Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Ann. Sci. Nat., Bot., sér. 4, 1: 181 (1854).
Origin and geographic distribution
Girardinia bullosa is distributed in eastern DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It is sometimes cultivated.
The bast fibre is made into string, sewing thread and textiles. In Ethiopia the bark is used for tying animals, making fences and making rope, and unspecified plant parts are used in veterinary medicine in case of retained afterbirth in cattle.
Erect annual or short-lived perennial herb up to 3 m tall, monoecious or dioecious; stem up to 3.5 cm in diameter, unbranched or sparsely branched near the top, hollow; bark greenish to dark brown, pilose and densely covered with stinging hairs up to 8 mm long and 2 mm thick. Leaves alternate; stipules broadly lanceolate, fused for two-thirds of their length, 1.5–2.5 cm × 0.5–1 cm, hairy on the veins and ciliate; petiole 5–20 cm long, pilose and densely covered with stinging hairs up to 5 mm long; blade ovate to cordate, (10–)15–40 cm × (10–)15–35 cm, base truncate to cordate, apex acute to acuminate, margin doubly toothed, with on each side 10–18 teeth up to 2.5 cm wide, upper surface bullate, densely covered with stinging hairs 2–4 mm long, mineral concretions dot-like, lower surface densely pubescent, especially on the veins, and the largest veins also with stinging hairs up to 5 mm long, lateral veins in 5–7 pairs. Inflorescence an axillary panicle, unisexual; male inflorescence narrow, lax, up to 20 cm long, with flowers in clusters up to 1 cm in diameter; female inflorescence dense, with the ultimate branches forming small dichasia and with flowers single in bifurcations of the dichasia, 5–18 cm × c. 3 cm, densely pubescent and covered with stinging hairs. Flowers unisexual; male flowers on an up to 3 mm long pedicel, perianth 4(–5)-merous, c. 1.5 mm in diameter, each tepal with a dorsal horn-like appendage c. 0.5 mm long; female flowers sessile, up to 1.5 mm long, with 3 almost completely fused tepals and 1 free tepal up to 1.5 mm long, the middle of the fused tepals with a marked longitudinal keel, ovary superior, enclosed in the perianth, stigma filiform. Fruit an ovoid achene 2.5–4 mm in diameter, compressed, dark brown, usually warty.
Girardinia comprises 2 species distributed in mountain areas in the Old World tropics. It has the longest stinging hairs in the Urticaceae, but the sting seems less severe than that of some other genera, such as Laportea.
Girardinia bullosa occurs at 1750–3000 m altitude, in edges and clearings of rainforest, and in grassland along roads and near houses, often in abandoned fields.
Girardinia bullosa is propagated by seed. It does not resprout after cutting. After stems have been harvested in Burundi, the stinging hairs are removed and the entire bark is removed from the stem, after which the inner bark is separated in one piece and dried.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its fairly wide distribution and the types of habitats in which it occurs, Girardinia bullosa does not seem in danger of genetic erosion.
Girardinia bullosa is a useful local source of fibre and tying material. No information is available on the fibre properties, however, making it difficult to assess its prospects. The presence of stinging hairs makes handling of the plant difficult.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2009. Girardinia bullosa (Steud.) Wedd. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.