Use of wood anatomy to identify poisonous plants: Charcoal of Spirostachys africana.

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dc.contributor.author Lennox, S.J.
dc.contributor.author Bamford, M.
dc.date.accessioned 2017-01-13T09:59:09Z
dc.date.available 2017-01-13T09:59:09Z
dc.date.issued 2015-03-01
dc.identifier.citation Lennox, S.J. and Bamford, M. 2015. Use of wood anatomy to identify poisonous plants: Charcoal of Spirostachys africana. South African Journal of Science 111(3/4): Article number 2014-0143. en_ZA
dc.identifier.issn 0038-2353 (Print)
dc.identifier.issn 1996-7489 (Online)
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10539/21612
dc.description.abstract Spirostachys africana Sond. (tamboti/tambotie) is a woodland tree that is often found near water. It has a poisonous and purgative latex. The archaeological site of Sibudu, a rock shelter in KwaZulu-Natal, has evidence, from well-preserved charcoal and seeds, of past environments and wood use from approximately 77-38 thousand years ago (ka). As their uses and environmental indicators are different, it is critical to confidently distinguish among the three anatomically similar woods of the Euphorbiaceae: Spirostachys africana, Sclerocroton integerrimus and Shirakiopsis elliptica. A detailed anatomical study of reference and archaeological charcoal shows that xylem vessel width increases proportionally as vessel frequency decreases, from Spirostachys africana, Sclerocroton integerrimus to Shirakiopsis elliptica. Crystals of calcium oxalate are present in ray cells of Spirostachys africana, whereas silica bodies are present in ray cells of Sclerocroton integerrimus and Shirakiopsis elliptica. Using these features, the presence of Spirostachys africana was confirmed amongst hearth charcoal of the Spotty Camel layer, with an age of approximately 58 ka and of the Mottled Deposit occupational layer, with an age of approximately 49 ka. The presence of this charcoal, collected from ancient fireplaces or sieved from surrounding sediments, implies that people at Sibudu understood and used this poisonous tree to their advantage. We are encouraged in this view by the presence of many Cryptocarya woodii leaves found on the surface of 77-ka sedge bedding at Sibudu (Wadley L et al., Science. 2011;334:1388-1391). Cryptocarya woodii has insecticidal and larvacidal properties and members of the Laurel family are well known for their medicinal properties. en_ZA
dc.language.iso en en_ZA
dc.publisher Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) en_ZA
dc.rights © 2015. The Author(s). Published under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence. en_ZA
dc.subject Euphorbiaceae en_ZA
dc.subject Hearth en_ZA
dc.subject Middle Stone Age en_ZA
dc.subject Sibudu en_ZA
dc.subject Tambotie en_ZA
dc.title Use of wood anatomy to identify poisonous plants: Charcoal of Spirostachys africana. en_ZA
dc.type Article en_ZA
dc.journal.volume 111 en_ZA
dc.journal.title South African Journal of Science en_ZA
dc.description.librarian NCS2016 en_ZA
dc.citation.doi 10.17159/sajs.2015/20140143 en_ZA
dc.citation.epage 51 en_ZA
dc.citation.issue 3/4 en_ZA
dc.citation.spage 43 en_ZA


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