Prota 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins
Bull. Herb. Boissier, sér. 2, 5: 1170 (1905).
Syzygium abidjanense Aubrév. & Pellegr. (1936).
Origin and geographic distribution
Syzygium rowlandii is found from Sierra Leone east to Central African Republic and DR Congo.
A decoction of dried bark of Syzygium rowlandii mixed with lime juice yields a black dye, which is used in Sierra Leone for colouring cloth. The wood is strong, hard and durable in water and is used in Liberia for boat keels. Powdered bark, mixed with clay and spices is rubbed on the body to treat rheumatic pains. An infusion of the bark is used in DR Congo against cough, asthma, throat trouble, intercostal pain, food poisoning, stomach pain, diarrhoea and dysentery, often accompanied by massage of the affected part with pulped leaves. Leaf sap and a bark decoction are used in washing to kill parasites and to cure scabies, but are also drunk as a tonic. The powdered root is put on teeth against toothache.
Syzygium rowlandii contains tannins and a considerable amount of terpenes.
Shrub or small to medium-sized tree up to 20 m tall; twigs often square and slightly winged, glabrous. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 7–13 mm long; blade elliptical-obovate to oblong-obovate, 4–25 cm × 1.5–9 cm, base cuneate, apex rounded to long-acuminate, thinly leathery, dotted with small oil glands, lateral veins in 15–28 pairs and prominent on both sides. Inflorescence a terminal or axillary cyme near the apex of branches. Flowers bisexual, regular, 4–5-merous, 5–6 mm in diameter; calyx with triangular lobes up to 1 mm × 2 mm; petals 2–3 mm in diameter, white; stamens numerous, filaments 4–5 mm long; ovary inferior, 2-celled, style 5–7 mm long. Fruit an ellipsoidal to globose berry 10–20 mm × 7–16 mm.
Syzygium is a large genus of about 1000 species, confined to the Old World tropics. In the past it was included in Eugenia, which now mainly comprises species from the New World. In DR Congo Syzygium rowlandii usually has smaller flowers compared to specimens from West Africa. Syzygium rowlandii much resembles Syzygium guineense (Willd.) DC., a very variable timber species which usually has smaller flowers. The latter has edible fruits and its bark is used for tanning in Ghana. In Madagascar, Syzygium jambos (L.) Alston and Syzygium cumini (L.) Skeels are used to dye raffia red-brown, or black with an application of iron-rich mud as mordant, but these species are much more important for their edible fruits. In the south of DR Congo, the Mongo people use the crushed fruit of Syzygium elegans Vermoesen. as blue dye for skins and textiles.
Syzygium rowlandii is found in forests, often near water and in swamp forest, usually at 500–2000 m altitude; in the Bahuzi-Biéga montane forest in eastern DR Congo it is characteristic of montane rainforest above 2300 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
Syzygium rowlandii is widespread and not in danger of genetic erosion.
Syzygium rowlandii as a source of a dye will remain only locally of some importance. The chemical composition of the bark, characteristics of the wood and medicinal properties need further investigation to make evaluation possible.
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Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2005. Syzygium rowlandii Sprague In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.