1. Family: Asparagaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Chlorophytum Ker Gawl.
      1. Chlorophytum tuberosum (Roxb.) Baker

        Chlorophytum tuberosum is one of several species of Chlorophytum used in Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional Hindu system of medicine. Safed musli, as it is known in Hindi, is a herb commonly found in forest patches in India, and is used in a tonic intended to give strength and vigour. The spider plant (C. comosum), of which the variegated form is a popular houseplant, is a member of the same genus and is native to Africa, where the genus Chlorophytum is most diverse.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Chlorophytum tuberosum is one of several species of Chlorophytum used in Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional Hindu system of medicine. Safed musli, as it is known in Hindi, is a herb commonly found in forest patches in India, and is used in a tonic intended to give strength and vigour. The spider plant (C. comosum), of which the variegated form is a popular houseplant, is a member of the same genus and is native to Africa, where the genus Chlorophytum is most diverse.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Widespread from Nigeria to eastern tropical Africa, and also found across central and southern India to Burma (Myanmar). Chlorophytum tuberosum normally grows at up to 1,700 m above sea level, but has been found at the summit of the Travancore Range in India at 2,695 m above sea level. It occurs in woodland, bushland or grassland, often in degraded vegetation, and in India is also found in mixed forest.

    Description

    Overview:  Chlorophytum tuberosum is a herb usually growing up to 20-50 cm tall. Its underground parts comprise a short rhizome, often surrounded by fibres, which bears swollen roots with dark tubers to up 7 cm long at their tips.

    Leaves: The leaves are borne in a rosette and are linear-lanceolate, 10-50 cm long and 1-3 cm wide.

    Flowers: The flowers are borne in a simple raceme with two flowers at each node. The flowers are large, white, showy and sweetly-scented and there is no differentiation between the petals and sepals (hence known as tepals). C. tuberosum is the only species within the genus which has tepals that are more than seven-veined (they are 10-14-veined). The stamens are shorter than the tepals.

    Fruits:  The fruits are three-edged capsules containing seeds 2 mm in diameter.

    Threats and conservation

    The wild collection of Chlorophytum tuberosum in Africa is likely to be minimal, and therefore not considered to be a threat there. However, C. tuberosum is collected from the wild in India, where it is heavily used, and not cultivated, so that over-harvesting could affect wild populations there. Consequently, it is increasingly considered as 'rare' in India. Chlorophytum roots are usually collected before plants have reached maturity, thus hampering natural regeneration.

    The related species C. borivilianum was first described from India in 1954, but by 1988 the Botanical Survey of India had assigned it to the IUCN category Rare (according to criteria in operation at that time) due to overexploitation. C. borivilianum is now cultivated, which has helped to reduce the collection of wild plants.

    Conservation assessments carried out at Kew

    Chlorophytum tuberosum is being monitored as part of the 'IUCN Sampled Red List Index for Plants', which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world's plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.

    Uses

    Chlorophytum tuberosum is cultivated as an ornamental for its large, showy flowers. Its leaves and roots are edible. In India the roots are dried and used as a popular tonic and aphrodisiac in Ayurvedic medicine. In northern Nigeria its tubers are crushed to produce a lotion used to treat guinea-worm.

    This species at Kew

    Pressed and dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of Chlorophytum tuberosum are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details, including images, of some of these can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

    Distribution
    India, Myanmar
    Ecology
    Forest, woodland or grassland.
    Conservation
    Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria.
    Hazards

    None known.

