grapnels (short, hooked lateral thorns, formed from modified stem apices), opposite to the leaves. Their leaves are borne in dense, evergreen rosettes. They are entire, have short petioles and lack stipules. They have a single wax-secreting trichome in the epidermal pits and glands on the abaxial surface. The flowers are small with a basally connate corolla, that are imbricate or rolled up lengthwise. The fruit is a nut with often wing-like accrescent sepals.


The species of Ancistrocladus are native to tropical Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and Southeast Asia.[4]

Medicinal potential

Scientific interest in this genus has grown considerably because the canopy liana Ancistrocladus korupensis is considered a potential anti-AIDS source by the National Cancer Institute because of its highly effective mode of action against HIV.[5] This plant was discovered in Cameroon and subsequently recognized as a species new to science. Its ingredient michellamine B, an acetogenic napthyl isoquinoline alkaloid, contained in mature leaves, is the active principle. Also, korupensamine E is a new antimalarial drug extracted from the same plant.

Ancistrocladus abbreviatus has been used on traditional medicine in Ghana, as treatment against measles and fever. The active ingredient is ancistrobrevine D, an alkaloid extracted from this plant.

Ancistrocline, an alkaloid derived from A. tectorius, is used against dysentery.

Many other alkaloids are still being found in the other species.


Species accepted as of July 2014:[4]

  1. Ancistrocladus abbreviatus Airy Shaw - western Africa
  2. Ancistrocladus attenuatus Dyer - West Bengal, Myanmar, Andaman Islands
  3. Ancistrocladus barteri Scott-Elliot - western Africa
  4. Ancistrocladus benomensis Rischer & G.Bringmann - Pahang
  5. Ancistrocladus congolensis J.Léonard - Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Zaïre
  6. Ancistrocladus ealaensis J.Léonard - Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Zaïre, Central African Republic
  7. Ancistrocladus grandiflorus Cheek - Cameroon
  8. Ancistrocladus griffithii Planch. - Indochina, Andaman Islands
  9. Ancistrocladus guineensis Oliv. - Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon
  10. Ancistrocladus hamatus (Vahl) Gilg - Sri Lanka
  11. Ancistrocladus heyneanus Wall. ex J.Graham - southwestern India
  12. Ancistrocladus ileboensis Heubl, Mudogo & G.Bringmann - Congo-Brazzaville
  13. Ancistrocladus korupensis D.W.Thomas & Gereau - Nigeria, Cameroon
  14. Ancistrocladus letestui Pellegr. - Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Zaïre, Central African Republic
  15. Ancistrocladus likoko J.Léonard - Congo-Brazzaville, Zaïre
  16. Ancistrocladus pachyrrhachis Warb. - Liberia
  17. Ancistrocladus robertsoniorum J.Léonard - Kenya
  18. Ancistrocladus tanzaniensis Cheek & Frim. - Tanzania
  19. Ancistrocladus tectorius (Lour.) Merr. - Andaman Islands, Cambodia, Hainan, Borneo, Sumatra, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
  20. Ancistrocladus uncinatus Hutch. & Dalziel - Nigeria
  21. Ancistrocladus wallichii Planch. - Assam, Bangladesh, Andaman Islands


  1. Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009), "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III", Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 161 (2): 105–121, doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x
  2. "Ancistrocladus". Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  3. "Watson, L. & Dallwitz, M. J. 1994. The Families of Flowering Plants. Interactive Identification and Information Retrieval on CD-ROM version 1.0 1993, and colour illustrated manual". Nordic Journal of Botany. 14 (5): 486. 1994. doi:10.1111/j.1756-1051.1994.tb00638.x. ISSN 1756-1051.
  4. Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  5. Everhart, Derald (7 April 1993). "Scientists Say Rare Vine Offers Hope For AIDS Cure". AP News. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
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