Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
Hort. Maurit.: 43 (1837).
Tiliaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
Tomentose burbark (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Triumfetta tomentosa is widespread in tropical Africa, from Gambia eastward to Ethiopia and southward through Central and East Africa to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Madagascar. It also occurs in South Africa, tropical Asia and tropical America. It has been cultivated in Mauritius for its fibre.
Fibre from the bark of the lower part of the stem is widely used in tropical Africa for making very good, strong rope and string. In Kenya it is used for tying in hut construction, and in Burundi for weaving mats.
The stem and green bark are a source of mucilage used for making slimy soups and sauces in Cameroon. In central Kenya the twigs and leaves are fed to cattle and goats, and the wood is used as fuel.
A decoction of the leaf is used for washing the stomach after childbirth in Cameroon, and in Burundi a leaf extract is taken for treatment of dysentery. The powdered dry leaf is made into a paste applied on burns in Ethiopia, and is mixed with castor oil and rubbed in against scabies in Tanzania.
Bast fibre from Uganda investigated in the 1930s contained 71% cellulose and 9% lignin.
In the dry season in central Kenya the leaves contain per 100 g dry matter: 15.2 g crude protein, 47.6 g neutral detergent fibre, 9.3 g ash and 7.8 g soluble tannins, with an in-vitro dry matter digestibility of 59%, and an in-vitro crude protein digestibility of 82%. In the rainy season the leaves contain per 100 g dry matter: 26.3 g crude protein, 35.9 g neutral detergent fibre, 11.0 g ash and 8.2 g soluble tannins, with an in-vitro dry matter digestibility of 70%, and an in-vitro crude protein digestibility of 93%. Leaves in Uganda have a crude protein content of 24.7–26.0 g per 100 g dry matter.
Shrub up to 3 m tall; stem erect, 3.5–7 mm in diameter, with a brown, downy cover of mainly stellate hairs. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules narrowly triangular, c. 7 mm long, dark brown, densely hairy; petiole terete, up to 7 cm long, hairy as stem; blade oblong to ovate, 4–14 cm × 1.5–9.5 cm, in lowest leaves slightly 3-lobed with a central lobe c. 3 cm long and lateral lobes c. 0.5 cm long, base cordate to obtuse, apex acute to almost acuminate, margin toothed, lower surface densely covered with a soft tomentose down of white stellate hairs, upper surface with sparse hairs with fewer and shorter arms. Inflorescence terminal, sparsely branched, 10–22 cm long, lower nodes with slightly reduced leaves, nodes 0.5–3 cm apart, each with 6–10 cymes, cymes 1–3-flowered; peduncle up to 5 mm long, hairy as stem; bracts narrowly ovate, 1.5–4 mm × c. 0.5 mm, hairy. Flowers bisexual, regular; pedicel up to 5(–12) mm long; sepals 5, free, narrowly lanceolate to oblong, slightly fiddle-shaped, 4.5–9(–10) mm long, with apical spines, densely grey stellate-hairy; petals 5, rounded-oblong, 4–7(–8.5) mm × 0.5–1.5(–3) mm, yellow, with basal claw, base of the claw fringed with hairs, pubescent; stamens 8–12; ovary superior, 4-locular. Fruit a dehiscent, almost globose capsule (6.5–)8–20 mm in diameter (including bristles), with 96–140 patent dark brown bristles 2–7 mm long, each covered in soft, white and simple hairs, apex of bristles straight to curved, but not hooked, with a single, often inclined, terminal hair. Seeds c. 2.5 mm long, glossy.
In Benin Triumfetta tomentosa flowers and bears fruits in February–September.
Triumfetta is a pantropical genus of about 100 species. The classification within Triumfetta is mainly based on fruit characteristics. Triumfetta tomentosa is easily confused with Triumfetta pilosa Roth, but can be distinguished from the latter and other shrubby Triumfetta species by its smaller fruit (less than 15 mm in diameter) with bristles lacking a terminal hook. Triumfetta pedunculata De Wild., an erect herb or shrub up to 1.5 m tall occurring in DR Congo, is also recorded to be used as a source of fibre.
Triumfetta tomentosa occurs from sea-level up to 2400 m altitude, in forest, swamp margins, bushland, fallows and along roads. It is a weed of cultivated land.
Triumfetta tomentosa can be propagated by seeds and cuttings. New shoots are formed when stems are cut, and in Burundi annual harvesting of stems is possible. Farmers practice coppicing in central Kenya as well. To obtain the fibre in Burundi, the entire bark is removed from the harvested stem, after which the inner bark is separated in one piece and dried in the sun. In cloudy weather, drying is over a fire, because delayed drying results in discoloration. The inner bark of older stems cannot be recovered for its whole length. The whole piece of inner bark is used as string or for weaving.
Genetic resources and breeding
Because of its widespread distribution, broad range of habitats, and occurrence as weed in cultivated land, Triumfetta tomentosa is not threatened by genetic erosion.
Very good, strong rope is made from the bark fibre, and the plant is also a useful local source of food, fodder, fuel and medicine. However, too little information is available on the properties of the fibre and the other useful products to assess the future prospects of this species.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2010. Triumfetta tomentosa Bojer. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
obtained from The Virtual Field Herbarium
obtained from The Virtual Field Herbarium
obtained from The Virtual Field Herbarium