Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
J. Bot. 2: 332 (1864).
Manniophyton africanum Müll.Arg. (1864), Manniophyton wildemanii Beille (1910), Manniophyton tricuspe Pierre ex A.Chev. (1940).
Origin and geographic distribution
Manniophyton fulvum is distributed only in tropical Africa, from Sierra Leone eastward to Sudan and southward to Angola.
The stems of Manniophyton fulvum are used in Central Africa to make traps. The split stems are used in basketry. The inner bark is rolled into narrow lines and knotted into nets for hunting. It is also used to make rope and thread; in Central Africa many farm tools and other objects are bound with rope made from the inner bark. The bark yields a strong fibre, resistant to rot, which is widely used to make lines, ropes and nets by fishers and hunters.
In Nigeria the cooked seeds are eaten as food and the leaves are browsed by sheep and goats.
In African traditional medicine the root, stem, bark and leaf are credited with analgesic properties, and they are used against diarrhoea, stomach-ache, cough and bronchitis. The red stem-sap is credited with haemostatic properties and is used to heal wounds. It is also used against dysentery, haemorrhoids, haemoptysis and dysmenorrhoea. In Côte d’Ivoire the stem sap is used against skin infections and painful menstruation. Stem decoctions are drunk to heal gonorrhoea. The leaf sap or the powder of dry leaves is sprinkled on sores. The leaf sap is also used against heart problems, ear problems, caries and insanity. Leaf decoctions are used in case of inflammations, and the crushed leaf is applied for the treatment of inflammation of the throat. Seeds are used against haemorrhoids and blood disorders.
The powdered dried root bark is a poison for which Piliostigma thonningii (Schumach.) Milne-Redh. is used as antidote.
Production and international trade
Manniophyton fulvum is collected from the wild. In Nigeria the seed is a commercial product, procuring substantial income to local communities, but no production data are available.
The bark fibre is strong and durable, making it sought after by fishermen and hunters for the production of nets.
Contact of the plant with the skin causes itching and may result in sores. The stem produces a red sap which becomes tacky in contact with air. A methanolic extract from the leaves contained flavonoids, tannins, phlobatannins, saponins and traces of alkaloids. The ethyl acetate fraction of a methanolic extract of the leaves showed anti-oxidant activity. Anti-inflammatory properties were demonstrated as well. The seed contains about 50% oil. This oil thickens on exposure in thin films and could be used for paint production. However, its iodine value is low (around 100). Leaves collected in Nigeria contained 14.4 g crude protein per 100 g dry matter.
Dioecious shrub or climber up to 30(–40) m long; stem cylindrical, up to 12 cm in diameter, with red sap; branches scabrous with short stellate hairs. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules caducous; petiole up to 19(–28) cm long; scabrous, pubescent; blade unlobed and ovate or 2–5-lobed, often asymmetrical, up to 35 cm × 28(–35) cm, base cordate, apex sharply acuminate, margin entire, scabrous-setose with stellate hairs on both surfaces. Inflorescence an axillary panicle; male panicle slender, up to 45 cm long, female panicle much smaller. Flowers unisexual; male flowers clustered, gamopetalous, pedicel 3–5 mm long, calyx lobes triangular, hairy, corolla tube 4–6 mm long, white to yellowish green, stamens 10–20, filaments free; female flowers with pedicel 4–6(–13) mm long, sepals 5, 2–2.5(–6) mm × 2–2.5(–6) mm, petals 5, free, 5–6 mm × 4–5 mm, yellowish green, ovary densely hairy, style 4–5 mm long. Fruit a capsule 1.8–2.5 cm × 2.8–3.3 cm, with raised ribs, deeply 3-lobed, brown, rusty-tomentose. Seeds 1.3–1.5 cm long, brown, shiny.
Other botanical information
Manniophyton is a monotypic genus.
Growth and development
Manniophyton fulvum grows fast, which enhances site colonization and mitigates competition of other species. It is a straggling heliophilous plant which flowers in May–August in Ghana and in November–December in Cameroon.
The species occurs in primary and secondary forest. It can become invasive in forest openings and in riparian forest. It is also found in roadsides, abandoned areas, fallow areas and plantations.
Propagation and planting
Manniophyton fulvum is dispersed by insects and birds which consume the fruits. The plant can be propagated by seed.
Harvest of products is year-round.
In DR Congo it has been estimated that 20 kg of green stems yield 2 kg of bark from which 350 g of fibre is extracted.
Handling after harvest
Extraction of the fibre from the stem is slow and difficult. To obtain the fibre, the stem is cut into segments 1–2 m long, which are scratched to remove the stellate hairs. Hand removal of the hairs can cause itching. The green stems remaining after the removal of the hairs are carefully incised with a knife, and the bark is removed in one piece. The strips obtained are separated from the cambium and other non-fibrous parts and sun-dried for several days. After the strips have been further softened by leaving them overnight outside, they are split into fibres by pounding them with a wooden mallet.
Manniophyton fulvum is planted in Aburi botanical gardens in Ghana where nine accessions are available. The species is common in the Guineo-Congolian forests and not under any threat of extinction or genetic erosion. However, investigations on the genetic structure of populations are due.
For many communities in tropical Africa Manniophyton fulvum is a useful raw material used in the manufacture of a range of products, including baskets, cordage and nets. Little is known about the properties, however, and there is room for research to describe the anatomical structure and physical properties of the fibres. The drying oil has a low iodine value and may contain complex fatty acids as are commonly found in Euphorbiaceae. The antioxidant properties of the leaves may offer an opportunity to obtain natural anti-oxidant compounds useful in food conservation. Research in this field should be accompanied with toxicological analyses to establish whether such products are suitable for human consumption. Exploitation of the anti-inflammatory properties of the leaves requires as well investigations and determination of active compounds of biological and medicinal interest. There may be prospects for the domestication of the plant, for instance to serve the niche market for the seeds in Nigeria.
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Correct citation of this article:
Jiofack Tafokou, R.B., 2010. Manniophyton fulvum Muell.Arg. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
1, twig with male flowers; 2, male flower; 3, twig with female flowers; 4 female flower; 5, leaf.
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin