Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Oesterr. Bot. Wochenbl. 7: 414 (1857).
2n = 42 (hexaploid)
Cercestis scaber A.Chev. (1920).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cercestis afzelii occurs from Senegal eastward to southern Nigeria.
The long and strong stems are used in construction, woven into mats, baskets and fishing nets and are used to tie drums. Preparations from the plant are taken as purgative and against excessive sensitivity to stimulation of the heart. In Senegal the leaves are applied to burns. In central Ghana the ground stem mixed with water is drunk against gonorrhoea.
Production and international trade
Cercestis afzelii is only traded locally.
Extracts from the leaves showed bacteriostatic activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecalis and some activity against the fungi Candida albicans and Cladosporium cucumerinum. The plant also has analgesic or sedative properties. The leaves contain saponins.
Liana up to 17 m long, climbing by flagella: whiplike organs derived from inflorescences and bearing adventitious feeder roots and sometimes reflexed spines. Leaves simple; petiole up to 20 cm long; leaf sheath short; blade hastate, 20–30 cm long, apical lobe elliptical to ovate, acuminate, basal lobes variable, ovate or lanceolate-elliptical, up to 20 cm long, acute or obtuse. Inflorescence a spadix 5–6 cm long, basal part female, covering one-third to half of the axis, apical part male, covering half to two-thirds and creamy white; spathe 5–7 cm long, cylindrical, dark green with red dots; peduncle 3–4 cm long. Flowers naked, unisexual; male flowers with stamens in groups of 4–5, anthers nearly sessile; female flowers purple, ovary globose or ellipsoid, 1-locular, stigma discoid, large, translucent white. Fruit a red, ellipsoid berry up to 2 cm in diameter. Seed globose to triangular.
Cercestis comprises 13 species and is restricted to tropical Africa, from Gambia and Senegal to Uganda and Angola.
Cercestis afzelii occurs in open places in secondary forest.
Cercestis afzelii is only collected from the wild.
Genetic resources and breeding
Cercestis afzelii has a large area of distribution and occurs in secondary vegetation; there are no indications that it is threatened with genetic erosion.
Cercestis afzelii will probably remain of occasional and local importance only.
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Correct citation of this article:
Oyen, L.P.A., 2010. Cercestis afzelii Schott. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.