Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Bull. Soc. Bot. France 55, Mém. 8b: 73 (1908).
2n = 22
Origin and geographic distribution
Caperonia fistulosa is distributed from Mali eastwards to Somalia and southwards to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Malawi.
The stems of Caperonia fistulosa yield fibres used in Mali for making fishing-lines. In Sudan the fibres are used in the construction of cattle sheds.
Monoecious annual herb up to 90(–150) cm tall; stem erect or ascending, slightly branched, hollow, up to 1 cm thick. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules ovate to ovate-lanceolate, up to 8 mm × 5 mm; petiole up to 2 cm long; blade broadly lanceolate, up to 12 cm × 4 cm, base cuneate to rounded, apex (sub-)acute, margin toothed, sparingly appressed hairy, 3–5-veined at the base. Inflorescence an axillary spike with female flowers at the basal part, male flowers towards the top, up to 10 cm long, bracts like stipules but smaller. Flowers unisexual, pedicels short; male flowers with calyx (sub-)glabrous, closed in bud, later splitting in 5 lobes, petals 5, imbricate, free, white, stamens 10, partially fused into a column; female flowers with 5–10 sepals, imbricate, 3–8 mm × 1–4 mm, petals 5–6, white, ovary sessile, 3-locular, subglobose, c. 1 mm in diameter, styles 3, 1–2 mm long, usually free at base, white. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule, 5 mm × 7–9 mm, short, coarse-hairy, green. Seeds globose, c. 3 mm in diameter, smooth, usually grey.
In Benin flowering and fruiting are in March–December.
In the genus Caperonia c. 34 species are recognized with 5 poorly differentiated species in continental tropical Africa, 1 species in Madagascar and the majority of species in tropical America.
Caperonia fistulosa occurs in swamps and seasonally flooded areas often on vertisols and usually from low altitudes up to 1000 m above sea-level.
Caperonia fistulosa is an important weed on vertisols. It shows resistance to glyphosate but can be easily controlled by hand weeding. Other species from the genus are harmful weeds in the Americas and much information is available on how to control these weeds in soya bean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) cultivation.
Genetic resources and breeding
As Caperonia fistulosa is widespread and apparently common in its habitat, it is unlikely to be threatened with genetic erosion.
Caperonia fistulosa will remain locally important for its use as a source of fibre, but expansion of its use is not likely.
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Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2010. Caperonia fistulosa Beille. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.