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(Clethra family)


• Medicinal / Folk-medicinal aspects: •
• Adverse effects: The cobalt-accumulating properties of some species may be of dermatological significance in geographic regions where the soil in which the plants grow contains high levels of this element. •
• Veterinary aspects: •

This is a family of about 95 species of shrubs and trees in two genera, namely Clethra L. (83 spp.) and Purdiaea Planchon (12 spp.). They are found on the Asian and American continents, and on Madeira. These plants are regarded by some authorities as belonging to the Cyrillaceae (Mabberley 2008).

Some species are grown as ornamentals for their fragrant flowers, including Clethra alnifolia L., Clethra arborea Aiton, Clethra barbinervis Siebold & Zucc., Clethra delavayi Franch., and Clethra fargesii Franch. (Wright & Dewar 1913, Hunt 1968/70).

Clethra alnifolia L.
Bush Pepper, Summersweet Clethra, Pepperbush, Coastal Sweetpepperbush

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Clethra barbinervis Siebold & Zucc.
(syn. Clethra wuyishanica Ching ex L.C.Hu)
Japanese Clethra, Pepperbush

This Japanese tree can accumulate anomalous quantities of cobalt from soils rich in this element. Neumüller (1973) reported 670 ppm cobalt in the ash of the leaves; Okamoto et al. (1978) found the dried leaves to contain up to 32 ppm cobalt. The sensitising capacity of cobalt and its salts is well documented (Malten et al. 1976, Cronin 1980).

[Further information available but not yet included in database]

Clethra revoluta Spreng.
(syns Clethra nervosa Loisel., Cuellaria revoluta Ruiz & Pavón)

[Information available but not yet included in database]


  • Cronin E (1980) Contact Dermatitis. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone [WorldCat]
  • Hunt P (Ed.) (1968/70) The Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia of Gardening. London: Marshall Cavendish [WorldCat]
  • Mabberley DJ (2008) Mabberley's Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses, 3rd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat]
  • Malten KE, Nater JP, van Ketel WG (1976) Patch Testing Guidelines. Nijmegen: Dekker & van de Vegt [WorldCat]
  • Okamoto K, Yamamoto Y, Fuwa K (1978) Accumulation of manganese, zinc, cobalt, nickel, and cadmium by Clethra barbinervis. Agricultural and Biological Chemistry 42(3): 663-664 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Wright CH, Dewar D (1913) Johnson's Gardener's Dictionary, revised and enlarged edn. London: G. Bell and Sons [WorldCat]
  • [ + 3 further references not yet included in database]

Richard J. Schmidt

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