In Malaysia, commonly 3 different main varieties of L. pumila are being distinguished mainly based on petiole characteristics. L. pumila var. pumila with slightly marginate petiole and rather ovate leaf blade, L. pumila var. alata with broadly winged petiole and L. pumila var. lanceolata with terete petiole and lanceolate leaf blade. The validity of those taxa is attributed to a publication of Benjamin C. Stone (1) from 1988. However, Stone himself is not exactly certain in his conclusions on the varieties of L. pumila and states that “Observers in Malaysia are urged to pay attention to the status (whether natural or artificial) of the varieties of L. pumila. The question of the breadth of the petiole wing (or decurrent extension of the blade) and relative lengths as a means of separating taxa remains to be settled. The var. lanceolata (based on L. pumila Scheffer, reduced in rank by Airy Shaw as L. pumila forma lanceolata (Scheff.) A. Shaw) seems not to have other associated differences.” A general botanical description can also be found in the PROSEA Handbook 12 (2) and a monograph has been published by the Malaysian Monograph Committee (3) and a more recent description of the genus Labisia has been published by B. Sunarno (4). Currently, L. pumila var. alata is being regarded as the most desirable form for use as medicinal herb. However, data obtained by Borneo Plant Technology Sdn Bhd (not shown) during the development of the TQP™ specifications for Labisia p.a. support Stone’s reservations and show that the 3 varieties as well as L. pumila var. neriifolia cannot be separated according to their total chemical composition and leaf morphology alone is therefore not a sufficient parameter to assess phytochemical properties or for quality control.
(1) Stone, B. C. (1988) Notes on the genus Labisia Lindl. (Myrsinaceae). Malayan Nature Journal 42(1): 43-51.(2) PROSEA Handbook 12(3) Medicinal and poisonous plants 3, p.266. Backhuys Publishers, Netherlands(3) Zahri, I., Norhayati, I. and Jaafar, L. (1999) In: Malaysia Herbal Monograph Vol. I, Ministry of Health. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, pp 47.(4) Sunarno, B. (2005) Revision of the genus Labisia (Myrsinaceae). Blumea 50(3): 579-597.
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