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Dombeya biumbellata Baker

J. Linn. Soc., Bot. 22: 450 (1887).
Sterculiaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
Origin and geographic distribution
Dombeya biumbellata is endemic to Madagascar.
The bark is used for tying, and the bark fibre for making rope and weaving cloth. Formerly the bark was made into barkcloth. An infusion of the flowers is given to young children who have difficulty to urinate.
The bark fibre is easy to extract and process. Especially young plants with a thin bark are used, because these yield more beautiful fibre than older plants.
The wood is white, turning reddish on drying. It is lightweight, soft and brittle, and without important applications.
Shrub or small tree up to 10 m tall; flowering branches rounded, initially covered with reddish or reddish-brown stellate hairs. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules ovate, up to 13 mm × 1 mm, tomentose; petiole 6–14 cm long, densely stellate hairy; blade very variable, ovate or ovate-suborbicular, unlobed to 3–5-lobed or 3-cuspidate, up to 18 cm × 18 cm, base cordate, apex acuminate or attenuate-acuminate, margin toothed to almost entire, both sides with reddish, reddish brown or rarely greyish stellate hairs. Inflorescence an axillary many-flowered umbel, axis simple or bifurcate, 9–20 cm long, densely stellate hairy. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 0.5–3 cm long; epicalyx bracts 3, ovate to lanceolate-spathulate, 6–7 mm long; calyx deeply 5-fid, hairy outside, glabrous inside, lobes narrowly lanceolate, 5–7 mm long, becoming reflexed or not; petals free, broadly and obliquely obovate, 5–10 mm × 4–10 mm, white or pink; androecium crown-shaped, stamens 15, staminal column 1–2 mm long, filaments unequal, 0.5–3 mm long, free or connate above the crown, alternating with 5 staminodes 4–7 mm long; ovary superior, hairy, stylar column 2–6 mm long, with 4–5 branches 2–3.5 mm long. Fruit a loculicidal capsule.
Dombeya comprises about 200 species, mainly distributed in Madagascar, with about 20 species in mainland Africa and 14 in the Mascarenes. Revisions of the genus have been carried out for mainland Africa and the Mascarenes, but not for Madagascar, and the number of species described for Madagascar is possibly too high.
Many other Dombeya species endemic to Madagascar are used as fibre plants. The bark of Dombeya boeniensis Arènes, a small tree up to 12 m tall with a bole up to 20 cm in diameter, yields good fibre for rope-making. The bark fibre of Dombeya breonii Baill., a small tree up to 7 m tall, is used for cordage and textiles. It is usually extracted after retting and combed.
Dombeya biumbellata thrives in humid locations. It occurs at altitudes up to 1400 m.
Dombeya biumbellata is frequently planted near villages. The fibre is easy to extract and process. Formerly the bark was beaten with a mallet to obtain barkcloth, later the fibre was extracted by crushing the bark, after which the fibre was combed or scutched, making it suitable for spinning and weaving. Nowadays, the bark is retted to obtain the fibre. The fibre is stored to have it at hand when needed.
Genetic resources and breeding
Dombeya biumbellata is common around villages, where it is planted, and seems not threatened by genetic erosion.
Dombeya biumbellata is a useful local source of material for tying and rope making. As detailed information on the fibre properties is lacking, it is difficult to assess the prospects of this species. It is, however, frequently planted and the fibre is kept in stock, indicating that it is highly valued.
Major references
• Arènes, J., 1959. Sterculiacées (Sterculiaceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), famille 131. Firmin-Didot et cie., Paris, France. 537 pp.
• 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.
Other references
• Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] W3T/Search/ vast.html. Accessed September 2009.
• Schatz, G., undated. A catalogue of the vascular plants of Madagascar. [Internet]. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, United States. flora_info.aspx?flora_id=12. Accessed September 2009.
• Seyani, J.H., 1991. The genus Dombeya (Sterculiaceae) in continental Africa. Opera Botanica Belgica 2. National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise, Belgium. 186 pp.
• Vololomboahangy, T.E.S., 2004. Attractions culturelles. In: Proposition d’un plan d’aménagement pour le développement de l’écotourisme dans les deux communes rurales d’Ambohimitombo et d’Antoetra dans la sous préfecture d’Ambositra Province autonome de Fianarantsoa. Mémoire de fin d’étude pour l’obtention du diplôme de maîtrise spécialisée en GRENE, Université de Toamasina, Madagascar. pp. 16–22.
M. Brink
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:
Brink, M., 2010. Dombeya biumbellata Baker. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.