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Galbulimima belgraveana

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: J. Bot., Lond. 60:138, 1922 [Galbulimima belgraveana (F. Muell.) Sprague].

There has been a great deal of argument about the taxonomic nomenclature used for this species since it was first described in 1887 as Eupomatia belgraveana F. Muell. (BAILEY et al. 1943; BULLOCK 1957; CROFT 1979; SMITH 1942; VAN ROYEN 1959). Taxonomical revisions include: Himantandra belgraveana F. Muell., nom. invalid, 1890; Galbulimima baccata F. M. Bail., 1894; Himantandra belgraveana (F. Muell.) Diels, 1912; Himantandra baccata (F. M. Bail.) Diels, 1917; Himantandra nitida Bak. f. & Norman, 1923; Himantandra parviflora Bak. f. & Norman, 1923; Galbulimima nitida Sprague, 1923; Galbulimima parviflora Sprague, 1923 (CROFT 1979:127).

FAMILY: Himantandraceae; sub-class: Dicotyledones; order: Magnoliaeles.

Galbulimima is the only genus in the family Himantandraceae. It has been suggested that there is either one (CROFT 1979:126) or three species (VAN ROYEN 1962; 1964) in the genus Galbulimima.

SYNONYM: Himantandra belgraveana F. Muell. or Himantandra belgraveana (F. Muell.) Diels (BULLOCK 1957:409). Himantandra belgraveana has been a common name for this species, however, it is taxonomically incorrect and is now rarely used (CROFT 1979:126).

VERNACULAR NAMES: (Engl.) Galbulimima, agara.

COROLOGY: Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Solomon Islands and Australia. Distributed throughout Irian Jaya (West Papua) and Papua New Guinea from the Vogelkop ('Bird's Head') in the west to Milne Bay and New Britain (CROFT 1979:127). This species is most common in the mountain rainforests of the Papua New Guinea highlands. Galbulimima belgraveana is also found in rainforests on the Solomons Islands and in north-east and south Queensland, Australia.

HABITAT: Found in well developed mountain rainforests, Galbulimima belgraveana usually contributes to the canopy of Nothofagus [Fagaceae] forests in Papua New Guinea and Australia. In Papua New Guinea it grows at an altitude of 1200 to 2700 metres, but has been found growing as low as 5 metres above sea level (CROFT 1979:127). In north-east Queensland it is found in an altitudinal range of 400 to 1100 metres.

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION: Tree to 35 m tall; up to 60 cm in diameter above buttress, if present. Buttress to 3 m high, 1 metre wide and 5-20 cm thick, if present. Leaves simple, alternate, elliptic or ovate (5-)6-16 X (2-)3-8 cm; apex acute; base cuneate; margin entire. 8-20 pairs of nerves ascending towards apex; petiole 1-2.5 cm long. Inflorescence axillary, a solitary flower, globose to ovoid in bud 1-2 X 1-1.5 cm. Flowers bisexual, large, operculate, actinomorphic. Flowers have a strong unpleasant odour. Perianth white, cream or brown. Fruit pink or red, fleshy, indehiscent 1.5-3 cm diameter. A single flattened seed in each carpel. Chromosome number: 2N = 24. Twigs, underside of leaves, petioles, inflorescence and fruit densely to sparsely covered with copper-coloured peltate scales, often overlapping. Bole straight and cylindrical, flanged or sometimes buttressed at base. Crown densely compact. Outer bark grey to greyish brown and often scaly and pustular. Underbark mottled greenish to yellowish-brown with the inner bark pale brown rapidly changing to red-brown when exposed. Living bark has a bitter taste and resinous smell. Sap-wood and heart-wood white to pale straw colour (CROFT 1979:127).

Additional information (seedlings): Cotyledons oblong or obvate, scattered brown scales visible on undersurface. Flat brown scales are apparent on the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf blade at the tenth leaf stage. Petioles, terminal bud and stem densely covered in flat dark brown scales.

