Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Engl., Pflanzenw. Ost-Afrikas C: 271 (1895).
Sterculiaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
Tall sterculia (En). Mfune, mgude, msefu (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Sterculia appendiculata is distributed from Kenya south to Malawi and Mozambique. In Zimbabwe it is rare and restricted to the extreme north of the country.
The wood of Sterculia appendiculata is used for local construction, boxes and plywood. It is also used as firewood.
Cooked leaves are eaten as a vegetable. Seeds are collected from the ground, roasted and eaten whole or pounded, and cooked with vegetables. Unspecified plant parts yield a yellow-brown dye that is used by the Shambaa people of Tanzania. A decoction of the roots is drunk to prevent miscarriage, to cure diarrhoea and for treatment of bilharzia. A decoction of the bark and leaves is drunk as a cure for paralysis, impotence and convulsions. The leaves are used to treat cerebral malaria. A maceration of the petioles is drunk as a purgative. Trees are planted for shade and as ornamental.
The heartwood is pale brown and indistinctly demarcated from the sapwood. The wide growth rings with reddish brown latewood are visible to the naked eye. The wood is medium-weight, with a density of 580–780 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. It is soft and perishable and needs treatment to prevent borer damage. The wood is suitable for the production of wood-cement composites. The seeds contain about 30% oil and 25% protein.
Deciduous, small to large tree up to 45 m tall; bole straight, with large buttresses; bark surface yellow-white, smooth; young twigs densely rusty brown hairy. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules early caducous; petiole 5–16 cm long; blade ovate, 10–24 cm × 7–20 cm, with 5–7 shallow, acuminate lobes, cordate at base, densely scaly hairy when young. Inflorescence an axillary, narrow panicle up to 11 cm long, yellow-brown stellate hairy; bracts c. 7 mm × 3 mm, caducous. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous, yellowish, c. 7 mm long; perianth campanulate with lobes about as long as tube, stellate hairy; male flowers with 8–10 anthers borne on a long common stalk; female flowers with ovary consisting of 5 carpels united loosely. Fruit consisting of 4–5 woody follicles (5–)7–9 cm × 3.5–6 cm, rusty brown-stellate hairy, many-seeded. Seeds ovoid, 1.5–2 cm × 1–1.5 cm, glabrous, pale yellow, dangling on a white thread 1–2 cm long.
Sterculia comprises about 150 species and occurs throughout the tropics. In tropical Africa about 25 species can be found. Sterculia appendiculata is often confused with Sterculia quinqueloba (Garcke) K.Schum. The latter species has a flaking bark, occurs in drier regions, and is found at altitudes up to 1650 m. The differences in flowers and fruits between the 2 species are distinct.
Sterculia appendiculata grows fairly fast. In Tanzania seeds ripen in August–September. In large parts of its range in Tanzania Sterculia appendiculata is said to be valued for traditional ceremonies or is considered sacred and usually left standing like baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) trees when clearing land for cultivation.
Sterculia appendiculata is found in coastal and lowland riverine forests from sea-level up to 750 m altitude. It is said to be a pioneer species.
Sterculia appendiculata is easy to grow from fresh seed.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its large geographical distribution Sterculia appendiculata is considered not to be in threat of genetic erosion. Intensification of its utilisation has been reported to pose a threat locally in Mozambique.
In view of its potential for plywood and firewood Sterculia appendiculata deserves more research effort. The potential of plant parts in treatment of cerebral malaria needs verification.
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Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H. & Louppe, D., 2008. Sterculia appendiculata K.Schum. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
obtained from Zimbabweflora
obtained from Zimbabweflora