Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Kew Bull. 1953: 290 (1953).
Origin and geographic distribution
The area of distribution of Pteleopsis habeensis is restricted to only a few regions: the Bandiagara escarpments in Mali (with the plant population possibly extending into Burkina Faso), the Akosombo and Bui regions in Ghana, and the Yankari Game Reserve and its immediate surroundings in Nigeria. It is possibly also present in Benin.
In the Bandiagara area of Mali the branches are woven into baskets.
Production and international trade
Pteleopsis habeensis is only used locally.
Straggling shrub or small, twisted tree with dense, rounded crown; bark fibrous, flaking off even in young branches, grey-brown, inner bark pale brown; branchlets slightly hairy, grey-brown. Leaves subopposite; petiole 1–4 mm long, hairy; blade ovate, c. 3–6 cm × 1.5–2.5 cm, base rounded or obtuse, apex obtuse or obtusely acuminate, purplish at the start of the dry season, hairy when young, later glabrous or slightly pubescent, pinnately veined with 5–7 pairs of only slightly prominent secondary veins merging near the margin, smaller veins reticulate. Inflorescence a pseudo-umbel 1.5–2 cm in diameter. Flowers whitish. Fruit c. 10 mm × 7 mm, slightly hairy, with 3 wings; pedicel 7–9 mm long, very thin.
Pteleopsis is a small genus of about 10 species, all in tropical Africa.
Pteleopsis habeensis occurs on sandstone, in general on gravelly slopes along watercourses. The habitat, although associated with stream beds, is very dry, as the soils are sandy and well-drained, and the species is never found in or near the actual streambed.
In Mali Pteleopsis habeensis forms low thickets with Combretum micranthum G.Don. In the Yankari Game Reserve in Nigeria it covers several square kilometres, and forms pure stands of coppice-like woodland of numerous thin stems, uniform in height and girth, forming a closed canopy 8–15 m high. In Nigeria it is apparently fire-tender and occurs either in places where it is protected from fire, such as on rocky hills and cliffs, or where it shades out the fuel-providing grasses. Although large herbivores use the vegetation as a shelter, they seem to avoid feeding on this species; it is deciduous and does not provide shade or feed during the dry season and the foliage is probably unpalatable, as is that of many Combretaceae. The dense leaf cover seems to allow only the growth of shade-loving plants below it.
Pteleopsis habeensis is only collected from the wild.
Genetic resources and breeding
Pteleopsis habeensis is a typical relict species, known from a few localities only. It is classified as endangered in the IUCN Red list because of its small area of distribution and declining habitat and numbers. This is especially the case in Ghana. In Nigeria, the largest area of Pteleopsis habeensis is in the well protected Yankari Game Reserve where the future of both the species and the exceptional vegetation type it forms, seems more secure. As a consequence, the IUCN conservation status might need reconsideration.
It is unlikely that Pteleopsis habeensis will retain its importance as a fibre plant, also because of its declining habitat and numbers.
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Correct citation of this article:
Oyen, L.P.A., 2010. Pteleopsis habeensis Aubrév. ex Keay. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.