Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Linnaea 14: 430 (1840).
Englerodaphne subcordata (Meisn.) Engl. (1921).
Smooth fibre-bush (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Gnidia subcordata is distributed in Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa.
The bark yields a strong fibre, which is made into rope. In Kenya the woody parts are used for laths. The fruit is said to be poisonous, but has been recorded to be eaten in South Africa.
In research to find tumour inhibitors from plant sources, an ethanol extract of unspecified plant parts showed significant in-vivo activity against P-388 leukaemia in mice, due to the presence of the diterpenoid esters gnidimacrin and gnidimacrin 20-palmitate.
Much-branched shrub up to 4 m tall (rarely a small tree); branches slender, glabrous; outer bark smooth, dull or purplish grey. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 0.5–1 mm long; blade ovate or suborbicular, 10–25(–40) mm × 5–15(–18) mm, base rounded or truncate, sometimes subcordate, apex acute, rounded or truncate, membranous, glabrous or with occasional hairs along the midrib beneath, green above, glaucous-green beneath. Inflorescence a terminal fascicle, (1–)4–6(–8)-flowered; bracts absent. Flowers bisexual, regular, 4-merous, greenish white, white or cream; pedicel short; calyx tube cylindrical, 9–14 mm long, constricted below the middle, glabrous or with few silky hairs, lobes imbricate, oblong, spreading during flowering, 3.5–5 mm × c. 2 mm, glabrous or sometimes with a few hairs; petals 8, inserted in the throat of the calyx tube, linear-spathulate, 1–3 mm × c. 1 mm, apex emarginate or toothed, somewhat fleshy; stamens 8, in 2 whorls of unequal length, inserted in the throat of the calyx tube, almost sessile; ovary superior, shortly stalked, 1-locular, densely hairy, style filiform, 4–6 mm long. Fruit dry, small, enclosed by the persistent base of the calyx tube.
In Kenya Gnidia subcordata 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 subcordata occurs at 1400–2400 m altitude, in dry evergreen forest and associated bushland, Acacia woodland and wooded grassland.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its fairly wide distribution and range of habitats, Gnidia subcordata is not threatened by genetic erosion.
Gnidia subcordata yields a strong fibre suitable for cordage, but detailed information on the fibre properties is unavailable, making it difficult to assess its prospects. The plant contains compounds with anti-leukaemic properties, but toxicity has also been reported, so more research on its phytochemistry seems useful.
• Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
• Coates Palgrave, K., 1983. Trees of southern Africa. 2nd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 959 pp.
• Peterson, B., 1978. Thymelaeaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 37 pp.
• Brokensha, D. & Riley, B.W., 1986. Changes in the uses of plants in Mbeere, Kenya. Journal of Arid Environments 11: 75–80.
• Kupchan, S.M., Shizuri, Y., Murae, T., Sweeny, J.G., Haynes, H.R., Shen, M.-S., Barrick, J.C. & Bryan, R.F., 1976. Gnidimacrin and gnidimacrin 20-palmitate, novel macrocyclic antileukemic diterpenoid esters from Gnidia subcordata. Journal of the American Chemical Society 98(18): 5719–5720.
Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2009. Gnidia subcordata Meisn. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.