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The Intellect Tree

Celastrus paniculatus, “the intellect tree”, is a climbing shrub with medicinal properties found throughout India. And it’s under threat.

Celastrus paniculatus As the World starts to run out of effective, affordable medicines, natural compunds are likely to become of increasing importantce in future. In the last few days we have seeen poropsals to mine the seabed for new antibiotics, but historically, plant compounds have always been our major source of medicine.

Writing in AoB PLANTS, Phulwaria et al describe a new protocol for micropropagation of Celastrus paniculatus, an important medicinal plant in India. Known as “the intellect tree”, Celastrus paniculatus is a climbing shrub found throughout India. As with many medicinal plants, this species has been over-exploited and is under threat.

The seeds of the pant contain fatty acids and alkaloids, and have sedative and antidepressant actions. But they are difficult to germinate and growing C. paniculatus is tricky. The method described in this new paper could be employed for large-scale multiplication of C. paniculatus, and resulting commercial applications could bring financial as well as health care benefits to developing countries where they are urgently needed.


Phulwaria, M., Rai, M.K., Patel, A.K., Kataria, V., and Shekhawat, N.S. (2013) A genetically stable rooting protocol for propagating a threatened medicinal plant-Celastrus paniculatus. AoB Plants. 5: pls054 doi: 10.1093/aobpla/pls054
Celastrus paniculatus, belonging to the family Celastraceae, is an important medicinal plant of India. Owing to the ever-increasing demand from the pharmaceutical industry, the species is being overexploited, thereby threatening its stock in the wild. Poor seed viability coupled with low germination restricts its propagation through sexual means. Thus, alternative approaches such as in vitro techniques are highly desirable for large-scale propagation of this medicinally important plant. Nodal segments, obtained from a 12-year-old mature plant, were used as explants for multiple shoot induction. Shoot multiplication was achieved by repeated transfer of mother explants and subculturing of in vitro produced shoot clumps on Murashige and Skoog’s (MS) medium supplemented with various concentrations of 6-benzylaminopurine (BAP) alone or in combination with auxin (indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) or α-naphthalene acetic acid (NAA)). The maximum number of shoots (47.75 ± 2.58) was observed on MS medium supplemented with BAP (0.5 mg L−1) and IAA (0.1 mg L−1). In vitro raised shoots were rooted under ex vitro conditions after treating them with indole-3-butyric acid (300 mg L−1) for 3 min. Over 95 % of plantlets acclimatized successfully. The genetic fidelity of the regenerated plants was assessed using random amplified polymorphic DNA. No polymorphism was detected in regenerated plants and the mother plant, revealing the genetic fidelity of the in vitro raised plantlets. The protocol discussed could be effectively employed for large-scale multiplication of C. paniculatus. Its commercial application could be realized for the large-scale multiplication and supply to the State Forest Department.



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