An Eco-sustainable World
HerbaceousSpecies Plant

Hippobroma longiflora

Hippobroma longiflora

The Star of Bethlehem or madamfate(Hippobroma longiflora (L.) G.Don, 1834) is a herbaceous species belonging to the Campanulaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subkingdom Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta superdivision,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Asteridae,
Order Campanulales,
Campanulaceae family,
Subfamily Lobelioideae,
Genus Hippobroma,
H. longiflora species.
The term is basionym:
– Lobelia longiflora L..
The terms are synonyms:
– Isotoma longiflora (L.) C.Presl;
– Isotoma longiflora (L.) K.Presl;
– Isotoma longiflora subsp. runcinata (Hassk.) Panigrahi, P.Daniel & M.V.Viswan.;
– Isotoma longiflora var. runcinata (Hassk.) Panigrahi, P.Daniel & M.V.Viswan.;
– Isotoma runcinata Hassk.;
– Laurentia longiflora (L.) E.Wimm., 1937;
– Laurentia longiflora (L.) Endl., 1838;
– Laurentia longiflora (L.) Peterm.;
– Laurentia longiflora subsp. runcinata (Hassk.) E.Wimm.;
– Laurentia longiflora var. runcinata (Hassk.) E.Wimm.;
– Rapuntium longiflorum (L.) Mill.;
– Solenopsis longiflora (L.) M.R.Almeida.

Etymology –
The term Hippobroma comes from the Greek ἵππος hippos horse and from βρῶμος brómos poison: because the plant is highly poisonous (it contains two psychoactive alkaloids, nicotine and lobeline) and could be fatal to the horse that fed on it.
The specific longiflora epithet comes from longus lungo and from flos floris fiore: from the long flower.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Hippobroma longiflora is a plant native to Jamaica, in the Caribbean, and is present in an area that goes from Central America to Colombia.
Outside, we find it in Madagascar, in India and south-eastern Asia, up to New Guinea and Oceania.
Its habitat is that of open areas, on the humid and sheltered banks of watercourses and along paths and roadsides in clayey soils overlying limestone areas at altitudes between 60 and 810 metres. This plant grows in tropical and humid subtropical climate zones, where it has naturalized by escaping cultivation and in some cases becoming a weed.

Description –
Hippobroma longiflora is a perennial herbaceous plant with an erect or sometimes decumbent stem, little ramified, 20-60 cm tall.
The roots are fleshy, whitish with a milky sap, with a rather unpleasant smell. The leaves are simple, alternate, sub-sessile, elliptical to obovate-lanceolate in shape, with irregularly toothed margins and pointed apex; they are 5 -15 cm long and 1-3.5 cm broad, almost glabrous above, slightly hairy below, with prominent veins.
The flowers are carried in the axils of the upper leaves on a 1,5 cm long petiole; they are solitary, erect, perfumed, with five-part calyx, with ciliated and indented linear segments, 0,8-2 cm long; they are green, with a hypocrateriform corolla (with lobes spread perpendicular to a long thin tube) white with a cylindrical tube, 6-12 cm long and 0,4 cm in diameter, hairy, and 5 elliptical to lanceolate lobes with apex pointed, 1,5-2,5 cm long and 0,5 cm broad, staminal tube protruding for about 0,5 cm outside the corolla.
The fruits are ellipsoid or bilocular obovoid capsules, villous, 1-1,5 cm long and of 0,8-1,2 cm of diameter, containing numerous almost ovoid seeds, 0,7 mm long, of pale brown colour. It easily reproduces by seed.

Cultivation –
Hippobroma longiflora is a plant that is harvested from the wild for local medicinal use, the plant is also occasionally cultivated for both medicinal and ornamental purposes.
It grows both in full sun and in partially shaded area and is not particular about the soil, as it adapts to even poor soils.
This plant has become an invasive herb in most of the tropics so its cultivation is definitely not recommended, both for its invasiveness and, above all, for its high toxicity.
Pollination takes place through insects, through bees and butterflies, even at night. In these plants there is a particular “piston” mechanism: the anthers form a tube into which the pollen subsequently collected from the hairs by the style is released which in the meantime grows and carries the pollen outwards.
The seeds falling to the ground (after being transported for a few meters by the wind, being very small and light, anemocorous dissemination) are subsequently dispersed above all by insects such as ants (myrmechory dissemination).

Customs and Traditions –
Hippobroma longiflora is a plant that has spread, especially in tropical areas, often becoming invasive and taking various names; some common names are: frog’s flower, horse poison, madamfate, star-of-Bethlehem (English); ma zui cao (Chinese); etoile de Bethléem, herbe-poison, lastron blanc (French); arrebenta boi, arrebenta Cavallos, cega-olho, jasmin de cachorro, jasmin de Italia (Portuguese-Brazil); flor de San Juan, flor de sapo, lágrimas de María, lágrimas de San Diego, revienta Cavallo, tibey, tibey blanco (Spanish); Stern von Bethlehem (German).
This plant is highly toxic, even on contact.
It has high concentrations of two pyridine alkaloids: lobeline and nicotine. The effects of nicotine and lobeline are quite similar, with psychoactive effects at small doses and unpleasant effects such as: vomiting, muscle paralysis and tremors at higher doses.
For this reason, Hippobroma longiflora is often cited both for its toxicity and for its ethnobotanical uses.
It is rarely used in minimal doses in traditional medicine, with effects that in some cases have been lethal.
The plant is used as an anti-asthmatic in Brazil.
Among other uses, it should be remembered that it is a very ornamental plant due to the white and fragrant flowers, but among the most poisonous; for this reason it must be treated with extreme caution due to the presence in its sap of substances that are strongly irritating by contact, with instantaneous effects; in the eyes it can cause blindness and on the skin serious allergic reactions, cases of death are known even for prolonged contact; for this reason we recommend the use of gloves to handle it.
If ingested, it is highly poisonous due to the presence of cardioactive alkaloids, such as lobelanidine, which can quickly lead to death.

Method of Preparation –
Hippobroma longiflora is a plant that has been used in some areas and in small doses in traditional medicine. However, given its high toxicity even if only by contact and the tendency to become invasive, both its cultivation and any other use are not recommended, except by experts and, obviously, in the research field.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Photo source:

Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

2 thoughts on “Hippobroma longiflora

  • Hi,
    On a recent trip to Bali, I was told that Hippobroma Longiflora sap was good for cataract treatment. They picked 3 flower saps there and placed in half glass of water. Then they dropped its liquid into my eye. Nothing happened there. I asked them to give me some to bring home when I return. They gave me some.
    When I returned I stored them in refrigerator , I did exactly as they did and dropped one drop to my left eye. It made a burning sensation in my eye same as when they dropped it back in Bali. Next day I repeated the procedure. But this time besides the burning sensation in my left eye, I felt like it moved to the back of my head and made me feel like drunk. I immediately washed my eyes completely. But later I felt some numbness in the back of my head. Now 10 days passed and I still feel slow. I went to the eye Dr. and my left eye pressure is up to 35 ( 12 above normal ) I had a carotid blood flow test done and my blood flow is very very slow.
    I would very much appreciate your inputs and suggestions as you are very familiar with this plant.

    Thank you.

    • ecosostenibile

      Unfortunately, uses with plants or parts of them are often recommended and should instead be carefully evaluated.
      The plant in question has, among other things, a certain toxicity, so, as with other toxic plants, its use should always be done under the advice of a specialized doctor.
      We’re sorry about what happened to you.


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