• WordNet 3.6
    • n rauwolfia any shrub or small tree of the genus Rauwolfia having leaves in whorls and cymose flowers; yield substances used medicinally especially as emetics or purgatives or antihypertensives
    • n rauwolfia any of several alkaloids extracted from the shrub Rauwolfia serpentina
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n rauwolfia A genus of gamopetalous plants of the order Apocynaceæ, the dogbane family, tribe Plumerieæ, and type of the subtribe Rauwolfieæ. It is characterized by a salver-shaped corolla with included stamens, an annular or cup-shaped disk, and an ovary with two carpels, each with two ovules, in fruit becoming drupaceous and united, often beyond the middle. There are about 42 species, natives of the tropics in America, Asia, and Africa, also in South Africa. They are trees or shrubs, commonly with smooth whorled leaves which are three or four in a circle, and finely and closely feather-veined. The small flowers and fruit are in cymose clusters which become lateral and commonly resemble umbels. Most species are actively poisonous: some, as R. nitida, are in repute as cathartics and emetics. Several medicinal species, with remarkably twisted roots and stems, were formerly separated as a genus Ophioxylon (Linnæus, 1767), on account of their producing both sterile flowers with two stamens and fertile flowers with five: as R. serpentina, the East Indian serpentwood, a climber with handsome leaves, the root of which is used in India and China as a febrifuge. R. Sanduicensis, the hao of the Hawaiians a small milky tree with white scarred branches, is unlike all other species in its leafy sepals.
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