Antiaris toxicaria is a tree in the mulberry and fig family, Moraceae. It is the only species currently recognized in the genus Antiaris. The genus Antiaris was at one time considered to comprise several species, but is now regarded as just one variable species (Antiaris toxicaria) which can be further divided into five subspecies. One significant difference within the species is that the size of the fruit increases as you travel from Africa to Polynesia. Antiaris has a remarkably wide distribution in tropical regions, occurring in Australia, tropical Asia, tropical Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, Tonga, and various other tropical islands. Its seeds are spread by various birds and bats, and it is not clear how many of the populations are essentially invasive. The species is of interest as a source of wood, bark cloth, and pharmacological or toxic substances.
The name antiaris is derived directly from the Javanese language name for it: ancar (obsolete Dutch-era spelling: antjar). There are several other botanical names (synonyms): Antiaris africana Engl., the Antiaris macrophylla R.Br. and the Antiaris welwitschii Engl..
Commonly used local names include: In English it may be called bark cloth tree, antiaris, false iroko, false mvule or upas tree, and in the Javanese language it is known as the upas or ancar. In the Indonesian language it is known as bemu. In the related official language of the Philippines, Filipino, upas, and in Malaysia's Malaysian language as Ipoh or ancar. In Thai it is the ยางน่อง (yangnong). In Mandinka, it is the jafo and in Wolof the kan or man.
The Chinese of Hainan Island, refer to the tree as the "Poison Arrow Tree" (Chinese: 箭毒木; pinyin: Jiàndú Mù — "Arrow Poison Wood,") because its latex was smeared on arrowheads in ancient times by the Li people for use in hunting and warfare.
Currently one species of Antiaris is formally accepted, namely Antiaris toxicaria, with about twenty synonyms recorded and rejected as invalid. The status of other species still is unresolved, namely Antiaris turbinifera. However, given the wide range of the genus, it is quite likely that investigations under way will lead to the establishment of new species. Some varieties and subspecies are already established, pending further investigation. At present the accepted taxonomy is as follows:
- Antiaris toxicaria Lesch.
- Antiaris toxicaria subsp. africana (Engl.) C.C.Berg
- Antiaris toxicaria subsp. humbertii (Leandri) C.C.Berg
- Antiaris toxicaria subsp. macrophylla (R.Br.) C.C.Berg
- Antiaris toxicaria subsp. madagascariensis (H.Perrier) C.C.Berg
- Antiaris toxicaria var. usambarensis (Engl.) C.C.Berg
- Antiaris toxicaria subsp. welwitschii (Engl.) C.C.Berg
- Antiaris turbinifera Hemsl. (unresolved)
Antiaris toxicaria is monoecious. It is a large tree, growing to 25–40 m tall, with a trunk up to 40 cm diameter, often buttressed at the base, with pale grey bark. The leaves are elliptic to obovate, 7–19 cm long and 3–6 cm broad. The African tree bears larger fruit than Asian and Polynesian populations. The Indonesian Antiaris toxicaria flowers in June. In Kenya peak seeding time is March. The edible fruit is a red or purple drupe 2 cm in diameter. The tree grows rapidly and attains maturity within 20 years.
The Antiaris tree is found in grassy savanna and coastal plateaus. In Africa, there are three varieties clearly distinguished by habitat and their juvenile forms. One is confined mainly to wooded grassland, the other two are found in wet forests; rainforest, riverine forest and semi-swamp forests. It generally does not grow at altitudes above some 1500 metres above sea-level.
Antiaris toxicaria is a fairly small-scale source of timber and yields a lightweight hardwood with density of 250–540 kilogram per cubic metre (similar to balsa). As the wood peels very easily and evenly, it is commonly used for veneer.
Antiaris toxicaria is an excellent, fast-growing shade tree and often is grown around human dwellings for shade. The leaf litter is an excellent compost material and high in nutrients. It often is applied as mulch or green manure in local gardens, which however, must be grown beyond the shade of the extremely dense canopy of the tree.
