Taxonomy: Magnoliophyta (angiosperm), Magnoliopsida (dicot), Bignoniaceae
Willow, Flowering Willow, Willowleaf Catalpa, Desert Catalpa,
Catalpa Willow, False Willow, Bow Willow, Mimbre, Jano (18)
The Chilopsis linearis, more commonly known as the desert willow, is a native to the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Its Linnaean name Chilopsis refers to the lip-like flower and linearis refers to the long narrow leaves. Though its many common names refer to it as a willow, it is not related to the willow species. This willow-like plant typically is a natural protector against flood and erosion damage. Historically the desert willow has been used by the Pima to thatch roofs and for the enjoyment of the pleasant fragrance produced by the plant (12). Medicinally this plant seems to have been ignored, though it has several potential medicinal uses it is not frequently used.
Desert willow is found in moist areas and dry washes at a soil pH level of 6-9. It is a shrub that can grow up to 30 feet tall and has leaves from 5 to 6 inches long. This deciduous shrub has dark brown bark and trumpet-shaped flowers. Flower color ranges between pink and violet with blooms occuring in May/June or later if the rainy season is promising (4).
reproduces sexually; its purple trumpet-like flowers are attractive
to many types of pollinators. Though
it has both male and female organs, it cannot pollinate itself,
it must pollinate by outcrossing (4). The
long pods on the desert willow hold many seeds and each has several
minuscule hairs that allow for easy wind dispersal.
desert willows flowers, leaves, or bark can be used as a hot
poultice or a soothing tea for coughing(13).
Other treatments guard against yeast infections, athletes
foot and a first-aid technique for scrapes and scratches.
The plant carries an additional use as an anti-fungal
and anti-candida product (yeast). The
tea (from the flowers) produces a natural anti-oxidant, which
promotes cardiovascular health and regulates glucose metabolism.
Desert willow is a protective agent against soil erosion and flooding, as well as a windbreak or sunscreen. This shrub is important to animals because it provides nesting sites and cover. Wildlife, such as deer and birds, consume the leaves, fruit and the flowers nectar. When found in its natural habitat, a good source of water is not too far below the surface (1).Desert willow is often used in southwestern landscaping.
desert willow has a variety of chemical constitutes carried by
different plant organs. The flowers contain pigments called anthocyanins. These
are a group of H2O-soluble flavonoid pigments that
impart color to flowers and other plant appendages (11). Anthocyanins
are capable of trapping and absorbing blue, blue-green and green
light (6). Cool and
dry weather encourages high sugar concentration destroying chlorophyll
in cell sap, thus, contibuting to the high production of anthocyanins.
vital chemical compound found in the desert willow is polyphenol.
Polyphenol, in association with anthocyanins, have a high antioxidant
potential. Some pharmaceutical
effects of anthocyanins have been suggested in treatment of cardiovascular
diseases and in ophthalmology.
composites have shown that seeds contain trienoic fatty acids
located in the chloroplast membrane. High
temperatures result in the reduction of the acid leading to a
high tolerance for heat stress due to photosynthesis in the chloroplast
membrane (7). The
enzyme responsible for trienoic fatty acids are still being researched
for their usage in engineering crops to endure heat stress.
leaves and branches contain alkanes, squalene and piperidine alkaloids.
Alkanes are found to strengthen immune defenses against
fungi or bacteria (2). Squalene,
a hydrocarbon, is found in many health foods and is used variously
by the cosmetic industry in moisturizers or emollient agents (9). Piperidine
alkaloids are derived from amino acids commonly found in nitrogen-containing
wood and bark also have a type of flavonoid referred to as lapachic
acid or lapachol (alcohol functional group), which is found in
other plants of the catalpa family, such as Tabebuia avellanedae. Lapachol
is currently being researched as an anti-tumor and anti-viral
compound by the U.S. National Cancer Institute. A
derivative of lapachol, beta-lapachol, has been found to interfere
with the replication of HIV-1, a virus that causes AIDS, thereby
slowing the advancement of the disease (11).
Zone Trees. Desert
Research and Extension Center, Texas A&M University System,
of Botany, Iowa University, Copyright 1998-2000.
Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research
Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, (2001, May). Fire
Effects Information System, [Online]. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/chilin/
Dukes Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Database. http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/
Forest Service. Chemical
of the Week The Chemistry of Autumn Colors. http://www.fs.fed.us/news/fall.shtml
Y., Tsuyama, M., Kobayashi,Y., Kodama, H., Iba, K. Trienoic
Fatty Acids and Plant Tolerance of High Tolerance. Science,
Vol. 287, 476-479. 21
Jan. 2000. http://www.biotech-info.net/trienoic.html
Botanical Dermatology Database. BIGNONIACEAE.
Online: The Secondary
Metabolism of Plants Alkaloids.
Index 10th Ed. 5195
11. Cyberbotanica: Beta-Lapachone
and Lapachol. Pharmacology
of Beta-Lapachone and Lapachol. http://biotech.icmb.utexas.edu/botany/beta.html
Rea , Amadeo M. At the Desert's Green Edge: An Ethnobotany
of the Gila River Pima. The University of Arizona Press,
Tuscon. Copyright 1997.
, Amadeo M. At the Desert's Green Edge: An Ethnobotany of the Gila River Pima. The University of Arizona Press, Tuscon. Copyright 1997.
Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. Museum
of New Mexico Press.
February 13, 2008