|Illustration of plant parts from Coscinium fenestratum (1852).|
Coscinium maingayi Pierre
Coscinium fenestratum or yellow vine, as it is sometimes referred to in English, is a flowering woody climber, native to South Asia and Mainland Southeast Asia. It is rare and critically endangered in many of its habitats.
Coscinium fenestratum is a member of the family Menispermaceae and the genus Coscinium. The plant is known by many different names, such as: Tree turmeric, False calumba, Colombo weed, Weniwel, Daru Haridra (in Sanskrit), Mara Manjal (in Tamil and Malayalam), Haem herb (in Thai), Voer Romiet (in Khmer), etc..
Coscinium fenestratum is a sturdy woody climber with leathery, shiny leaves and a brightly yellow sap. It is dioecious, flowering and fruiting in August to October. The fruits consists of one or two drupes up to 2 cm across. The plant has a generation span of 25 years.
The habitat for Coscinium fenestratum spans South Asia and parts of Southeast Asia, from India to Indonesia. It can only thrive in a tropical climate and prefers mixed and dense evergreen forest, with fertile soil and high moisture.
The plant has been determined to be native to Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats in India. It is unclear if the populations in Cambodia, Vietnam and west Malaysia stems from cultivation or natural occurrence.
Coscinium fenestratum has a long history as a medicinal plant in the various traditional medicines of the region where it grows. This includes Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha medicine in India, Sinhala medicine in Sri Lanka, the Kru Khmer healing traditions in Cambodia, traditional Vietnamese medicine of Thuoc Nam, etc.. The plant is used for a large variety of diseases and conditions, from fevers and diabetes to celiac disease and snake bites. It is unclear if all these medicinal uses of C. fenestratum are backed up by science, but laboratory tests have shown that the plant has potent bioactive properties.
There is speculation that C. fenestratum might also have found a modern use in the illegal drug market industry.
Because of the growing populations and industrialization of Asia, the demand for Coscinium fenestratum has increased manifold in the last decades, decimating the natural distribution of the plant dramatically. It is therefore now listed as rare and critically endangered in many of its habitats. Some of these habitats are designated as protected areas or national parks, but that has not safeguarded the plant from opportunistic gathering.
Considering the entirety of C. fenestratum's range, not enough field data is available as of 2015 for any reliable assessment of its status in the IUCN Red List. Locally however, IUCN has categorized C. fenestratum as follows:
- India: Critically endangered (1997, 2010, 2016)
- Sri Lanka: Indiscriminate (1997, 2015)
- Vietnam: Vulnerable (since 1997)
- Cambodia, Vietnam and west Malaysia: Data deficient (2015)
The Indian and Sri Lankan populations of C. fenestratum are probably the most disturbed and severely affected. Over a 75 year period (three generations for this species), the plant population has been reduced by 80% due to indiscriminate gathering by local people. Hardly any mature plants are left in the wild.
Trade and regulations
In some areas, like Cambodia and Laos for instance, C. fenestratum is harvested on a large scale and subsequently processed with toxic acids, posing a pollution threat to the local eco-systems. it is unclear who buys the yellow vine extractions and for what purpose they are used. In Cambodia, hazardous processing like these are illegal since 2002 and since 2006 it has also been illegal to export both yellow vine and "yellow vine powder".
- Coscinium fenestratum (Goetgh.) Colebr. The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1
- Senarath, JNSF Sri Lanka 2010.
- Mooss, N. S.: IDENTIFICATION OF DARU-HARIDRA: (Coscinium fenestratum); Anc Sci Life. 1983 Jan-Mar; 2(3): 135–136.
- Coscinium Usitatum Health & Herbals
- Ashwell, D. and Walston, N. (2008): An overview of the use and trade of plants and animals in traditional medicine systems in Cambodia. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Greater Mekong Programme, Ha Noi, Viet Nam.
- Coscinium fenestratum Colebr. India Biodiversity Portal
- Dr. Gupta & Dr. Tuohy (2015). Biotechnology of Bioactive Compounds - Sources and applications. John Wiley & Sons. p. 173-5.
- "Coscinium fenestratum". IUCN. 6 October 2015. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
- See the documentary film: "Death in the Forest". Speculation on the potential drug use of yellow vine.
- Tushar, K. V. et al.: Coscinium fenestratum (Goetgh.) Colebr: A review on this rare, critically endangered and highly traded medicinal species Journal of Plant Sciences, 3(2): 133-145, 2008.
- Daniel Otis (9 May 2014). "The secret garden". Southeast Asia Globe. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
- Tran Thien An, Stefan Ziegler (1 August 2001). "Newsletter of the Medicinal Plant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission" (PDF). Medicinal Plant Conservation. IUCN. 7: p.3-5. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
- Rare, Endangered and Threatened (RET) climbers of Southern Western Ghats, India
- Khan, Talat et.al: The role of phytohormone on the production of berberine in the calli cultures of an endangered medicinal plant, turmeric (Coscinium fenestratum l.); African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 7 (18), pp. 3244-3246, 17 September 2008
- See the IUCN ref. A 2008 estimate.
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- Coscinium fenestratum (Gaertn.) Colebr. Catalogue of Life
- Senarath, W.T.P.S.K.: In vitro propagation of Coscinium fenestratum (Gaertn.) Colebr. (Menispermaceae) - an endangered medicinal plant J.Natn.Sci.Foundation Sri Lanka 2010 38 (4): 219-223.
- Documentary film: Death in the Forest; David O'Shea (reporter). SBS Dateline 2012. Investigations on the shooting of environmental activist Chut Wutty.