Acalypha glabrata (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
Introduction
List of species


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distribution in Africa (wild)

Acalypha glabrata Thunb.


Protologue: Prodr. pl. cap.: 117 (1800).
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Chromosome number:

Vernacular names

  • Silky berry, forest false-nettle (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Acalypha glabrata is distributed in Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa.

Uses

The wood is locally used for house building, and more widely for fence posts and stakes.

The young twigs are eaten as a cooked vegetable. The long, tough, flexible branches of Acalypha glabrata are used in coastal southern Africa to make fish traps. The inner bark is ground into a fine paste which is applied on the face or administered orally to treat rashes in children. Leaves and roots are taken as a purgative.

Description

  • Monoecious shrub or small tree up to 5(–12) m tall; bark surface silver-grey.
  • Leaves arranged spirally, simple; stipules linear-lanceolate, 3–4 mm long, pointed, persistent; petiole 0.5–5 cm long, slender; blade elliptical-ovate to rhombic-ovate, 1–9 cm × 0.5–5.5 cm, base cuneate to slightly truncate, apex obtuse or acuminate, margins toothed, short-hairy while young, 3(–5)-veined from the base and with 2–4 pairs of lateral veins.
  • Inflorescence an axillary spike up to 3.5 cm long, with male flowers and usually 1 female flower near base.
  • Flowers unisexual, without petals; male flowers with pedicel c. 1 mm long, calyx 4-lobed, stamens 8, anthers white; female flowers sessile, subtended by large spathe-like bract 0.5 cm × 1 cm, calyx small, 3-lobed, ovary superior, 3-lobed to nearly globose, c. 0.5 mm in diameter, hairy, styles 3, 3–5 mm long, fused at base.
  • Fruit a 3-lobed capsule 2–3 mm in diameter, with silky hairs, 3-seeded.
  • Seeds globose, c. 1.5 mm in diameter, smooth, grey-brown.

Other botanical information

Flowering starts in October and fruits split and seeds are released in December–January.

Acalypha is a large genus comprising about 460 species, occurring mainly in the tropics but extending to warm temperate areas. Tropical Africa and Asia have about 65 and 25 species, respectively, tropical America almost 400. In Acalypha glabrata 2 varieties have been distinguished based on degree of hairiness.

Ecology

Acalypha glabrata is mainly found at forest margins, woodland and wooded grassland, usually on rocky hillsides, up to 1600 m altitude.

Management

Cultivation of Acalypha glabrata is hampered by the difficulty to find viable seeds, but it can be easily multiplied vegetatively. Locally in South Africa, it is recommended for commercial cultivation as the bark is in high demand for medicinal purposes.

Genetic resources

Acalypha glabrata is locally threatened by over-harvesting and the low production of viable seeds.

Prospects

Apart from local specialty uses, the wood is not commercially interesting. The apparent high demand for bark for medicinal use warrants further research into pharmacology and sustainable management.

Major references

  • Coates Palgrave, K., 1983. Trees of southern Africa. 2nd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 959 pp.
  • Gaugris, J.Y. & van Rooyen, M.W., 2006. Questionnaires do not work!: a comparison of methods used to evaluate the structure of buildings and wood used in rural households, South Africa. Ethnobotany Research & Applications 4: 119 –132.
  • Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1996. Euphorbiaceae, subfamilies Phyllantoideae, Oldfieldioideae, Acalyphoideae, Crotonoideae and Euphorbioideae, tribe Hippomaneae. In: Pope, G.V. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 9, part 4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 1–337.
  • van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.

Other references

  • Dlisani, P.B. & Bhat, R.B., 1999. Traditional health practices in Transkei with special emphasis on maternal and child health. Pharmaceutical Biology 37(1): 32–36.
  • Keirungi, J. & Fabricius, C., 2005. Selecting medicinal plants for cultivation at Nqabara on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast, South Africa. South African Journal of Science 101 (11-12): 497–501.
  • Leistner, O.A., 2000. Seed plants of southern Africa: families and genera. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria, South Africa. 775 pp.
  • Palmer, E. & Pitman, N., 1972–1974. Trees of southern Africa, covering all known indigenous species in the Republic of South Africa, South-West Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. 3 volumes. Balkema, Cape Town, South Africa. 2235 pp.
  • Schmidt, E., Lötter, M. & McCleland, W., 2002. Trees and shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park. Jacana Publishers, Johannesburg, South Africa. 702 pp.

Author(s)

  • C.H. Bosch, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Bosch, C.H., 2012. Acalypha glabrata Thunb. In: Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Louppe, D. & Oteng-Amoako, A.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 27 November 2017.