Abutilon ramosum (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Abutilon ramosum (Cav.) Guill. & Perr.

Protologue: Fl. Seneg. tent. 1: 68 (1831).
Family: Malvaceae

Origin and geographic distribution

Abutilon ramosum occurs widespread in the drier parts of tropical Africa from Cape Verde and Senegal eastward to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, and southward to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. The species occurs also in Yemen, Pakistan and north-western India.


The bark yields fibre. The powdered root is added to beer or porridge to be drunk for the treatment of stomach ailments.


Seeds contain 15.1–26.6% protein and 15.8% oil. Seed oil contains myristic acid (1.0%), palmitic acid (19.1%), palmitoleic acid (0.5%), stearic acid (6.5%), oleic acid (23.7%), linoleic acid (42.6%) and linolenic acid (0.9%). It also contains malvalic acid (2.5%) and sterculic acid (1.3%), which are cyclopropenoid fatty acids known to cause physiological disorders in animals.


Annual or perennial herb or shrub up to 2 m tall; all parts covered with stellate hairs, intermixed with long spreading hairs. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules linear, 1–1.5 mm long; petiole 1–11 cm long; blade broadly ovate to suborbicular, up to 19 cm × 17 cm, sometimes shallowly 3-lobed, cordate at the base, acute to acuminate at the apex, sometimes 3-cuspidate, margin toothed, upper surface dark green, lower surface slightly paler, slightly hairy on both surfaces, palmately 5–7-veined. Inflorescence an axillary 2–6-flowered cyme or some flowers solitary, sometimes merging into a terminal panicle; peduncle slender, 0.5–6 cm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, pedicel up to 2 cm long; epicalyx absent; calyx cup-shaped, 4–12 mm long, 5-lobed, segments acute; petals 5, united at the base and adnate to the base of the staminal column, 4–7 mm × 3 mm, pale yellow to orange; staminal column 1.5–3 mm long, filaments c. 1 mm long; ovary superior. Fruit a subglobose schizocarp of follicle-like mericarps; mericarps 6–10, 6–8 mm × c. 3 mm, terminating in 2–3 mm long awns, pubescent and glandular, tardily separating, 2–3-seeded. Seeds c. 2.5 mm long, reddish to dark brown, papillose.

In Benin Abutilon ramosum flowers in November.

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.


Abutilon ramosum occurs from sea level up to 1800 m altitude in Acacia woodland, riverine forest, degraded forest and fallows.

Genetic resources

In view of its wide distribution and occurrence in disturbed habitats, the species is not under any threat of genetic erosion.


Abutilon ramosum is a local source of fibre, but the precise use of the fibre is not documented. Too little information is available on the properties of the fibre as well as on other uses made of the plant to assess its prospects.

Major references

  • Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
  • Farooqi, J.A., 1986. Cyclopropenoid fatty acids in Abutilon ramosum seed oil. Fette, Seifen, Anstrichmittel 88(3): 94–95.
  • Prakash, D., Jain, R.K., Misra, P.S., 1988. Amino acid profiles of some under-utilised seeds. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 38: 235–241.
  • Thulin, M., 1999. Malvaceae. In: Thulin, M. (Editor). Flora of Somalia. Volume 2. Angiospermae (Tiliaceae-Apiaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 40–83.
  • Verdcourt, B. & Mwachala, G.M., 2009. Malvaceae. In: Beentje, H.J. & Ghazanfar, S.A. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 169 pp.

Other references

  • 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.
  • Brochmann, C. & Rustan, Ø.H., 2002. Additions to the vascular flora of Cabo Verde 4. Garcia de Orta, Série de Botânica 16(1–2): 5–31.
  • Exell, A.W. & Meeuse, A.D.J., 1961. Malvaceae. In: Exell, A.W. & Wild, H. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 1, part 2. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 420–511.
  • Exell, A.W. & Roessler, H., 1969. Malvaceae. Prodromus einer Flora von Südwestafrika. No 82. J. Cramer, Germany. 32 pp.
  • Hauman, L. & Wouters, W., 1963. Malvaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 10. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 92–190.
  • Keay, R.W.J., 1958. Malvaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 335–350.
  • Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
  • Masters, M.T., 1868. Malvaceae. In: Oliver, D. (Editor). Flora of tropical Africa. Volume 1. L. Reeve & Co, Ashford, United Kingdom. pp. 175–214.
  • Vollesen, K., 1995. Malvaceae. In: Edwards, S., Mesfin Tadesse & Hedberg, I. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 2, part 2. Canellaceae to Euphorbiaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 190–256.


  • 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 ramosum (Cav.) Guill. & Perr. [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 15 November 2020.