Titberry (scientific name Allophylus cobbe) is a shrub that mainly grows in the tropical regions of the world, including Australia, South America, Asia and Africa. The genus name of the plant “Allophylus” has its origin in two Greek words – “allos” denoting “diverse” and “phylon” denoting tribe. Hence, the name of the plant itself indicates point to the extreme diversity of the plants in this genus.
Allophylus plants are an important member of the family Sapindaceae. Moreover, it forms the largest genus in the family Sapindaceae, whose ethno pharmacological background is rather strong.
Generally, titberry (Allophylus cobbe) is a shrubby plant, but it may also be found as a climber and sometimes even seen growing on a tree. The foliage of this plant is silky and deep green differentiated due to its three serrated leaflets, which may vary from having dense hairs or even be smooth. The flowers of this plant are minute and not easily noticeable and they be morphed into little, vividly red, fleshy berries, which grow in clusters on the stem.
Titberry can be described as a shrub or a small tree that grows up to a height of 10 meters. The tri-foliolate leaves of this plant are arranged spirally. As mentioned above, the leaflets may vary from being densely haired to smooth, while the entire margin of the leaflets are toothed. The flowers of Allophylus cobbe originate in elongated racemes that are hangs from the plant. Each raceme measures about 3 mm in diameter and have a white-yellow hue. The berries borne of this plant are red, drupes measuring anything between 4 mm and 12 mm in diameter.
The wood of titberry is used as fuel, for small construction work and also to make fish traps and floats for boats. Various parts of this plant, including the roots, barks and leaves possess medicinal properties and are employed for treating conditions like fever and stomach-ache. The fruits or berries of the plant are edible and are also put to use as fish poison. Titberry plants are commonly found growing in peninsular India as well as the country’s north-eastern region.
The titberry plant is collected from the wild. Locals use this plant for multiple purposes, including as a food, source of wood and even medicine.
In fact, titberry shrubs grow over a vast region across the globe – ranging from Australia, Asia and Africa to South America. This plant is also found in the Pacific islands where the climatic conditions are sub-tropical.
Whole plant and root.
The titberry plant has numerous applications. For instance, the leaf pulp or an extraction of the leaves is used to prepare a decoction. The root as well as the bark of the tree is also used to prepare a decoction and it is employed for treating fevers and stomach aches. In addition, it is also used to treat a disease inside the mouth that normally occurs in children. While the scraped bark of the tree is applied to cure rigid abdomen, the bark is useful for treating burn injuries. The leaves of this tree also have multiple applications. They are employed in the form of a mouthwash, to provide relief from rashes and also to treat fractures.
People in Sri Lanka use the bark of A. cobbe scraped down towards the roots in traditional orthopaedic treatments. The bark is used as bandages, which are place over the injured area or fractured bones. Local people from various regions of the world use the different parts of this tree for a variety of purposes. Two species of Allophylus – A. serratus and A. cobbe – are found in plenty in forests near Kolhapur in India and the local people use their leaves for treating various medical conditions, particularly to heal wound and cure fractures. The locals also consume the young leaves of the tree as a vegetable.
It is said that the wood of titberry is extremely hard. However, the wood is not durable. Therefore, the wood of this tree is mostly used indoors and for making provisional structures such as rafters. The wood is also used for making hilts and canes. In addition, beaters meant for cotton fruits are made from the wood of this tree. People in Bismarck Archipelago, use the branches and poles for identifying the fruit traps’ location and also making floats of various outrigger canoes. The wood is also used as a fuel.
The titberry plant is also used by many for making roofs and bows. Rafts are also made from this wood. While the fruit of this plant is eaten by some people, it is also used in the form of a fish poison.
A decoction prepared from the root of titberry plant is administered for treating diarrhea. In addition, it is employed for healing fractures.
Habitat and cultivation
Titberry shrubs (Allophylus cobbe) are found growing on rocks along the coasts and also in sandy beaches. This species is also found in open area, brackish swamps, granite boulders, limestone outcrops, in primary and secondary forests and shrubberies. The habitats of this species can range from the sea level to elevated lands that may be above 5,000 ft (1,500 meters) above the sea level. These plants bear pale orange hued berries which are ingested by both humans and birds. Generally, people use these berries as a fish poison. While the wood of this shrub or small tree is reasonably hard, it is not durable and, hence, they are mainly used for temporary construction work.
Though people harvest titberry from the wild, it is also possible to grow this shrub in the home landscape for its ornamental foliage. Some people also grow this plant for its berries and also to provide for bird food and habitat. Moreover, this plant can also be grown in parks as well as garden landscapes the length of coasts and beachfront properties. It can also be used as a hedge plant.
Titberry shrubs possess the ability to endure a variety of conditions ranging from arid to waterlogged soils. It can also tolerate saline soil and salt spray. This plant thrives best in moist soil that is well drained.
It is possible to propagate titberry plants from their seeds as well as by air-layering. It is very simple to take care of titberry plants as they can tolerate various conditions, including drought. However, these plants will grow best when planted in locations where you need to water them moderately and the plants will receive full sun.
The entire titberry plant (Allophylus cobbe) contains various important and useful chemicals. For instance, the leaves of this plant contain benzylamide. In addition, the leaves also enclose an anti-ulcer phytochemical known as phenacetamide and β-sitostrerol. A chemical called rutin is extracted from the stems of titberry. The fruit itself has antibacterial action.