Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Candollea 16: 357 (1958).
Sterculiaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
Origin and geographic distribution
Dombeya montana is endemic to Madagascar.
The bark fibre is used for making rope. Properly prepared, it can be woven in the same way as jute. The bark is used for tying, and was formerly made into barkcloth.
The bark fibre is recorded to be of good quality. The wood is white, soft and brittle.
Small to medium-sized tree up to 20 m tall; young branches densely hispid, older ones glabrous with a blackish bark. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules ovate or suborbicular, 10–14 mm × 5–10 mm, acuminate, long-hairy, persistent; petiole 2.5–5 cm long, cylindrical, densely hairy; blade ovate-suborbicular, unlobed or 3-lobed, up to 13(–30) cm × 11(–30) cm, lobes small, broadly triangular, attenuate-acute, margin finely toothed or almost entire, bullate, both surfaces stellate hairy and velvety, discolorous, lower surface greyish, palmately veined with 5–7 basal veins, prominent on both surfaces. Inflorescence an axillary umbel, many-flowered; axis simple, up to 10 cm long, densely hairy, with many glands. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel c.1 cm long, hairy, with many glands; epicalyx bracts 3, elliptical or suborbicular, 13 mm × 4 mm, acuminate, densely long-hairy, caducous; calyx deeply 5-fid, lobes ovate, 7–8 mm long, hairy outside, not reflexed; petals free, asymmetrical, broadly obovate, 15–18 mm × 14–20 mm, white to pink; androecium utricle-shaped, utricle c. 5 mm long, stamens 15, filaments unequal, 0.5–1.5 mm long, free above the utricle, alternating by 3 with 5 staminodes 4.5–6 mm long; ovary superior, hairy, stylar column 7–10 mm long, with 5 branches 1.5–2 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.
Other Dombeya species endemic to Madagascar with barks yielding good rope-making fibre include Dombeya mandoavato Arènes, a shrub or tree, Dombeya mangorensis Arènes, a small tree, Dombeya meneriky Arènes, a tree up to 9 m tall, Dombeya merika Arènes, a tree up to 20 m tall, and Dombeya rottleroides Baill., a shrub or tree up to 20 m tall.
Dombeya montana occurs in forest from sea level up to 1800 m altitude.
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.
Genetic resources and breeding
It is unknown whether Dombeya montana is threatened by genetic erosion.
Dombeya montana is a useful local source of material for tying and rope making, but detailed information on the extent of its use and the properties of its fibre is lacking, making it difficult to assess the prospects of this species.
• 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.
• Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] http://mobot.mobot.org/ W3T/Search/ vast.html. Accessed February 2010.
• Schatz, G., undated. A catalogue of the vascular plants of Madagascar. [Internet]. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, United States. http://www.efloras.org/ 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.
Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2010. Dombeya montana (Hochr.) Arènes. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.