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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.

Chlorophytum tuberosum (musli)

[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

Morphology General Habit
Plants 20–50(–100) cm. high.
Vegetative Multiplication Rhizomes
Rhizome short, irregular, often bearing fibrous remnants from previous years’ leaves; roots swollen, with robust dark tubers up to 7 cm. long distally.
Morphology 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.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Peduncles
Peduncle stout, 10–35 cm. long, leafless, glabrous, terete.
Morphology Reproductive morphology 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.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Pedicel
Pedicels articulated in lower half to near the middle, up to 10 mm. long, 2–3 at the lower node.
Morphology Reproductive morphology 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).
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens shorter than the tepals; filaments filiform, 5–6 mm. long; anthers versatile, 3–6 mm. long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Style
Style straight, ± as long as the stamens.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Capsule deeply triquetrous, 15 mm. long, 8–12 mm. wide, slightly emarginate.
Morphology Reproductive morphology 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

[FSOM]

M. Thulin et al. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1-4 [updated 2008] https://plants.jstor.org/collection/FLOS

Morphology General Habit
Plant robust, up to at least 50 cm tall, with a fibrous rhizome; roots wiry, ending in ellipsoid tubers
Morphology Leaves
Leaves several in a rosette, linear-lanceolate, up to at least 30 mm wide, ciliate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence usually a simple raceme, dense, glabrous; peduncle leafless; flowers usually 2 at each node; pedicels up to c. 6 mm long, articulated near the middle
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Tepal
Tepals white, at least 15 x 6 mm, with 9 or more nerves, forming a cup-shaped perianth
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens shorter than tepals
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Style
Style c. 10 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Capsule oblong-obovoid, up to c. 10 mm long.
Distribution
C2; S1–3 Ethiopia and west to Nigeria and south to N Tanzania; India
Ecology
Altitude range 30–400 m.
Vernacular
Da-ai (Somali).

[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
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers large and ornamental

[KSP]
Use
Medicinal, ornamental, food.

Native to:

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

English
Musli

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

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

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

Accepted by

  • Andrews, F.W. (1956). The Flowering Plants of the Sudan 3: 1-579. T.Buncle & co., LTD., Arbroath, Scotland.
  • 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.
  • Dassanayake (ed.) (2000). A Revised Handbook to the Flora of Ceylon 14: 1-307. Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. PVT. LTD., New Delhi, Calcutta.
  • Demissew, S. & Nordal, I. (2010). Aloes and other Lilies of Ethiopia and Eritrea, ed, 2: 1-351. Shama Books, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • Govaerts, R. (1999). World Checklist of Seed Plants 3(1, 2a & 2b): 1-1532. MIM, Deurne.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Thulin, M. (ed.) (1995). Flora of Somalia 4: 1-298. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • 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.
  • Burkill, H.M. (1995). The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa: Vol. 3 Families J – L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Crook, V. (2008). Chlorophytum tuberosum. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Nayar, M.P. & Sastry, A.R.K. (1988). Red Data Book of Indian Plants. Vol. 2. Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta.
  • Nayar, M.P., Ramamurthy, K. & Agarwal, V.S. (1989). Economic Plants of India, Vol. 1. Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta.
  • Polhill, R.M. (1997). Flora of Tropical East Africa: Anthericaceae. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (Accessed 12 April 2011).

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 Somalia

  • Flora Somalia, Vol 4, (1995) Author: by M. Thulin [updated by M. Thulin 2008]

Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • Agnew, A.D.Q. & Agnew, S., Upland Kenya Wild Flowers, ed. 2: 318 (1994).
  • Baker in Flora of Tropical Africa 7: 508 (1898).
  • Baker in Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Botany 15: 332 (1876).
  • Cufod., Enumeratio Plantarum Aethiopiae Spermatophyta (Supplement in Bull. Jard. Bot. Nat. Belg.) p. 1537 (1971).
  • Engl. in Die Pflanzenwelt Ost-Afrikas und der Nachbargebiete, Theile C: 140 (1895).
  • F. W. Andr., The Flowering Plants of the Sudan 3: 268 (1956).
  • Hepper in Flora of West Tropical Africa, ed. 2, 3: 102 (1968).
  • Nordal & Thulin in Nordic Journ. Bot. 13: 277 (1993).
  • Nordal in Fl. Ethiopia 6: 97 (1997).
  • Polhill in Journ. E. Afr. Nat. Hist. Soc. 24: 15, fig. 15 (1962).
  • Thulin in Fl. Somalia 4: 47 (1995).

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

Flora of Somalia
Flora of Somalia
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Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa
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Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa
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Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
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 2021. 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 2021. 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
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