Prota 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins
Engl. & Prantl, Nat. Pflanzenfam. 4(4): 88 (1891).
Cremaspora coffeoides Hemsl. (1896).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cremaspora triflora is widely distributed all over tropical Africa and Comoros, but it has not been reported from north-eastern tropical Africa (from Ethiopia to Somalia) or south-western Africa (Namibia to Botswana).
The unripe and ripe fruits of Cremaspora triflora produce a blue-black dye, used in various parts of Africa as a cosmetic to colour the face and body. The ripe fruit is said to be edible. The crushed seed produces a deep black dye, also used to colour body and face and in DR Congo to dye barkcloth made from Ficus thonningii Blume. Cremaspora triflora is planted as an ornamental somewhat resembling a coffee shrub, bearing white sweet-scented flowers. The wood is used in construction as poles and also makes good firewood. In Côte d’Ivoire the bark is used to strengthen fermented drinks, and to alleviate toothache by putting a piece of bark in a diseased tooth and by washing the mouth with a bark decoction. In Tanzania a root extract is used against rheumatism. A decoction of the plant is drunk against swellings, intestinal parasites and as a diuretic.
There is no information on the dye components of the fruits and seeds. Alkaloids are present in leaf and bark The wood of Cremaspora triflora is yellowish and hard.
Shrub, liana or small tree up to 9 m tall, usually much branched; stem glabrescent to densely hairy. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules triangular, up to 7 mm long; petiole short; blade oblong, elliptical or oblanceolate, 2–18 cm × 0.5–9 cm, base rounded to cuneate, apex acuminate, glabrous above, glabrous to pubescent beneath; leaves subtending lateral branches mostly rounded to kidney-shaped, 3–4 cm in diameter. Inflorescence a dense axillary fascicle 2–3 cm wide. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, strongly sweet-scented, sessile; calyx tubular, lobes up to 2 mm long; corolla tubular, white or yellowish, tube 3–6(–10) mm long, lobes 3–7 mm long; stamens inserted at the mouth of the tube, filaments very short; ovary inferior, 2-celled, style up to 16 mm long, at apex 2-lobed with stigmatic surface on inside of the lobes. Fruit an ovoid or ellipsoid berry, 7–15 mm × 5–7(–12) mm, red, glabrous to densely hairy, crowned with persistent calyx, usually 2-seeded. Seeds compressed half-ovoid, 5–7 mm × 3–5.5 mm × 2–3.5 mm, testa finely transversely wrinkled.
Cremaspora comprises 3–4 species and is confined to tropical Africa, Comoros and Madagascar. Cremaspora triflora is very variable and three subspecies have been distinguished, mainly based on differences in form and size of leaves, calyx lobes and fruits: the widespread subsp. triflora, subsp. confluens (K.Schum.) Verdc. from Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi, and subsp. comorensis (Baill.) Verdc. from Comoros.
Cremaspora triflora is found in evergreen forest, fringing forest, bushland and thicket from sea-level up to 2000 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Cremaspora triflora is widespread and is not in danger of genetic erosion.
Cremaspora triflora as source of a dye will remain only locally of some importance. Its medicinal and ornamental properties need more investigation.
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Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2005. Cremaspora triflora (Thonn.) K.Schum. In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.