Prota 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins
DC., Prodr. 15(2): 343 (1866).
Euphorbiaceae (APG: Phyllanthaceae)
Origin and geographic distribution
Phyllanthus bojerianus is endemic to Madagascar.
The leaves or shoots of Phyllanthus bojerianus are used to colour fibres blackish, often with alum as a mordant. They are first bruised and then the mixture is boiled. When the decoction has become deep red, black mud is added, together with the fibres to be dyed. The mixture is regularly stirred and the fibres rubbed for a period of 12 hours. When the fibres have become black, they are dried. Another method is to boil a mixture of bruised leaves of Phyllanthus bojerianus and Syzygium jambos (L.) Alston. The fibres are first covered with black mud and added to the boiled mixture, in which they are left for 2 days. The fibres are then taken out, washed and dried.
Although the chemical composition of Phyllanthus bojerianus has not been investigated, the reaction of the plant with black ferruginous mud tends to indicate that this species, like several other Phyllanthus spp., is quite rich in tannins.
Dioecious, slender shrublet c. 1.5 m tall, stems sometimes climbing. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules up to 1 mm long, persistent; petiole up to 1 mm long; blade narrowly elliptical-lanceolate but slightly curved, up to 6 mm × 2 mm, rounded at both ends. Inflorescence an axillary fascicle, 1–5-flowered. Flowers unisexual, regular, greenish white; pedicel up to 6 mm long; sepals 5–6, c. 1 mm long, persistent; petals absent; male flowers with 5 free stamens; female flowers with superior 3-lobed ovary crowned by 3 linear styles c. 1 mm long. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule c. 4 mm in diameter, up to 6-seeded.
Phyllanthus is a large genus comprising about 750 species in tropical and subtropical regions, with about 150 species in mainland tropical Africa and about 60 in Madagascar. Flowering and fruiting of Phyllanthus bojerianus is in November–December.
Phyllanthus bojerianus occurs in rocky localities up to 1600 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Phyllanthus bojerianus is widespread in Madagascar and does not seem to be in danger of genetic erosion.
Phyllanthus bojerianus will remain of minor local importance only as a source of red or black dye. However, the use of natural dyes is being revived in Madagascar for raffia and for silk in the production of traditional textiles for the international market.
• Decary, R., 1946. Plantes et animaux utiles de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille, 54e année, 6e série, 4e volume, 1er et dernier fascicule. 234 pp.
• Etheve, A.-M., 2005. Teintures naturelles à Madagascar. CITE, Antananarivo, Madagascar. 40 pp.
• Leandri, J., 1958. Euphorbiacées (Euphorbiaceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), famille 111. Firmin-Didot et cie., Paris, France. 209 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2005. Phyllanthus bojerianus (Baill.) Müll.Arg. In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.