    [FTEA]

    Anthericaceae, Nordal (University of Oslo), Shakkie Kativu (University of Zimbabwe) & Axel D. Poulsen (University of Copenhagen). Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1997

    Habit
    Plants 20–50(–100) cm. high.
    Rhizomes
    Rhizome short, irregular, often bearing fibrous remnants from previous years’ leaves; roots swollen, with robust dark tubers up to 7 cm. long distally.
    Leaves
    Leaves rosulate, glabrous, lanceolate, 10–50 cm. long, 1–3(–6) cm. wide, sheathing below, apex acute to obtuse, sometimes cataphylls with ciliate margin.
    Peduncles
    Peduncle stout, 10–35 cm. long, leafless, glabrous, terete.
    Inflorescences
    Inflorescence unbranched or rarely with a few basal branches, racemose, dense, up to 17 cm. long; floral bracts hyaline, lanceolate up to 15 mm.
    Pedicel
    Pedicels articulated in lower half to near the middle, up to 10 mm. long, 2–3 at the lower node.
    Flowers
    Flowers large and showy, sweetly scented, shallowly bowl-shaped; tepals ± 20 mm. long and 6–9 mm. wide, 10–14-veined (the only species in the genus with more than 7-veined tepals).
    Stamens
    Stamens shorter than the tepals; filaments filiform, 5–6 mm. long; anthers versatile, 3–6 mm. long.
    Style
    Style straight, ± as long as the stamens.
    Fruits
    Capsule deeply triquetrous, 15 mm. long, 8–12 mm. wide, slightly emarginate.
    Seeds
    Seeds irregularly folded, 2 mm. in diameter.
    Habitat
    In woodland or bushland, often in degraded vegetation, usually on badly drained, heavy black cotton soils, sometimes on lighter, sandy and lateritic soils, often in seasonally flooded areas; 30–1700 m.
    Distribution
    K1 K2 K4 K6 K7 T1 T2 T3 T5 T7 U1
    [FWTA]

    Liliaceae, F. N. Hepper. Flora of West Tropical Africa 3:1. 1968

    Ecology
    In masses in suitable moist places in savanna woodland.
    Note
    Inflorescence developing before the leaves reach full size
    Flowers
    Flowers large and ornamental
    [KSP]
    Use
    Medicinal, ornamental, food.

    Images

    Distribution

    Native to:

    Cameroon, Central African Repu, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda

