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Diospyros heterotricha (B.L.Burtt.) F.White

Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat 33: 365 (1963).
Diospyros loureiriana var. heterotricha Welw. ex Hiern (1875), Royena heterotricha B.L.Burtt (1935).
Origin and geographic distribution
Diospyros heterotricha occurs in DR Congo and Angola. It is probably introduced and cultivated for its fruit in northern DR Congo and West Africa.
The twigs and roots are used as chew-sticks. The wood becomes brown in contact with the air and is sometimes used in preparations to colour the lips. The fruits are eaten. Diospyros heterotricha is closely related to Diospyros loureiriana G.Don, an important dye plant distributed from Kenya to Mozambique, and it is likely that its roots are similarly used.
Extracts of the root bark and root have shown antibacterial activity. Several naphthoquinones were identified in a trichloromethane extract of the powdered root bark, including 8’-hydroxyisodiospyrin, 7-methyljuglone, 2-methylnaphthazarin, 8,8’-dihydroxy-4, 4’-dimethoxy-6,6’-dimethyl-2,2’-binaphthyl-1,1’-quinone, and 5,8-dihydroxy-2-methyl-1, 4-naphthoquinone.
Dioecious shrub or small tree up to 8 m tall, but usually much smaller and sometimes up to only 0.5 m tall; young branches covered with short bristle-like and long hairs and sparse glands. Leaves alternate and entire; blade obovate, 5–10 cm × 2–4.5 cm, base rounded, apex shortly acuminate, lower surface with long and short hairs mainly on veins. Flowers axillary, unisexual, female flowers solitary, male flowers 2–3 together in long-pedunculate cymes; pedicel c. 10 mm long; calyx c. 3 mm long, deeply and irregularly 4(–5)-lobed, lobes triangular to ovate, with white-hairy, reduplicate margins, moderately accrescent; corolla campanulate, c. 4 mm long, deeply 4(–5)-lobed, lobes at first a continuation of corolla-tube, then spreading or reflexed, white; male flowers with 8(–10) slightly exerted stamens c. 3 mm long inserted at base of corolla, pistillode resembling pistil but without stigmas; female flowers with 8 staminodes 1.5 mm long, and an ovoid-conical, 8-celled ovary c. 2 mm in diameter, with 4 styles ending in bilobed stigma. Fruit an obovoid berry, 10–18 mm in diameter, yellow to slightly orange, very short-hairy, with persistent, almost leaf-like calyx-lobes 10–16 mm long, up to 8-seeded. Seed c. 1 cm long, dark reddish brown.
Diospyros is a large pantropical genus of about 500 mostly tropical species. In continental tropical Africa, about 90 species occur, several of which produce valuable timber or edible fruits; in Madagascar also about 90 species occur.
Diospyros heterotricha occurs from sea-level up to up to 1000 m altitude in Terminalia forest, secondary forest, savannah, grassland and fallow land. It is probably an obligate light-demanding species of early secondary vegetation.
Diospyros heterotricha is occasionally cultivated for its fruit.
Genetic resources and breeding
There are no indications that Diospyros heterotricha is in danger of genetic erosion.
Diospyros heterotricha is likely to remain a valuable source of chew-sticks and fruit.
Major references
• Alves, A.C., Cruz Costa, M.A. & Ferreira, M.A., 1973. Some binaphthaquinones from Diospyros species. Anais da Faculdade de Farmacia do Porto 33: 5–19.
• Burkill, H.M., 1994. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 2, Families E–I. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 636 pp.
• Latham, P., 2004. Useful plants of Bas-Congo province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. DFID, London, United Kingdom. 320 pp.
• White, F., 1963. Ebenaceae. In: Hepper, F.N. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 2–15.
• White, F., 1987. Ebenaceae. In: Bamps, P. (Editor). Flore d’Afrique centrale. Spermatophytes. Jardin botanique national de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium. 103 pp.
Other references
• Ferreira, M.A., Cruz Costa, M.A. & Alves, A.C., 1972. Identification of methylnaphthazarin in Diospyros species. Phytochemistry 11(7): 2352–2353.
• Ferreira, M.A., Alves, A.C. & Figueira de Sousa, A., 1972. Naphthoquinones of Diospyros heterotricha. Garcia de Orta, Serie de Farmacognosia 1(1): 29–31.
• Ndounga, M., Mpati, J., Chen Jian, M., Zhou Yuan, P., Bilala, J.P., Sianard, D.F. & Koubemba, M.C., 1991. Etude préliminaire de l’activité antibactérienne de quelques plantes médicinales de la flore Congolaise. Revue de Médecines et Pharmacopées Africaines 5(1): 33–42.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• White, F., 1963. Notes on the Ebenaceae. 5. Some new names and new species in Diospyros. Bulletin du Jardin Botanique de Bruxelles 33: 345–367.
• White, F., 1978. The taxonomy, ecology and chorology of African Ebenaceae I. The Guineo Congolian species. Bulletin du Jardin Botanique National de Belgique 48: 245–358.
L.P.A. Oyen
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
Photo editor
G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Oyen, L.P.A., 2011. Diospyros heterotricha (B.L.Burtt.) F.White. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Distribution Map wild and planted

Diospyros heterotricha

Diospyros heterotricha

Diospyros heterotricha

wood in transverse section

wood in tangential section

wood in radial section