Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Fl. Seneg. tent.: 93, t. 19 (1831).
Tiliaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
Fivestamen burbark (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Triumfetta pentandra is pantropically distributed. It is widespread throughout the drier parts of tropical Africa, from Cape Verde, Mauritania and Senegal eastward to Eritrea and Ethiopia, and southward to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar, Réunion and Mauritius.
The bark is a source of fibre used for making string and fishing line. The bark of green shoots is a source of mucilage used for making sticky soups and sauces. The leaf is eaten as a cooked vegetable. The plant yields fodder of mediocre quality. In Congo fresh root scrapings are applied on sores and small wounds. The crushed leaf is applied in dressings for treatment of goitre and deformities. In veterinary medicine in Burundi leaf sap is given for treatment of theileriosis.
Reports on the quality of the fibre are not consistent. The fibre has been recorded to be of average quality only, but in India it is recorded to be soft, spinnable and nearer to jute in quality than Triumfetta rhomboidea Jacq.
Erect, annual herb up to 2 m tall; stem often woody at the base, succulent, reddish or green, stellate-scabrid to hairy. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules narrowly triangular, up to 7 mm long, dark brown, hairy; petiole up to 10 cm long, hairy; blade elliptical to rhombic-orbicular, sometimes wider than long, 1–12 cm × 0.5–9 cm, unlobed or shallowly 3-lobed to 1/5 of the base, with lateral lobes sometimes slightly diverging, base rounded to cuneate, apex acute to acuminate, margin 1(–2)-toothed, membranous, upper surface softly hairy to subscabrid to glabrous, lower surface softly stellate hairy to subscabrid, with crater-like elliptical glands. Inflorescence terminal, many-branched, up to 45 cm long, lower nodes with slightly reduced leaves, becoming more linear and reduced towards the top, nodes 1.5–4 cm apart, each with 1–5 cymes, cymes 1(–3)-flowered; peduncle up to 3 mm long, hairy as stem; bracts narrowly triangular, 1.5–2 mm long. Flowers bisexual, regular; pedicel up to 3 mm long; sepals 5, free, elliptical-linear, 2–4 mm long, sparsely stellate-hairy outside, with apical spine 0.5 mm long; petals 5, free, spoon-shaped, 3–3.5 mm × 0.5–1 mm, yellow or green, with basal claw, lower 0.5 mm of the claw sparingly hairy at the margin; stamens 5(–13); ovary superior, 2-celled, sparsely hairy. Fruit an indehiscent, ovoid capsule 4–10 mm × 3–6 mm (including spines), with 65–90 forward pointing dark brown spines, each usually glabrous apart from a line of glistening white hairs and each with a translucent, forward directed recurved hair at the tip, 2–4-seeded. Seeds 1.5–2.5 mm long.
In Benin Triumfetta pentandra flowers in September and bears fruits in October.
Triumfetta is a pantropical genus of about 100 species. The classification within Triumfetta is mainly based on fruit characteristics. Triumfetta pentandra is closely related to Triumfetta rhomboidea Jacq., and the two species are difficult to distinguish in the vegetative stage, although Triumfetta rhomboidea often has a more deeply 3-lobed leaf blade with a more thickly tomentose lower surface. In the generative stage Triumfetta pentandra is easily distinguished by its flower usually having only 5 stamens and its fruit being ovoid and usually glabrous. However, Triumfetta pentandra var. homoiotrichia Chiov., only known from Somalia, has flowers with 13 stamens and fruits with spines hairy all over.
Triumfetta pentandra occurs from sea-level up to 1700 m altitude, in gallery forest, woodland, grassland, marshy locations, old cultivations and disturbed locations, often in partial shade. It is a weed in cultivated land. In northern Cameroon its presence is sometimes an indicator of degraded soils.
In northern Burkina Faso Triumfetta pentandra is locally grown as an intercrop of pearl millet. When Triumfetta species are cultivated for the mucilage, cuttings of 15–20 cm long are taken from the top end of the harvested stems. Since the crop does not perform well under direct sunlight, the cuttings are usually planted in the shade of a tree. They are planted in a circle with a spacing of 10–15 cm. If the cutting is not planted straight upward, adventitious roots may develop, causing a reduced capacity to produce slime. Therefore, some farmers tie the cuttings to a taller plant, e.g. plantain, to ensure that they grow upright. Further management of Triumfetta plants cultivated for mucilage is restricted to weeding and some irrigation during periods of drought. Stems for mucilage are harvested by cutting them just above ground level when they are 75–100 cm long. They are prepared by removing all leaves and the terminal part where the stem has a diameter of less than 1 cm. The resulting sticks are either taken to the homestead or tied into bundles and brought to the market.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its wide distribution and broad range of habitats, Triumfetta pentandra is not threatened by genetic erosion.
Triumfetta pentandra is a local source of fibre, mucilage, fodder and medicine. Consistent and detailed information on the fibre properties is lacking, making it difficult assess the prospects of this species as a fibre plant.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2010. Triumfetta pentandra A.Rich. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.