Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Bull. Jard. Bot. Etat 32: 170 (1962).
Sterculiaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
2n = 60
Forest dombeya (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Dombeya torrida is distributed from Eritrea and Ethiopia southward through Central and East Africa to southern Malawi; it also occurs in Yemen.
The wood of Dombeya torrida is suitable for flooring, ship and boat building, vehicle bodies, furniture, handles and ladders, sporting goods, agricultural implements, yokes, poles and piles. In tropical Africa it is mainly used for bows, construction, poles, tool handles and spoons. In Tanzania logs are carved into traditional stools. Dombeya torrida is also used as firewood and for making charcoal.
Fibre from the bark is made into rope, string and cloth. The flowers produce good nectar for bees. Fallen leaves improve the soil. In East Africa a decoction of the flowers and bark is taken against indigestion.
The heartwood of Dombeya torrida is not clearly demarcated from the sapwood. The wood is uniformly pale brown, often with a central core of dark brown wood with olive streaks. The grain is usually straight, texture fine to medium.
The density of the wood is 705 kg/m³ at 11% moisture content. The wood is liable to checking in seasoning. It is strong and tough. At 11% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 114 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 59 N/mm², Janka side hardness 6895 N and Janka end hardness 5560 N.
The wood saws and planes well and nails without splitting, but it is not suitable for turnery.
The durability of the wood is low to moderate. The sapwood is susceptible to attack by termites, marine borers and Lyctus borers. The sapwood and heartwood are moderately resistant to impregnation.
The fine hairs on the fruit may cause eye irritation.
Shrub or small to medium-sized tree up to 25 m tall; bole up to 120 cm in diameter, generally slightly curved or crooked; bark grey and smooth, slightly grooved with age, with lenticels; crown umbrella-shaped; young branches often red. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules 0.5–2.5 cm × 1–8 mm, caducous to persistent; petiole up to 20(–28) cm long; blade heart-shaped, very rarely lobed, 3–32(–42) cm × 2.5–23(–32) cm, base deeply cordate, apex acuminate, margin serrate, densely hairy especially on the reddish veins, basal veins 7–9. Inflorescence an axillary, 5.5–21.5 cm long, umbel-like cyme or 1–2 times bifurcate with umbel-like branches, many-flowered; peduncle 2–13(–17) cm long; branches up to 3(–5) cm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 1–6 cm long; calyx with short tube, lobes 5–13 mm × 2–4 mm, hairy, often with long hairs basally; petals obliquely obovate, 8–21 mm × 7–20(–28) mm, white or pink, with or without red centre or red veins, persistent and papery in fruit; stamens up to 11 mm long, in 5 groups of 2–3(–4) alternating with 5 linear staminodes 4.5–13 mm long, all united into a red basal tube 1.5–7 mm long; ovary superior, globose or ovoid, hairy, 5-celled. Fruit an ovoid to globose capsule 4–10 mm long, long-hairy, up to 10-seeded. Seeds ovoid-oblong, 3(–4) mm × 2 mm, reddish brown to dark brown. Seedling with epigeal germination.
Dombeya comprises about 200 species, mainly distributed in Madagascar, with about 20 species in the African mainland. Dombeya torrida is an extremely variable species. Two subspecies have been distinguished:
– subsp. torrida (synonyms: Dombeya goetzenii K.Schum., Dombeya leucoderma K.Schum., Dombeya schimperiana A.Rich.): lower leaf surface densely hairy with a mixture of long-armed and short-armed stellate hairs, leaf blade usually abruptly narrowed to the apex; distributed from Yemen and Ethiopia southward to northern Tanzania.
– subsp. erythroleuca (K.Schum.) Seyani: lower leaf surface more sparsely hairy, predominantly with short-armed stellate hairs, leaf blade usually more gradually narrowed to the apex; distributed from northern Tanzania southward to southern Malawi.
The seed normally germinates in 15–20 days. Growth is fairly fast.
Dombeya torrida occurs at 1600–3400 m altitude in forest, scrub, secondary bushland, grassland and cultivated land.
Dombeya torrida can be propagated by seed. Seedlings are obtained either from the nursery or collected from the wild. There are about 235,000 seeds per kg. After drying the fruits in the sun for 2–3 days, the seeds are easily separated by rubbing or light threshing in a bag. Seed can be stored in airtight containers without seed treatment. Coppicing, lopping and pollarding of the tree are possible.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its wide distribution Dombeya torrida is not threatened with genetic erosion.
The wood of Dombeya torrida is strong and tough but not durable. Furthermore the usefulness is limited due to the fact that the bole is seldom straight. Therefore it is unlikely to become more important.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2007. Dombeya torrida (J.F.Gmel.) Bamps. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.