Cinchona

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about 38 species; see text

Cinchona or Quina is a genus of about 38 species in the family Rubiaceae, native to tropical South America.[2] They are large shrubs or small trees growing 5–15 metres in height with evergreen foliage. The leaves are opposite, rounded to lanceolate and 10–40 cm long. The flowers are white, pink or red, produced in terminal panicles. The fruit is a small capsule containing numerous seeds.

The bark of the tree is medicinally active containing a variety of alkaloids, including the anti-malarial compound quinine which interferes with the reproduction of malaria-causing protozoa, and quinidine, an antiarrhythmic.The bark is stripped from the tree, dried, and powdered for medicinal use. As a medicinal herb, cinchona bark is also known as Jesuit's bark or Peruvian bark. The plants are cultivated in their native South America, and were transported for cultivation in other tropical regions notably India Sri Lanka by the British and Java by the Dutch in nineteenth century.[3]

The name of the genus is due to Carolus "Carl" Linnaeus, who named the tree in 1742 after a Countess of Chinchon, the wife of a viceroy of Peru, who, in 1638, was introduced by natives to the medicinal properties of the bark. Stories of the medicinal properties of this bark, however, are perhaps noted in journals as far back as the 1560s–1570s (see the Ortiz link below)[where?]. Cinchona species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including The Engrailed, The Commander, and members of the genus Endoclita including E. damor, E. purpurescens and E. sericeus.

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