Recently, the plant had allegedly been used by retired Tanzanian pastor Ambilikile Mwasapile to allegedly cure all manner of diseases, including HIV/AIDS, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, asthma, and others. While found to be harmless to humans when boiled in accordance with Mwasapile's mode of creating a medicinal drink out of the bark, it allegedly was undergoing testing by the WHO and Tanzanian health authorities to verify whether it has any medicinal value. However, conflicting reports suggest that the plant in question is not in fact Antiaris, but rather Carissa edulis.
Antiaris toxicaria is notorious as a poison for arrows, darts, and blowdarts. In Javanese tradition in Indonesia, Antiaris toxicaria is used with Strychnos ignatii. The latex of Antiaris toxicaria contains intensely toxic cardenolides, in particular a cardiac glycoside named antiarin. The arrow poison is called upas, which in Javanese means "poison", though, like many Javanese words, it also has a number of figurative meanings, such as "watchman", "messenger" and "courier".
In China, this plant is known as "arrow poison wood" and the poison is said to be so deadly that it has been described as "Seven Up Eight Down Nine Death" meaning that a victim can take no more than seven steps uphill, eight steps downhill or nine steps on level ground before dying. Some travellers' tales have it that the Upas tree is the most poisonous in the world, so that no one can reach the trunk before falling down dead. Another account (professedly by one Foersch, who was a surgeon at Semarang in 1773) was published in The London Magazine, December 1783, and popularized by Erasmus Darwin in Loves of the Plants (Botanic Garden, pt. ii). The tree was said to destroy all animal life within a radius of 15 miles or more. The poison was fetched by condemned malefactors, of whom scarcely two out of twenty returned.
Literary allusions to the tree's poisonous nature are frequent and as a rule are not to be taken seriously. A poem that has been frequently commented on and set to music is "The Upas-Tree" by Pushkin.
- Berg, C.C., 1977. Revisions of African Moraceae (excluding Dorstenia, Ficus, Musanga and Myrianthus). Bulletin du Jardin Botanique National de Belgique, 47: 267-407.
- Bisset, N.G., 1962. Cardiac glycosides: Part VI. Moraceae: The genus Antiaris Lesch. Planta Medica, 10: 143-151.
- Boer, E. & Sosef, M.S.M., 1998. Antiaris Lesch. In: Sosef, M.S.M., Hong, L.T. & Prawirohatmodjo, S. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia,5(3). Timber trees: Lesser-known timbers. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, the Netherlands. pp. 73–75.
- Browne, F.G., 1955. Forest trees of Sarawak and Brunei and their products. Government Printing Office, Kuching, Malaysia. pp. 348–349.
- Burkill, I.H., 1966. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Revised reprint volume 1 (A-H). Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. pp. 175–185.
- Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1948. The wealth of India: a dictionary of Indian raw materials & industrial products. Volume 1. Publications and Information Directorate, New Delhi, India. pp. 83–84.
- Dolder, F., Tamm, C. & Reichstein, T., 1955. Die Glykoside von Antiaris toxicaria Lesch. Glykoside und Aglycone, 150 [Glycosides of Antiaris toxicaria Lesch. Glycoside and aglycones, 150]. Helvetica Chimica Acta, 38(6): 1364-1396.
- Hano, Y., Mitsui, P. & Nomura, T., 1990. Seven prenylphenols, antiarones C, D, E, F, G, H and I from the root bark of Antiaris toxicaria Lesch. Heterocycles 31(7): 1315-1324.
- Pételot, A., 1954. Les plantes médicinales du Cambodge, du Laos et du Vietnam. [The medicinal plants of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam]. Vol. 3. Centre National de Recherches Scientifiques et Techniques, Saigon, Vietnam. pp. 126–127.
- Quisumbing, E., 1978. Medicinal plants of the Philippines. Katha Publishing Co., Quezon City, the Philippines. pp. 224–226.