    Common Names

    English
    Musli

    Chlorophytum tuberosum (Roxb.) Baker appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
    Jan 1, 1997 Greenway, P.J. [12718], Kenya K000390711
    Jan 1, 1997 Greenway, P.J. [12718], Kenya K000390712
    Jan 1, 1997 Greenway, P.J. [14961], Tanzania K000390730
    Jan 1, 1997 Gillett, J.B. [21225], Kenya K000390687
    Jan 1, 1997 Gillett, J.B. [16957], Kenya K000390699
    Jan 1, 1997 Gillett, J.B. [16433], Kenya K000390713
    Jan 1, 1997 Gillett, J.B. [12751], Kenya K000390685
    Jan 1, 1997 Drummond, R.B. [2269], Tanzania K000390725
    Jan 1, 1997 Drummond, R.B. [2269], Tanzania K000390726
    Jan 1, 1997 Rayner, R.W. [423], Kenya K000390695
    Jan 1, 1997 Rayner, R.W. [423], Kenya K000390696
    Jan 1, 1997 Bally, P.R.O. [8152], Kenya K000390710
    Jan 1, 1997 Dyson, W.G. [504], Tanzania K000390723
    Jan 1, 1997 Milne-Redhead, E. [7149], Kenya K000390706
    Jan 1, 1997 Polhill [370], Kenya K000390698
    Jan 1, 1997 Polhill [387], Kenya K000390700
    Jan 1, 1997 Burtt, B.D. [3524], Tanzania K000390728
    Jan 1, 1997 Burtt, B.D. [1728], Tanzania K000390729
    Jan 1, 1997 Adamson, J. [28], Kenya K000390702
    Jan 1, 1997 Bogdan, A. [2981], Kenya K000390697
    Jan 1, 1997 Mathew, B. [6200], Kenya K000390694
    Jan 1, 1997 Rawlins, S.P. [603], Kenya K000390707
    Jan 1, 1997 Richards, M. [20130], Tanzania K000390717
    Jan 1, 1997 Richards, M. [29172], Tanzania K000390719
    Jan 1, 1997 Richards, M. [27981], Tanzania K000390722
    Jan 1, 1997 Polhill, E. [375], Kenya K000390691
    Jan 1, 1997 Rauh, W. [12471], Kenya K000390709
    Jan 1, 1997 Brenan, J.P.M. [14864], Kenya K000390689
    Jan 1, 1997 Brenan, J.P.M. [14864], Kenya K000390690
    Jan 1, 1997 Richards, H.M. [24746], Tanzania K000390721
    Jan 1, 1997 Luke, W.R.Q. [3924], Kenya K000390705
    Jan 1, 1997 Bally [3143], Kenya K000390684
    Jan 1, 1997 Bally [14462], Kenya K000390686
    Jan 1, 1997 Bally [14479], Kenya K000390688
    Jan 1, 1997 Bally [12140], Tanzania K000390716
    Jan 1, 1997 Mainwaring [28], Kenya K000390693
    Jan 1, 1997 Jeffery, G.W. [575], Kenya K000390708
    Jan 1, 1997 Braun, K. [5129], Tanzania K000390724
    Jan 1, 1997 Chuwa, S. [3059], Tanzania K000390720
    Jan 1, 1997 Beesley, J.S.S. [232], Tanzania K000390714
    Jan 1, 1997 Beesley, J.S.S. [97], Tanzania K000390715
    Jan 1, 1997 Scott-Elliot, G.F. [6241], Kenya K000390703
    Jan 1, 1997 Purseglove, J.W. [1356], Uganda K000390683
    Jan 1, 1997 Mabui, J.M. [57], Uganda K000390681
    Jan 1, 1997 Martin, W.H. [94], Kenya K000390692
    Jan 1, 1997 Langridge, C. [1306], Kenya K000390701
    Jan 1, 1997 Koristschomer, H. [2290], Tanzania K000390718
    Jan 1, 1997 Harris, L.D. [160], Tanzania K000390727
    Jan 1, 1997 Archbold, N.E. [1221], Tanzania K000390731
    Jan 1, 1992 Wellby, U.S. [s.n.], Ethiopia K000390669
    Oct 23, 1989 Mathew, K.M. [52083], India K000390774
    Jan 1, 1972 Wilde, W.J.J.O. de [7344], Ethiopia K000390671
    Jan 1, 1966 Chevalier [8830], Central African Republic K000256842 Unknown type material
    Feb 15, 1928 Fischer, C.E.C. [3108], India K000390763
    Feb 15, 1928 Gamble, J.S. [15112], India K000390746
    Feb 15, 1928 Gamble, J.S. [15237], India K000390767
    Feb 15, 1928 Gamble, J.S. [20877], India K000390770
    Feb 15, 1928 Gamble, J.S. [17724], India K000390777
    Feb 15, 1928 Gamble, J.S. [21367], India K000390780
    Feb 15, 1928 Lushington, A.W. [s.n.], India K000390769
    Feb 15, 1928 Lushington, A.W. [s.n.], India K000390778
    Feb 15, 1928 s.coll. [s.n.], India K000390764
    Feb 15, 1928 s.coll. [s.n.], India K000390779
    Feb 15, 1928 G.J. [105], India K000390771
    Feb 15, 1928 G.J. [s.n.], India K000390772
