PROTA homepage Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Record display

Acalypha filiformis Poir.

Encycl. 6: 205 (1804).
Acalypha reticulata (Poir.) Müll.Arg (1865).
Vernacular names
Queue de rat (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Acalypha filiformis is distributed on most Indian Ocean Islands but is absent from the Seychelles. A single specimen has been collected in Saint Helena but the species has not been reported from this island since.
The flexible stems and branches of Acalypha filiformis are used in Madagascar to make baskets and fish traps. The stems are also suitable to make walking sticks. The leaves are used as tissues and are especially useful to clean children. A decoction of the whole plant is taken 3 times per day to treat dysentery.
Preliminary phytochemical screening revealed the presence of tannins and anthocyanins in the root bark, stem bark and leaves, and alkaloids and saponins in the leaves.
Monoecious shrub or liana up to 6 m tall; young stems pubescent. Leaves arranged spirally, simple; stipules slender, 1–8 mm long, pointed, soon falling; petiole (1–)5–15(–33) mm long; blade ovate to elliptical-ovate, seldom elliptical, (1.5–)2–9(–11) cm × 1–4(–5) cm, base cuneate or obtuse and 3(–5)-veined, apex acute to rounded, margin serrate, pubescent while young, lateral veins 4–6 pairs. Inflorescence spicate or subracemose, axillary, solitary, up to 16 cm long, bracteate, with a terminal male portion and 1–2 female units below the male portion. Flowers unisexual, sessile, without petals; male flowers with calyx 4-partite, stamens 8; female flowers usually 2, on peduncle up to 3 cm long, enclosed by large bract, 3–10 mm in diameter, sepals 3, triangular-ovate, ovary superior, 3-celled, globose to 3-lobed, styles 3, free. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule c. 2.5 mm long, glabrous or with few spines, 3-seeded. Seeds subglobose, glabrous, grey-brown.
Acalypha is a large genus comprising about 460 species, occurring mainly in the tropics but extending to warm temperate areas. Tropical Africa and Asia have about 65 and 25 species, respectively, tropical America almost 400. Acalypha filiformis is a variable species. The flexible stems of Acalypha emirnensis Baill. and Acalypha leptomyura Baill. are also used in Madagascar to make baskets and fish traps.
In Réunion and Mauritius Acalypha filiformis occurs at low altitudes and survives in degraded habitats. In Madagascar the species is recorded as occurring in forest and ruderal sites, from sea-level up to 2000 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
As Acalypha filiformis has a fairly wide distribution and has adapted to ruderal conditions, it is unlikely that it is or will become threatened in the near future.
Acalypha filiformis will remain important at local level for its flexible stems. It is only occasionally used as a medicinal plant and is likely to remain of local importance, unless new pharmacological research reveals interesting activities.
Major references
• Boiteau, P., Boiteau, M. & Allorge-Boiteau, L., 1999. Dictionnaire des noms malgaches de végétaux. 4 Volumes + Index des noms scientifiques avec leurs équivalents malgaches. Editions Alzieu, Grenoble, France.
• Coode, M.J.E., 1982. Euphorbiacées. In: Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Guého, J. & Marais, W. (Editors). Flore des Mascareignes. Familles 153–160. The Sugar Industry Research Institute, Mauritius, l’Office de la Recherche Scientifique Outre-Mer, Paris, France & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 117 pp.
• Govaerts, R., Frodin, D.G. & Radcliffe-Smith, A., 2000. World checklist and bibliography of Euphorbiaceae (with Pandaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 1620 pp.
• Rabemanantsoa, H.F., Roger, E. & Jeannoda, V., 2007. Etude écologique de la végétation du site Enjoy Sakatia: écologie, flore et végétation pour contribuer à sa restauration écologique. Tohiravina 2: 305–313.
• Tida, M.M., 1997. Contribution à l’inventaire forestier et à l’étude de la flore médicinale des relictes forestières de Tsinjoarivo. Mémoire de DEA Ecologie Végétale Faculté des Sciences, Université d’Antananarivo, Madagascar. 39 pp.
Other references
• Debray, M., Jacquemin, H. & Razafindrambao, R., 1971. Contribution à l’inventaire des plantes médicinales de Madagascar. Travaux et Documents No 8. ORSTOM, Paris, France. 150 pp.
• Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] W3T/Search/ vast.html. Accessed November 2009.
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
E.G. Achigan Dako
PROTA Network Office Africa, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), P.O. Box 30677-00100, Nairobi, Kenya

Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2010. Acalypha filiformis Poir. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.