• M. comosus has a wide distribution, mainly in the dry interior of South Africa, while
• M. major occurs only in the Western Cape.
• The genus Melianthus is restricted to southern Africa.
General: A sturdy, woody multi-branched shrub, up to 3 m high. All parts produce a strong, unpleasant smell when touched or bruised.
Leaves: Grouped towards the ends of the branches. Greyish-green, pinnately compound with + 5 pairs of toothed leaflets. Leaf stalks and midribs are winged. When touched, the leaves give off a distinctive odour.
Flowers: Small green flowers with bright red petals, in clusters below the leaves.
Fruit: A four-winged capsule. Each capsule contains a glossy round seed.
General: A large sturdy, woody multi-branched shrub. All parts produce a strong, unpleasant smell when touched or bruised.
Leaves: Large grey-green leaves, pinnately compound with + 5 pairs of toothed leaflets. Leaf stalks and midribs are winged. When touched, the leaves give off a distinctive odour.
Flowers: Large clusters of dark purplish-red nectar-rich flowers at the ends of the branches.
Six main toxic principles have been extracted: hellibrigenin 3-acetate and 5 new bufadienolides.
The plants seldom cause poisoning, although some mortalities have been reported in equines and ruminants when grazing is scarce.
See also: Syndrome of Cardiac Glycoside Intoxication – “Tulp poisoning”.
Colour photos. Final web-ready size: JPEG, 72 ppi. Photo 1: 31.7 kb; Photo 2: 33.8 kb; Photo 3: 21.9 kb; Photo 4: 26.3 kb; Photo 5: 35 kb. Original TIFF file housed at the Dept. of Paraclinical Sciences, Section Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Pretoria.