    Feb 15, 1924 s.coll. [s.n.], India K000390748
    Milne-Redhead, E. [7149], Kenya 31138.000
    Greenway, P.J. [12718], Kenya 30759.000
    Barnes, E. [627], India 16711.000
    Summerhayes, G.V. [63], Nigeria K000390638
    Dalziel, J.M. [235], Nigeria K000390637
    Dalziel, J.M. [234], Nigeria K000390639
    Polhill, R. [370], Kenya 1267.000
    Myers, J.G. [8961], Sudan K000390645
    Drummond, R. B. [2269], Tanzania 4439.000
    Parkinson, C.E. [1584], Myanmar K000390781
    Parkinson, C.E. [1584], Myanmar K000390782
    Mooney, H.F. [2680], India K000390736
    Mooney, H.F. [810], India K000390737
    Chandler [544], Uganda K000390680
    Ball [6162], India K000390760
    Rayner, R. W. [423], Kenya 2397.000
    Wickens, G.E. [3601], Sudan K000390649
    Wickens, G.E. [3613], Sudan K000390662
    Wickens, G.E. [3610], Sudan K000390663
    Wickens, G.E. [2026], Sudan K000390664
    Wickens, G.E. [2000], Sudan K000390665
    Wickens, G.E. [2000], Sudan K000390666
    Wickens, G.E. [1826], Sudan K000390667
    Wickens, G.E. [1771], Sudan K000390668
    Schweinfurth, G. [6], Sudan K000390654
    Friis, I. [2553], Ethiopia K000390673
    Friis, I. [4633], Somalia K000390677
    Barnes, E. [627], India K000390747
    Barnes, E. [1247], India K000390761
    Barnes, E. [1248], India K000390762
    Barnes, E. [1249], India K000390765
    Bally, P.R. [8152], Kenya 5445.000
    Ash, J. [3500], Ethiopia K000390670
    Simpson, N.D. [7003], Sudan K000390655
    Simpson, N.D. [7003], Sudan K000390656
    Brown [544], Sudan K000390651
    Thulin, M. [4037], Ethiopia K000390672
    Thulin, M. [4461], Somalia K000390679
    Schimper [1261], Ethiopia K000256865 Unknown type material
    Jackson, J.K. [1915], Sudan K000390659
    Bytebier, B. [1204], Kenya K000390704
    Stocks [2036], India K000390758
    Stocks [s.n.], India K000390759
    Stocks [s.n.], India K000390768
    Duthie, J.F. [28], India K000390734
    Duthie, J.F. [s.n.], India K000390741
    Duthie, J.F. [s.n.], India K000390742
    Grimshaw, J.M. [94323], Tanzania K000390732
    Grimshaw, J.M. [94317], Tanzania K000390733
    Dalzell [s.n.], India K000390752 Unknown type material
    Dalzell [s.n.], India K000390753
    Dalzell [s.n.], India K000390754
    Harsukh [22818], India K000390740
    Harsukh [22818], India K000390744
    Harsukh [22818], India K000390745
    Jacques-Félix, H. [3743], Cameroon K000391037
    Woodrow, G.M. [101], India K000390755
    Schimper, M.W. [161], Ethiopia K000390674
    Johnston, H.B. [11], Sudan K000390644
    Kuchar, P. [16971], Somalia K000390676
    Haines, H.H. [5849], India K000390738
    Haines, H.H. [4376], India K000390750
    Haines, H.H. [4376], India K000390751
    Gamble, J.S. [1310], India K000390743
    O'Brien, E.M. [73], Somalia K000390675
    Cramer, L.H. [240], Sri Lanka K000390785
    Lea, J.D. [210], Sudan K000390657
    Venugopal, N. [17704], India K000390773
    Thornewill, A.S. [160], Nigeria K000390640
    A [392], Sudan K000390648
    s.coll. [15], Sudan K000390643
    s.coll. [s.n.], India K000390749
    s.coll. [555], India K000390756
    s.coll. [s.n.], India K000390757
    s.coll. [s.n.], India K000390775
    Bell [6104], India K000390766
    Noble, H.L. [55], Nigeria K000390641
    Fishwick, R.W. [42093], Nigeria K000390642
    Brown, A.F. [s.n.], Sudan K000390646
    Andrews, E.W. [793], Sudan K000390647
    Quezel, P.Q. [s.n.], Sudan K000390650
    Mohamed, A. [s.n.], Sudan K000390652
    Faizi [s.n.], Sudan K000390653
    Aglen [49], Sudan K000390658
    Corke, K. [2], Sudan K000390660
    Mohammed, M.S. [3894], Sudan K000390661
    Ruport-Arter, P. [507], Nepal K000390739
    Lano [s.n.], India K000390776
    Dassanayaka [240], Sri Lanka K000390783
    Dassanayaka [240], Sri Lanka K000390784

