Laburnum anagyroides

Laburnum anagyroides

Laburnum or false ebony or avorniello (Laburnum anagyroides Medik., 1787) is an arboreal species of the Fabaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Fabales Order, Fabaceae Family, Subfamily Faboideae, Genisteae Tribe and therefore to the Genus Laburnum and to the Species L. anagyroides.

Etymology –
The term Laburnum derives from the genus already mentioned in Pliny in reference to this plant. The specific epithet anagyroides derives from Anagyris, from the Greek ἀνάγῡρις anagyris, name of the carrubbazzo, plant mentioned in Dioscorides, and from the Greek εἷδος eidos, that is to say of appearance: similar to the carobazzo.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Laburnum anagyroides is a tree native to southern Europe, in an area extending from the south-west of France to the Balkans. In Italy we find it in all regions, excluding the islands. Its habitat is that of temperate and moderately humid climates, in calcareous soils and often associated with woods of hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia).

Description –
The laburnum is a small tree, up to 8 meters tall, with irregular foliage; the trunk has a straight development, often polycystic, covered with a greenish rind with greyish lenticels. The young twigs are covered with thick grayish hair. The leaves are deciduous, alternate, with a long petiole and composed of three elliptical segments with a whole margin, up to 6 cm long. The flowers have a yellow color and are gathered in dense, hanging and long up to 30 cm racemes. The fruit is a legume 5 cm long, irregular in shape. The antesis is from late spring until the end of July.

Cultivation –
The laburnum can grow even in half-shade areas but its ideal development is in full sun. Even if it adapts to any type of soil, it prefers the loose and well drained soil with a neutral or slightly basic pH. As far as water needs are concerned, the adult specimens are satisfied with the rains while the young ones must be irrigated regularly, especially in summer and during periods of prolonged drought but only in the presence of completely dry soil. The Laburnum anagyroides is multiplied by seed in spring and by woody cutting in summer. Since the seeds are enclosed within a thick and rigid tegument, before burial it is advisable to scarify them with sandpaper or to soak them in water for 24-48 hours. The cuttings, taken with well-sharpened and disinfected shears, must be rooted in a mixture of peat and sand. After rooting, the new seedlings are grown in pots for at least two years before being planted in the ground.
The plant requires real pruning, but it is necessary to cut off the broken branches and those damaged by the cold.

Uses and Traditions –
The laburnum is also known as false ebony or avorniello as the wood of very old specimens could be used in place of ebony. In fact the wood of the laburnum is very hard, dark and is used in violin making. The green parts of the plant and the seeds contain cytisine, a toxic alkaloid that causes vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory paralysis. Ingestion of only 2 seeds is sufficient to produce intoxication especially in children; it can even make the milk of the cows that have burnt the branches of this plant poisonous. Symptoms of poisoning are: Colic, hypotension, sweating, cramps, coordination problems, coma. The antidote is represented by gastric, absorbent, analectic washings, hot applications, artificial respiration, apidermoclysis.
As for cytisine, this has a pharmacological profile similar to that of nicotine, and has inspired the synthesis of varenicline, a drug used as an aid for the treatment of smoking addiction. Cytisine has also been used in this regard, but with modest results.

Preparation Mode –
In addition to the use of wood the laburnum has no other food uses or for pharmaceutical purposes.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

 




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