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Mansoa alliacea (Lam.) A. H. Gentry 1980
pronounced: man-SOH-uh al-lee-AY-see-uh
(Bignoniaceae – the jacaranda family)
synonym: Pseudocalymma alliaceum (Lam.) Sandwith 1937
pronounced: soo-doh-KAL-um-muh al-lee-AY-see-um
common name: Garlic Creeper
Mansoa is named for the Brazilian botanist Antonio Luiz Patricio da Silva Manso (1788–1848); pseudocalymma is derived from two Greek words, ψευδο- (pseudo-), false, and καλυμμα (kalymma), a head-covering. Alliacea and alliaceum are from the Latin allium, garlic – ‘like garlic’.
This is an evergreen tropical shrubby vine that is native to the Amazon rainforest. It can be described as either a shrub or a vine because it produces numerous woody vines from the root, that grow only 2–3 m tall and form a shrub-like appearance. In Spanish its name is Ajos sacha, which means ‘false garlic’, and this refers to the strong garlic smell and flavour of the leaves when crushed. In some countries, particularly in the Amazon, the leaves are used as a condiment or spice.
The leaves are bright green, ternate, with the 3 leaflets elliptical, about 7 – 10 cm long by 3.5 cm wide, the margin entire. The terminal leaflet is frequently modified into a tendril, to assist the plant to climb. The vine becomes woody and heavy with time, so it is recommended to grow it on a strong trellis in an exposed area, where it can receive sunshine for most of the day.
The flowers are borne in large clusters, a deep lavender with a white throat, fading to a pale lavender, and then to almost white. They are infundibuliform, about 6 cm long. There are 5 joined petals. All three colours of flowers can be found on the same plant simultaneously.
Fruits are sometimes produced, usually in pairs. They look like beans, although technically they are bi-locular capsules. They are green at first, ripening to brown, and have a distinct lateral ridge midway down the outside of each flat side of the bean, and this ridge would appear to be connected with the dehiscing process as a kind of spring. The fruits are about 20 cm long at maturity. Inside, there is a central wall separating the locules, and the winged seeds, 20 or so on either side, are very neatly imbricate (overlapping like roof tiles). Each seed is up to about 3 cm long, including the wings. The stalk attaching the fruit to the plant is connected to the central wall, and this remains attached to the plant when the fruit dehisces by both sides of the fruit wall springing away. The seeds then scatter, carried by the wind. It is very difficult to tell in advance when the fruits will dehisce. If, near the time of dehiscence, they are touched, they are apt to spring apart instantly, and it is difficult to gather the seeds. If seeds are to be collected, it would probably be wise to enclose the fruits in a bag when dehiscence is judged to be getting close.
Propagation is by seed, or by semi-hardwood cuttings. Each cutting should have at least 3 or 4 nodes, with some leaves removed to counter water loss. They can be struck in a mixture of sand and compost, and do not usually need a rooting hormone powder.
To the indigenous tribes of the Amazon basin, Ajos sacha is a well-used and well-respected plant. Most consider the plant to be magical or spiritual, capable of driving off evil spirits, and bringing good luck. Bunches of leaves can often be found hanging in their huts and houses for this purpose. Sometimes the leaves are burnt over people or houses for the same purpose. The Shipibo-Conibo Indians give a tea made from the bark of the plant to dogs, to make them good hunters, and also drink the tea themselves to bring good luck in hunting or fishing, and it is used as one of the ingredients of the hallucinogenic potions the shamans use for spiritual ceremonies. It is also used for medicinal purposes. The Shipibo-Conibo prepare the bark into a poultice to use on bumps, swellings and inflammatory skin conditions. They also use infusions of either the bark or the leaves to treat rheumatism, arthritis, colds, uterine disorders and epilepsy. As well, they make a general tonic from the root in a cane-alcohol tincture. Other tribes put the leaves in a bath to treat feverish conditions, cramps, body aches and influenza.
It is also well known and popular in the cities and towns in the Amazon, and has a long history of use in herbal medicine systems in Peru and Brazil. It is considered analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and anti-pyretic. Both the bark and the leaves are used in tinctures and decoctions. In addition, the leaves are also used as a common remedy for coughs, colds, flu and pneumonia, and as a purgative.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs © Donald Simpson, taken in Picnic Bay 2009-2015
Page last updated 22nd November 2016