ETHNOBOTANICAL DATA: The use of Galbulimima belgraveana in Papua New Guinea has been reported in several popular books on psychoactive plants (BOCK in press; EMBODEN 1972; 1979; OTT 1993; 1996; RATSCH 1998; SCHULTES & HOFMANN 1979; 1980). The bark of Galbulimima belgraveana has been chewed with the leaves of an unidentified Homalomena sp. [Araceae] by the people of the Okapa region, Eastern Highlands (BARRAU 1958). The chewing of Galbulimima belgraveana bark (agara) and Homalomena sp. leaves (ereriba) has been reported to induce visions and a dream-like state (BARRAU 1958; HAMILTON 1960). Physical effects of chewing agara and eririba include violent tremor and miosis (DE SMET 1983:296; 1985). The violent tremors last for about an hour followed by a sense of calmness, euphoria and then drowsiness (DE SMET 1983:296; 1985). Galbulimima belgraveana has also been used without Homalomena sp. leaves for divination and to produce trance-like states and visions among the Gimi people of the Eastern Highlands (GLICK 1963; 1967). The bark and also the leaves of Galbulimima belgraveana have been used among other groups of the Eastern Highlands to make young men fierce (POWELL 1976:150; WEBB 1960). The people of Aseki in the south of Morobe Province use waga, the bark of Galbulimima belgraveana, as an analgesic by chewing the bark, spitting it out into a bowl, mixing salt with it and then swallowing it again to relieve pain (WOODLEY 1991). The Oksapmin of the West Sepik Province use alusa, shredded Galbulimima belgraveana bark mixed with wild ginger (Zingiber sp. [Zingiberaceae]), in the treatment of diseases caused by sorcery and witchcraft (eg. fever, skin conditions and poisoning) (SKINGLE 1970). The Bimin-Kiskusmin of the West Sepik Province have also used Galbulimima belgraveana in ritual (POOLE 1984).

CHEMISTRY AND ACTIVITY: The phytochemistry of Galbulimima belgraveana has been extensively studied and well documented (BINNS et al. 1965; BROWN et al. 1956; CHOO et al. 1990; COLLINS et al. 1990; RITCHIE & TAYLOR 1967; 1971; WEBB 1955). The pioneering research of Australian scientists Leonard J. Webb, Ernest Ritchie and Walter C. Taylor on the phytochemistry of Australian flora identified the chemical constituents of Galbulimima belgraveana (RITCHIE & TAYLOR 1967; 1971; WEBB 1945-1965; 1955; 1960). Galbulimima belgraveana is rich in alkaloids (WEBB 1955) and twenty-eight alkaloids have been isolated (RITCHIE & TAYLOR 1967:531): himbacine (C22H35NO2), himbeline (C21H33NO2), himandravine (C21H33NO2), himgravine (C22H33NO2), himbosine (C35H41NO10), himandridine (C30H37NO7), himandrine (C30H37NO6), G.B. 1 (C33H39NO9), G. B. 2 (C30H39NO10), G. B. 3 (C26H35NO8), G. B. 4 (C31H37NO8), G. B. 5 (C24H33NO7), G. B. 6 (C32H39NO8), G. B. 7 (C32H39NO8), G. B. 8 (C23H33NO5), G. B. 9 (C25H35NO6), G. B. 10 (C27H37NO7), G. B. 11 (C24H33NO6), G. B. 12 (C28H37NO8), himgaline (C20H31NO2), himbadine (C21H31NO2), G. B. 13 (C20H29NO2), himgrine (C22H33NO3), G. B. 14 (C24H33NO5), G. B. 15 (C22H35NO3), G. B. 16 (C20H27NO2), G. B. 17 (C21H31NO3) and G. B. 18 (C22H33NO2). There is considerable variation in the presence of these alkaloids in samples of Galbulimima begraveana collected in Papua New Guinea and North Queensland. Samples of Galbulimima bark collected in Papua New Guinea have isolated the alkaloids himbacine, himbeline, himandravine, himgravine, himbosine, himandridine, himandrine, G. B. 1, G. B. 2, G. B. 3, G. B. 4, G. B. 5, G. B. 8, G. B. 9, G. B. 10, G. B. 11, G. B. 12, himgaline, himgrine, G. B. 14, G. B. 15, and G. B. 16 (BROWN et al. 1955; RITCHIE & TAYLOR 1967:531). North Queensland samples of Galbulimima bark analysed contain himbacine, himgravine, himbosine, himandridine, himandrine, G. B. 1, G. B. 2, G. B. 4, G. B. 5, G. B. 6, G. B. 7, himgaline, himbadine, G. B. 13, G. B. 17 and G. B. 18 (RITCHIE & TAYLOR 1967:531). The alkaloids himbacine, himbeline, himandravine and himgravine are tetracyclic lactones and himbacine has been successfully synthesised (ADAMSON et al. 1997; MANDER & WELLS 1997; NEUMANN 1998). The total synthesis of himgravine (NEUMANN 1998) and other Galbulimima alkaloids is currently under investigation (ADAMSON et al. 1997). Himbosine, himanridine, himandrine and alkaloids G. B. 1 - G. B. 12 are oxygentated heterocyclic esters (RITCHIE & TAYLOR 1967:530). The alkaloid himgaline is a hexacyclic base. Himbadine and G. B. 13 are pentacyclic bases. The alkaloids himgrine and alkaloids G. B. 14 - G. B. 18 have been considered to have miscellaneous structures (RITCHIE & TAYLOR 1967:530).

