Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Engl., Pflanzenw. Ost-Afrikas C: 283 (1895).
Lasiosiphon latifolius (Oliv.) Brenan (1949).
Mwata, mnunguwa-mwitu, kinyunywa (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Gnidia latifolia is distributed in Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania, and possibly Ethiopia.
The bark yields a strong fibre that is made into rope. Stems and branches are used for building and fencing in Kenya, because they are never attacked by termites. Plant material is also placed around seedlings to keep termites away, and plant parts are burned to produce pesticidal smoke. An extract of the bark or root is drunk as a purgative. The young leaves are said to be used for making poison.
The diterpenoid esters gnidilatin 20-palmitate and gnidilatidin 20-palmitate, isolated from the stem wood and bark, have shown strong in-vivo inhibitory activity against P-388 leukaemia in mice. Other compounds isolated from the stem wood and bark are gnidilatin, showing moderate antileukaemic activity, gnidilatidin, and the furanosesquiterpene gnididione. Gnidilatin and gnidilatidin have shown piscicidal activity. The leaf and stem are poisonous, and grass underneath Gnidia latifolia is not eaten by livestock.
Large, much-branched shrub up to 5 m tall; branches hairy when young, later glabrous. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 1–2 mm long; blade oblong to oblanceolate, 18–55 mm × 5–14 mm, base cuneate, apex obtuse, with scattered hairs or glabrous above, sparsely appressed hairy beneath. Inflorescence a head, 5–12(–15)-flowered; peduncle 14–30 mm long, leafless, sparsely hairy, glabrescent; bracts 4–6, oblong or elliptical, 10–16 mm × 4–6 mm, ciliate, finely silvery hairy outside, sparsely hairy or glabrous inside, caducous. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, yellow or orange; pedicel c. 2 mm long, hairy; calyx tube cylindrical, 13–16 mm long, articulate above the ovary, densely hairy above the articulation, with 3–4 mm long white hairs below the articulation, lobes imbricate, oblong to elliptical, 3–5 mm × 2–3 mm, apex rounded, hairy beneath; petals 8, inserted in the throat of the calyx tube, linear, up to 0.5 mm long; stamens 10, in 2 whorls of unequal length, inserted in the throat of the calyx tube, upper whorl slightly exserted; ovary superior, shortly stalked, 1-locular, upper part hairy, style filiform, 6–8 mm long. Fruit dry, small, enclosed by the persistent base of the calyx tube. Seeds 4–4.5 mm × c. 2 mm.
In Kenya Gnidia latifolia flowers throughout the year.
Gnidia comprises about 140 species, mainly distributed in tropical Africa, with 20 species endemic to Madagascar, but it also extends into Arabia, western India and Sri Lanka.
Gnidia latifolia occurs from sea-level up to 2000 m altitude, in deciduous and evergreen bushland and wooded grassland.
Genetic resources and breeding
Gnidia latifolia is fairly widely distributed and does not seem in danger of genetic erosion.
Gnidia latifolia is a useful local source of fibre and termite-resistant material for building and fencing. The fibre is said to be strong, but further information on the fibre properties is unavailable. The plant contains compounds with antileukaemic activity, but it has also been recorded to be toxic, so more research on its phytochemistry seems useful.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2009. Gnidia latifolia (Oliv.) Gilg. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.