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Significance of the fungus balansia cyperi infecting medicinal species of cyperus (Cyperaceae) from Amazonia

Importancia del hongo Balansia cyperi que infecta especies medicinales de Cyperus de Amazonía


At least two species of Amazonian sedges (piripiri, i.e., Cyperus articulatus andC. prolixus, Cyperaceae) are widely utilized for various medicinal purposes, including birth control and induction of labor, and in hallucinogenic preparations. Examination of herbarium specimens collected from throughout South America and of living specimens collected in Ecuador has revealed that plants are infected by the systemic, ascomycetous fungusBalansia cyperi. This fungus is classified in the Clavicipitaceae and is known to infect only six species ofCyperus, including both North and South American species. Pure cultures of the fungus were obtained from two species of piripiri from Ecuador andC. virens from southern USA, and grown in submerged liquid culture. Extracts of the liquid medium revealed several unidentified ergot alkaloids. Current and past pharmacological uses of ergot alkaloids are consistent with uses of piripiri, suggesting a fungal basis for the ethnobotanical utilization of piripiri in Amazonia.


Dos especies de Cyperus de Amazonía (Cyperus articulatus y Cyperus prolixus, Cyperaceae) tienen varios usos medicinales tales como anticonceptivos, inductores del parto, y alucinógenos. El examen de ejemplares de herbario colectados a través de Sudamérica y de plantas vivas colectadas en Ecuador ha demostrado que las plantas están infectadas por un hongo sistémico de la familia Clavicipitaceae (Ascomycetes):Balansia cyperi. La infección de este hongo se conoce únicamente en seis especies de Cyperus nativas de Norteamérica y de Sudamérica. Obtuvimos cultivos puros del hongo pertenecientes a dos especies de “piripiri” de Ecuador y deCyperus virens del sur de los Estados Unidos, los cuales fueron cultivados en medio liquido. Extractos del medio de cultivo revelaron varios alcaloides desconocidos del tipo ergot. Los usos medicinales actuates y pasados de estos alcaloides son consistentes con los usos del piripiri, lo que sugiere que el hongo es responsable del uso etnobotánico del piripiri en Amazonia.

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Deceased 7 January 1989.

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Plowman, T.G., Leuchtmann, A., Blaney, C. et al. Significance of the fungus balansia cyperi infecting medicinal species of cyperus (Cyperaceae) from Amazonia. Econ Bot 44, 452–462 (1990).

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