USE IN POPULAR MEDICINE: The use of Galbulimima belgraveana in indigenous medicine has been reported in Papua New Guinea (GLICK 1963; 1967; WEBB 1960; LEWIS & ELVIN-LEWIS 1977). Among the Gimi of the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea the bark of Galbulimima belgraveana, incorrectly identified as Himantandra belgraveana (GLICK 1967:45), is used in ethnomedicine to counteract malevolent power which is thought to be the cause of a variety of illnesses. When an illness is believed to be caused by sorcery, the Gimi seek the assistance of the aona bana ("man of power") who is regarded as having extraordinary natural healing abilities (GLICK 1967:45). For the Gimi, the term aona has a variety of different meanings depending on the context of its use. For example, aona can mean "soul", "shadow", "vital force" or "familiar spirit" (GLICK 1967:45). Animals, plants and natural phenomena are also thought of as possessing an aona. When people dream of an animal, plant or other natural phenomena, it is the aona that is believed to have manifested itself. After initially experiencing an aona, the Gimi expect to contact these same aona in dreams throughout the rest of their lives. There is a symbolic correspondence of human aona with natural aona. Spiritual and symbolic bonds are created between people's iuna (plural of aona) and those of animals, plants and other natural phenomena which allows the transmission of attributes and qualities of the one to the other (GLICK 1967:45). Iuna are the source of information about difficult situations or future events which are revealed while in a trance-like state. The Gimi aona bana have chewed the bark of Galbulimima belgraveana to induce this trance-like state during which information is received from iuna (GLICK 1967:45).

KNOWN PHARMACOLOGY AND TOXICITY OF ALKALOIDS: The Galbulimima alkaloids have become a focus of attention in Western biomedical research as a potential source of new pharmaceutical drugs (ADAMSON et al. 1997; CHOO et al. 1990; COBBIN 1955; COBBIN & THORP 1957; COLLINS et al. 1990; MANDER & WELLS 1997; NEUMANN 1998). The pharmacology of the Galbulimima alkaloid himbacine has been evaluated in laboratory research and clinical trials (ANWAR et al. 1986; EGLEN et al. 1988; GILANI & COBBIN 1984; LAI et al. 1990; LAI et al. 1991; SHEN et al. 1993; WEI et al. 1994; ZHOLOS & BOLTON 1997). The pharmacological activity of himbacine and other Galbulimima alkaloids is a result of these alkaloids actions on muscarine cholinergic receptors (parasympathetic nervous system). Himbacine is a muscarinic receptor antagonist with affinity for the M2 receptor (ZHOLOS & BOLTON 1997). Galbulimima alkaloids like himbacine have been proposed as pharmaceutical treatments of Alzheimer's Disease (NEUMANN 1998), cardiac brachycardias (ANWAR et al. 1986) and to reduce intraocular pressure (ALLERGAN 1998). It remains to be seen if the entheogenic activity of Galbulimima belgraveana is a result of the muscarinic (M2) receptor antagonist activity of the Galbulimima alkaloids.


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