It’s been grey, cloudy, somewhat snowy and (relatively) cold for much of the past few weeks locally. Yesterday’s photographic expedition into the garden centred on finding some colours other than grey, green or white. Today’s image of the fruit of Hydrangea febrifuga or Chinese quinine, certainly qualifies. To see the flowers, you can check out this previous BPotD entry.
Hydrangea febrifuga is not well-known in Western cultivation, though it is one of “the fifty fundamental herbs” in Chinese medicine according to Duke and Ayensu’s Medicinal Plants of China (via the Plants For a Future Database). Its common name of Chinese quinine hints at its antimalarial properties (quinine was used to treat malaria). However, the principal antimalarial alkaloid present in this plant, febrifugine, is far more toxic to parasites when compared with quinine. Unfortunately, this particular chemical also has more potent injurious side effects. Synthetic analogs to febrifugine are being researched to replicate the antimalarial benefits without causing other difficulties (see: Jiang et al. 2004. Antimalarial Activities and Therapeutic Properties of Febrifugine Analogs. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 49(3): 1169).
Botany resource link: Botany Online: The History of a Science from the University of Hamburg’s Botany Online program. The complete text is available only in German, but the first forty-five chapters have been translated into English.