Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Kew Bull. 1950: 160 (1950).
Trachyphrynium violaceum Ridl. (1887).
Origin and geographic distribution
Hypselodelphys violacea is distributed from Guinea and Sierra Leone eastward to Cameroon, and from there southward to DR Congo and Angola.
The split stems are widely used for tying and making baskets and mats. In Gabon the stems are used for making traps for small animals such as rats and crabs. In Ghana the stems, which are hollow, are used as whistles. The leaves are used for packing.
The fruit is eaten in Sierra Leone, and the seed is chewed in Nigeria. In Benin the leaves form part of preparations drunk for the treatment of hunchback. In the Ubangi river area in Central Africa the dried and powdered fruit is taken as an emetic, and it is eaten in porridge in case of snake-bites.
The fruit is strongly flavoured. The seed is said to have a nutty taste when fresh and almost ripe, but to be tasteless when completely ripe and dry.
Perennial, woody, climbing liana up to c. 3.5(–8) m tall, with rhizome and bamboo-like, branched shoots. Leaves distichous, antitropic (successively bent to one side and the other); petiole generally sheathing up to the joint, above the joint 1–2 cm long and calloused, transition of the petiole into the midvein marked by an interruption; blade linear-ovate to ovate-oblong, 9–22 cm × 2–10 cm, base truncate to rounded, apex acuminate, lower surface with two lines of hairs on both sides of the midvein. Inflorescence a simple or dichotomously branched spike (5–)8–16(–24) cm long from the lowest node; axis articulate and zig-zag, with at each node an abaxial bract 2–3.5 cm long enveloping a single cymule; cymule 2-flowered, with a 2-keeled adaxial bract 10–15 mm long, common peduncle short. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, c. 2.5 cm in diameter, purple and white; bracteole fleshy and hard, sepals 3, free, equal; corolla tubular below, with 3 reflexed lobes, c. 2 cm long; staminodes and stamen in 2 cycles, at the base forming a tube fused to the corolla tube, outer cycle consisting of 2 petaloid staminodes, inner cycle consisting of 1 stamen and 2 petaloid staminodes, of which 1 hooded with a sword-like appendage; ovary inferior, 3-locular. Fruit triangular with sharp angles, c. 5 cm in diameter, indehiscent, densely covered with pointed protuberances 1–2 mm long, endocarp pulpy, 3-seeded. Seeds black, without aril.
In Benin flowering and fruiting are probably year-round. The flowers are pollinated by bees.
Hypselodelphys comprises 7 species, distributed from West Africa to Uganda.
Hypselodelphys violacea occurs in secondary forest and forest margins, particularly in humid locations.
Hypselodelphys violacea is collected from wild stands.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its wide distribution and occurrence in secondary forest, Hypselodelphys violacea is unlikely to be threatened with genetic erosion.
Hypselodelphys violacea is locally used for tying, plaiting and packing, but no information is available on its fibre properties and local trade of its products. It is unlikely to become more important, because of the wide availability of other Marantaceae and synthetic substitutes.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2011. Hypselodelphys violacea (Ridl.) Milne-Redh. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.