Caperonia fistulosa (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Caperonia fistulosa Beille

Protologue: Bull. Soc. Bot. France 55, Mém. 8b: 73 (1908).
Family: Euphorbiaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 22

Origin and geographic distribution

Caperonia fistulosa is distributed from Mali eastwards to Somalia and southwards to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Malawi.


The stems of Caperonia fistulosa yield fibres used in Mali for making fishing-lines. In Sudan the fibres are used in the construction of cattle sheds.


Monoecious annual herb up to 90(–150) cm tall; stem erect or ascending, slightly branched, hollow, up to 1 cm thick. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules ovate to ovate-lanceolate, up to 8 mm × 5 mm; petiole up to 2 cm long; blade broadly lanceolate, up to 12 cm × 4 cm, base cuneate to rounded, apex (sub-)acute, margin toothed, sparingly appressed hairy, 3–5-veined at the base. Inflorescence an axillary spike with female flowers at the basal part, male flowers towards the top, up to 10 cm long, bracts like stipules but smaller. Flowers unisexual, pedicels short; male flowers with calyx (sub-)glabrous, closed in bud, later splitting in 5 lobes, petals 5, imbricate, free, white, stamens 10, partially fused into a column; female flowers with 5–10 sepals, imbricate, 3–8 mm × 1–4 mm, petals 5–6, white, ovary sessile, 3-locular, subglobose, c. 1 mm in diameter, styles 3, 1–2 mm long, usually free at base, white. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule, 5 mm × 7–9 mm, short, coarse-hairy, green. Seeds globose, c. 3 mm in diameter, smooth, usually grey.

In Benin flowering and fruiting are in March–December.

In the genus Caperonia c. 34 species are recognized with 5 poorly differentiated species in continental tropical Africa, 1 species in Madagascar and the majority of species in tropical America.


Caperonia fistulosa occurs in swamps and seasonally flooded areas often on vertisols and usually from low altitudes up to 1000 m above sea-level.


Caperonia fistulosa is an important weed on vertisols. It shows resistance to glyphosate but can be easily controlled by hand weeding. Other species from the genus are harmful weeds in the Americas and much information is available on how to control these weeds in soya bean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) cultivation.

Genetic resources

As Caperonia fistulosa is widespread and apparently common in its habitat, it is unlikely to be threatened with genetic erosion.


Caperonia fistulosa will remain locally important for its use as a source of fibre, but expansion of its use is not likely.

Major references

  • Burkill, H.M., 1994. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 2, Families E–I. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 636 pp.
  • Govaerts, R., Frodin, D.G. & Radcliffe-Smith, A., 2000. World checklist and bibliography of Euphorbiaceae (with Pandaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 1620 pp.
  • 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.

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.
  • Bertrand, M., 2005. Une démarche agronomique pour accompagner le changement technique. Cas de l'emploi du traitement herbicide dans les systèmes de culture à sorgho repiqué au Nord-Cameroun. PhD Thesis, Paris, France. 376 pp.
  • Keay, R.W.J., 1958. Euphorbiaceae. 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. 364–423.
  • Miller, K.I. & Webster, G.L., 1966. Chromosome numbers in the Euphorbiaceae. Brittonia 18: 372–379.
  • Radcliffe-Smith, A., 1989. Notes on African Euphorbiaceae: 20. Acalypha (ii), etc. Kew Bulletin 44(3): 439–454.
  • Radcliffe-Smith, A., 2001. Genera Euphorbiacearum. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 455 pp.


  • 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., 2010. Caperonia fistulosa Beille. [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. <>.

Accessed 19 November 2020.