Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Symb. bot. 1: 34 (1790).
Tiliaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
Grewia ulmifolia Bojer (1846).
Dune cross-berry (En). Msokote, msai (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Grewia glandulosa is distributed along the coasts of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, and also occurs in the Indian Ocean islands (Comoros, Mayotte, Madagascar and Seychelles). It has probably been planted in Mauritius.
The bark fibre is used in Madagascar to make good cordage. It was used for tying wood before nails were used. On Zanzibar and Pemba young branches have been used to clean the teeth. In East African traditional medicine a decoction of the root is drunk against flatulence. In Madagascar it is recommended to drink an infusion of the flowering shoot before going to sleep, because of its emollient and calming effects.
Shrub or small tree up to 7.5 m tall; young stems shortly stellate-hairy. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules subulate, 5–10 mm long, finely hairy; petiole 6–12 mm long, stellate-hairy; blade ovate to elliptical-oblong, 4.5–15 cm × 2.5–8.5 cm, base rounded, cordate or truncate, apex acute to acuminate, margin finely and evenly toothed and somewhat glandular, more or less glabrous above, scattered stellate-hairy below. Inflorescence a terminal or leaf-opposed axillary cyme, 2–5-flowered; peduncle up to 9 mm long, hairy; bracts up to 7 mm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel thick, up to 11 mm long; sepals linear-oblong, 10–25 mm long, hairy outside, glabrous inside; petals obovate to almost circular, 5–12 mm × 5–6 mm, pinkish purple, with a narrow nectariferous claw c. 1 mm long; androgynophore glabrous for 1.5–2 mm at the base, hairy above the node; stamens numerous, 10–14 mm long, filaments pink to mauve; ovary superior, c. 2.5 mm long, densely hairy, style 5–10 mm long. Fruit a more or less square drupe, 14–28 mm wide, 10–16 mm high, shallowly 4-lobed, densely covered with rusty brown stellate-hairs.
In Kenya Grewia glandulosa flowers more or less throughout the year.
Grewia comprises about 150 species, distributed in the tropical and subtropical parts of Africa, Asia and Australia. Other Grewia species of which the bark has been used for making bark cloth, cordage and textiles in Madagascar include Grewia brideliifolia Baill. (synonym: Grewia faucherei Danguy), Grewia calvata Baker, Grewia cuneifolia Juss. (synonym: Grewia trinervata Baker), Grewia microcyclea (Burret) Capuron & Mabb., Grewia speciosa Burret (synonym: Grewia macrophylla Baker), Grewia rhomboides Bojer (synonym: Grewia polypyrena Baker), Grewia sahafariensis Capuron & Mabb. and Grewia sely R.Vig. The bark of Grewia calvata was formerly beaten with a mallet to obtain barkcloth. As technology evolved, fibres were extracted by crushing the bark, after which they were combed or scutched, making them suitable for spinning and weaving. The fibre of Grewia calvata is much appreciated and can be as finely woven as hemp fibre. The young, straight stem of Grewia calvata is often made into canes and walking sticks. The wood of Grewia microcyclea provides poles used as barge poles for pirogues, and is also used for spear shafts, tool handles and roofing; the fruit is edible. The wood of Grewia sahafariensis and Grewia sely is made into spear shafts. The seed of Grewia rhomboides is edible and has been harvested as a famine food.
In East Africa Grewia glandulosa is common in coastal areas, in dry forest and bush on coral rag and cliff tops, from sea-level up to 50 m altitude, often forming thickets just above the high-water mark. In Madagascar it occurs up to 1000 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its fairly wide distribution and common occurrence, Grewia glandulosa seems not threatened by genetic erosion.
Grewia glandulosa is a relatively unimportant local source of fibre and medicine in coastal areas of East Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. Its importance is unlikely to increase.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2009. Grewia glandulosa Vahl. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.