Heliotropium indicum L. belongs to the family Boraginaceae. The plant has been used as a folk medicine because it contains substances of various biological activities. It is also identified as a common weed which grows wildly in crop fields in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. However, there is little information on the allelopathic effect in this plant. Therefore, this study was undertaken to investigate the growth inhibitory effect and to identify the growth inhibitory substances in H. indicum. An aqueous methanol extract of H. indicum inhibited shoot and root growth of barnyard grass, foxtail fescue, timothy, cress, lettuce and rapeseed at concentrations higher than 10 mg dry weight equivalent extract/mL. The concentrations required for 50% growth inhibition (I50) of those test plants ranged from 3–282 mg dry weight equivalent extract/mL. The extract was then separated using a sequence of chromatographic fractionations and a growth inhibitory substance was isolated and identified by spectral analysis as methyl caffeate. Methyl caffeate inhibited the growth of lettuce and foxtail fescue at concentrations higher than 1.0 mM. The results suggest that methyl caffeate may contribute to the growth inhibitory effect of H. indicum and may play an important role in the allelopathic effect of H. indicum.
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