    First published in J. Linn. Soc., Bot. 15: 332 (1876)

    Accepted by

    • Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015). The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan: 1-400. Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Demissew, S. & Nordal, I. (2010). Aloes and other Lilies of Ethiopia and Eritrea, ed, 2: 1-351. Shama Books, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
    • Kress, W.J., DeFilipps, R.A., Farr, E. & Kyi, D.Y.Y. (2003). A Checklist of the Trees, Shrubs, Herbs and Climbers of Myanmar Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 45: 1-590.
    • Dassanayake (ed.) (2000). A Revised Handbook to the Flora of Ceylon 14: 1-307. Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. PVT. LTD., New Delhi, Calcutta.
    • Govaerts, R. (1999). World Checklist of Seed Plants 3(1, 2a & 2b): 1-1532. MIM, Deurne.
    • Thulin, M. (ed.) (1995). Flora of Somalia 4: 1-298. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Lebrun, J.-P., Audru, J., Gaston, A. & Mosnier, M. (1972). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Tchad Méridional: 1-289. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Andrews, F.W. (1956). The Flowering Plants of the Sudan 3: 1-579. T.Buncle & co., LTD., Arbroath, Scotland.

    Literature

    Kew Species Profiles
    • World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (Accessed 12 April 2011).
    • Crook, V. (2008). Chlorophytum tuberosum. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Biswas, R.N. & Temburnikar, S.O. (2003). Safed Musli (Chlorophytum species) - a Wonder Drug in the Tropical Zone. XII World Forestry Congress. Quebec City, Canada.
    • Polhill, R.M. (1997). Flora of Tropical East Africa: Anthericaceae. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Burkill, H.M. (1995). The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa: Vol. 3 Families J – L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Nayar, M.P., Ramamurthy, K. & Agarwal, V.S. (1989). Economic Plants of India, Vol. 1. Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta.
    • Nayar, M.P. & Sastry, A.R.K. (1988). Red Data Book of Indian Plants. Vol. 2. Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta.
    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    • F.T.A. 7: 508.
    • in J. Linn. Soc. 15: 332 (1876)
    Kew Backbone Distributions
    • Dassanayake (ed.) (2000). A Revised Handbook to the Flora of Ceylon 14: 1-307. Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. PVT. LTD., New Delhi, Calcutta.
    • Lebrun, J.-P., Audru, J., Gaston, A. & Mosnier, M. (1972). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Tchad Méridional: 1-289. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    • Nordal in Fl. Ethiopia 6: 97 (1997).
    • Thulin in Fl. Somalia 4: 47 (1995).
    • Agnew, A.D.Q. & Agnew, S., Upland Kenya Wild Flowers, ed. 2: 318 (1994).
    • Nordal & Thulin in Nordic Journ. Bot. 13: 277 (1993).
    • Cufod., Enumeratio Plantarum Aethiopiae Spermatophyta (Supplement in Bull. Jard. Bot. Nat. Belg.) p. 1537 (1971).
    • Hepper in Flora of West Tropical Africa, ed. 2, 3: 102 (1968).
    • Polhill in Journ. E. Afr. Nat. Hist. Soc. 24: 15, fig. 15 (1962).
    • F. W. Andr., The Flowering Plants of the Sudan 3: 268 (1956).
    • Baker in Flora of Tropical Africa 7: 508 (1898).
    • Engl. in Die Pflanzenwelt Ost-Afrikas und der Nachbargebiete, Theile C: 140 (1895).
    • Baker in Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Botany 15: 332 (1876).

    Sources

    Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
    'The Herbarium Catalogue, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet http://www.kew.org/herbcat [accessed on Day Month Year]'. Please enter the date on which you consulted the system.
    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    Kew Backbone Distributions
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2019. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2019. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0