Abutilon mauritianum (PROTA)
|Geographic coverage Africa|
|Geographic coverage World|
|Cereal / pulse|
|Carbohydrate / starch|
|Dye / tannin|
|Forage / feed|
Abutilon mauritianum (Jacq.) Medik.
- Protologue: Malvenfam.: 28 (1787).
- Family: Malvaceae
- Chromosome number: 2n = 42
- Sida mauritiana Jacq. (1781),
- Abutilon zanzibaricum Bojer ex Mast. (1868),
- Abutilon longipes Mattei (1909),
- Pavonia patens (Andrews) Chiov. (1915).
- Bush mallow, country mallow (En).
- Mauve des champs (Fr).
- Maumanda, mjamanda, mbiha, mopoahabari, mpamba pori (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Abutilon mauritianum is widely distributed in the drier parts of tropical Africa from Senegal eastward to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, and southward to Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe Mozambique and South Africa. The species also occurs in the Comoros and the Seychelles, and is recorded for Mauritius.
The stem bark yields a strong fibre which is locally made into string or rope, used for instance in fishing and for making hammocks. The bark is used for making baskets in Kenya. Pregnant women in Gabon carry around the waist a cord made of the fibre in the belief that it eases delivery. The leaves are used as bandage on open wounds and as toilet paper. Wood from the stem is used for cleaning teeth and the whole twigs are made into brooms. The leaves and flowers are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The seeds are eaten by nomadic people. The plant is also used as fodder, as an ornamental and as a source of bee forage. In Gabon a mucilaginous extract from the bark is used as mordant in dyeing. Before a contest, wrestlers in Gabon used to put the mucilage from the leaves on themselves.
Abutilon mauritianum is widely used in traditional African medicine. In Nigeria an infusion of the root is taken as cooling drink in case of fever. In East Africa the root is chewed as an expectorant, a root decoction is drunk against bronchitis and cramp in the stomach, and a decoction of the root and bark for the treatment of diarrhoea, stomachache, coughs and colds. In Ethiopia the crushed fresh root is boiled and taken orally in case of snake bites. In Nigeria a bark extract is taken as a diuretic. In Benin a decoction of leafy twigs is taken for the treatment of dysentery. In Nigeria leaves are used as rectal suppository to relieve soreness of the rectum in babies and young children. In Tanzania leaves are pounded to a pulp and applied on scabies. An infusion of the macerated leaves together with the powdered root of Xylopia aethiopica (Dunal) A.Rich. is drunk in Nigeria for the treatment of venereal diseases such as gonorrhoea. A decoction of the leaves is taken as a gargle for sore throat and as a fomentation to relieve pain in dysentery and haemorrhoids. The leaf sap is drunk in Tanzania against coughs and colds; it is also taken against malaria. In Gabon mucilage from the leaves is used in poultices applied on wounds to facilitate the extraction of foreign bodies such as splinters. A mucilaginous extract from the leaves is used as demulcent. In Uganda the head is washed with a leaf maceration against headache, and the leaves are used against ascariasis. Leaf decoctions are taken against diarrhoea, gonorrhoea, inflammation, bronchitis and catarrh. The powdered fruit is used in preparations used for the treatment of eczema in Tanzania. Seeds are used against cough in Nigeria. In Kenya the species is said to be used to ease childbirth and to expel the placenta. In Benin the fresh plant is ground with kaolin in water, and drunk against dysentery. In DR Congo an infusion of the whole plant is orally or rectally administered for the treatment of asthma and as a tranquilizer.
The leaf is aromatic. Ethanolic extracts of the leaf exhibited antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonia and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Saponins, flavonoids, tannins and alkaloids are reported present in the leaf.
Perennial herb or shrub up to 2.5(–4) m tall; all parts pubescent or tomentose and sometimes also with long simple hairs; stems glandular. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules linear-subulate, 4–9 mm × 0.5 mm; petiole up to 20 cm long; blade ovate to suborbicular, up to 18(–25) cm × 16(–18) cm, cordate at the base, acuminate at the apex, margin toothed; upper surface grey-green, lower surface paler. Flowers solitary in leaf axils or on short axillary shoots, bisexual, regular; pedicel 1.5–8(–12) cm long; epicalyx absent; calyx bell-shaped to cup-shaped, 5-lobed, 6–22 mm long; petals 5, united at the base and adnate to the base of the staminal column, 12–33(–38) mm × 10–15(–25) mm, yellow, orange or reddish; staminal column 5–7 mm long, filaments 3–5 mm long; ovary superior. Fruit a subglobose schizocarp of follicle-like mericarps; mericarps 20–40, 10–17 mm × 4–6.5 mm, with a 3–5 mm long awn, ultimately stellately spreading, black, 2–3 seeded. Seeds c. 2.5 mm long, dark brown, papillose, spiny-papillose towards hilum.
In Benin Abutilon mauritianum flowers and fruits year-round.
Abutilon comprises 100–150 species and is distributed in the tropics and subtropics. There is still a need for further taxonomical study as the circumscription of several species is obscure. The type specimen of Abutilon mauritianum was collected from Mauritius but the species has never been recollected there.
The species occurs from sea level up to 2200(–2500) m altitude in riverine communities, fallows, along roads, sometimes in savannas, forest margins, woodland, bushland and ruderal sites. It is a weed of rice fields.
Abutilon mauritianum is only collected from the wild, but it can be propagated by seed. The fibre is separated by retting.
With its wide distribution and common occurrence in disturbed habitats, Abutilon mauritianum is not under any threat of genetic erosion.
The fibre is credited to be strong, but detailed information on the fibre characteristics is lacking, making it difficult to assess the prospects of Abutilon mauritianum as a fibre plant. More detailed information on the types of tannins, saponins and alkaloids present in the leaf would be useful. The antimicrobial activity is worth further investigation.
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Sources of illustration
- Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.
- E.G. Achigan Dako, PROTA Network Office Africa, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), P.O. Box 30677-00100, Nairobi, Kenya
Correct citation of this article
Achigan-Dako, E.G., 2010. Abutilon mauritianum (Jacq.) Medik. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>.
Accessed 28 November 2017.
- See the Prota4U database.