Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Rapp. Annuel Trav. Soc. Hist. Nat. Ile Maurice 11: 46–47 (1841).
Sterculiaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
2n = 30
Origin and geographic distribution
Dombeya spectabilis is endemic to Madagascar, where it occurs in the eastern and central parts of the country. It has been planted elsewhere as an ornamental.
The bark fibre is used for making cordage. Properly prepared fibres can be woven in the same way as jute. Formerly the bark was made into barkcloth and used for tying captives. The wood is used for carpentry and is suitable for papermaking. The plant has ornamental value.
Reports on the quality of the fibre are inconsistent, ranging from inferior to good. Young plants with a thin bark yield stronger and more beautiful fibre than older trees.
The wood is white to reddish, lightweight, soft and brittle. It has given good results in papermaking experiments.
Deciduous, small to medium-sized tree up to 15(–20) m tall; bole up to 20 cm in diameter; all parts covered with red stellate hairs; young branches angled, older ones rounded and with brown striated bark. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules ovate or linear, up to 6 mm long, caducous; petiole 1–4.5 cm long; blade unlobed, very variable, elliptical to obovate or suborbicular, up to 18 cm × 13 cm, base slightly cordate, apex emarginate to rounded or acuminate, margin sinuate or toothed, coriaceous, thick, upper surface greenish, stellate hairy and shiny, lower surface ferruginous and velvety, palmately veined with 5–7 basal veins. Inflorescence an axillary cyme 12–23 cm long, many-flowered. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 3–15 mm long; epicalyx bracts 3, inserted on pedicel, ovate or linear, 2–3 mm long, caducous; calyx deeply 5-lobed, hairy outside, glabrous inside, lobes ovate-lanceolate, 3–5 mm long, attenuate, not becoming reflexed; petals free, obovate, more or less asymmetrical, 7–13 mm × 3.5–8 mm, white to pink, persistent on fruit; androecium monadelphous, crown-shaped, stamens 12–15, staminal column 0.5–1 mm long, filaments unequal, 1–4 mm long, free or connate above the crown, alternating by 2–3 with 5 staminodes 3–5.5 mm long; ovary superior, hairy, stylar column 0.5–1 mm long, with 2–4 branches 2–3 mm long. Fruit a loculicidal capsule.
The flowers appear when the tree is leafless.
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.
In Madagascar the bark fibre of a range of other endemic Dombeya species is used in similar ways as that of Dombeya spectabilis, including Dombeya pentagonalis Arènes, Dombeya rubricuspis Arènes, Dombeya sahatavyensis Arènes, Dombeya stipulacea Baill., Dombeya superba Arènes and Dombeya tsiapetrokensis Arènes.
Dombeya spectabilis occurs in forest from sea level up to 1200 m altitude. It is locally common.
Dombeya spectabilis is often planted around villages. It can be propagated by seed or cuttings. 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
As Dombeya spectabilis is locally common and often planted, the risk of genetic erosion seems low.
Dombeya spectabilis is a useful local source of material for tying and rope making, although reports on the fibre quality are contradictory. As detailed information on the fibre properties is lacking, it is difficult to assess the prospects of this species as a fibre plant. The wood is recorded to have prospects as a raw material for papermaking.
• 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.
• Huxley, A. (Editor), 1992. The new Royal Horticultural Society dictionary of gardening. Volume 2. MacMillan Press, London, United Kingdom. 747 pp.
• Decary, R., 1946. Plantes et animaux utiles de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille, 54e année, 6e série, 4e volume, 1er et dernier fascicule. 234 pp.
• Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] http://mobot.mobot.org/ W3T/Search/ vast.html. Accessed December 2009.
• 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 spectabilis Bojer. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.