- Boer, E., Brink, M. & Sosef, M.S.M. (1999). Antiaris toxicaria Lesch. In: de Padua, L.S., Bunyapraphatsara, N. and Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia, No. 12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Leiden, The Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher. pp. 126–129.
- Quattrocchi, Umberto (2012). CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. p. 330. ISBN 9781420080445.
- "The Deadly Poison Arrow Tree" (in Chinese). Xinhua. May 10, 2007. Archived from the original on January 29, 2011. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
- Leschenault,, M. (1810). "Mémoire Sur le Strychnos tieute et l"Antiaris toxicaria, plantes vénéneuses de Vile de Java, apec le suc desquelles les indigènes empoisonnent leurs flèches" (PDF). Annales du Muséum d'histoire naturelle. Paris: Chez G. Dufour et Compagnie. 16: 459–483. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
- Boer, E.; Brink, M.; Sosef, M.S.M. (1999). "Antiaris toxicaria Lesch". http://www.proseanet.org. PROSEA (Plant Resources of South-East Asia) Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
- http://www.worldagroforestry.org/sea/products/afdbases/af/asp/SpeciesInfo.asp?SpID=1782n[permanent dead link]
- Timber trees: lesser known species Sosef MSM, Hong LT, Prawirohatmodjo S. (eds.) PROSEA 5(3). Backhuys Publishers, Leiden: 1998
- Berg, C.C.; Corner, E.J.H.; Jarrett, F.M. (2006). Flora Malesiana. Series I, Seed plants. Volume 17, Part 1: Moraceae - genera other than Ficus. Leiden, Netherlands: Nationaal Herbarium Nederland. p. 18.
- Namu, John-Allan. "Loliondo Miraculous Drink". NTV. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
- Juma, Mussa. "WHO to Study Loliondo Medicine". Retrieved 2 May 2011.
- "Scientists at Work on 'Babu' Cure". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
- Kopp, B; Bauer, WP; Bernkop-Schnurch, A (1992). "Analysis of some Malaysian dart poisons". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 36 (1): 57–62. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(92)90061-u.
- Buel, James William (1887). Sea and Land: An illustrated history of the wonderful and curious things of nature existing before and since the deluge (PDF). Toranto: J.S. Robertson & Brothers. pp. 470–471.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Upas". Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 782.
- Staff (1844). "The Upas". The Student: A Magazine of Theology, Literature, and Science. London: James Gilbert. 1 (B): 37–40. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- "Upas (sourced)". Wikiquote. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- Poem Hunter
- Flora of China: Antiaris toxicaria
- Sarawak Forestry information[permanent dead link]
- PubMed: Studies on the Indonesian Antiaris toxicaria sap (abstract)
*Hot and cold soaking treatment of twenty wood species from Irian Jaya,Abdurrohim S and Martawijaya A. Jurnal Penelitian Hasil Hutan Indonesia: 1987. 4(3): 1-9.
*Flora of West Tropical Africa. Hutchinson J and Dalziel JM. Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administration: London 1958. 2nd Ed., Vol. 1(2), .
*Analysis of some Malaysian dart poisons, Kopp B, Bauer WP and Bernkop-Schnurch A, Journal of Ethnopharmacology: . 1992. 36(1): 57-62.
*Timber trees: lesser known species Sosef MSM, Hong LT, Prawirohatmodjo S. (eds.) PROSEA 5(3). Backhuys Publishers, Leiden: 1998
*A pocket directory of trees and seeds in Kenya, Teel W. KENGO, Nairobi: 1984
*Studies on the Indonesian Antiaris Toxicaria Sap, Fujimoto Yukio, Suzuki Yuko, Kanaiwa Takao, Amiya Takashi, Hoshi Katsuji, Fujino Sumiko, "Journal of pharmacobio-dynamics", 6 (2), The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan: 19830200: pp 128–135
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Antiaris.|