Clappertonia ficifolia (PROTA)
|Geographic coverage Africa|
|Geographic coverage World|
|Carbohydrate / starch|
|Essential oil / exudate|
Clappertonia ficifolia (Willd.) Decne.
- Protologue: Icon. sel. pl. 5: 1, t. 1. (1846).
- Family: Tiliaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
- Chromosome number: 2n = 36
- Honckenya ficifolia Willd. (1793).
Origin and geographic distribution
Clappertonia ficifolia is very widespread in continental tropical Africa. It is introduced and grown as an ornamental in many tropical gardens, for instance in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Borneo, New Guinea, Panama and the southern United States.
Clappertonia ficifolia and the bast fibre it produces are known in Cameroon as ‘bolo bolo’. The fibre is used for making rope, twine, cordage and mats, nets, hammocks, fish traps and paper pulp. In Cameroon the leafy stems are pounded with water and in this way a slimy liquid is produced that is added to mud and manure. This mixture is smeared on house walls and floors. Beehives made from culms are smeared with the same preparation. The wood is used for making floats for fishing. In traditional medicine in DR Congo the leaves are used as a cure for liver malfunction. Clappertonia ficifolia is widely planted in gardens as an ornamental.
Production and international trade
The fibre of Clappertonia ficifolia is only used locally, and has not been commercially exploited.
Fibre samples from Sierra Leone and Nigeria investigated around 1900 were stronger than jute. Experiments in Nigeria just after the Second World War also showed that an excellent, very strong fibre can be obtained from the plant. The dry bast of Clappertonia ficifolia contains 55% cellulose. Bast fibre from Sierra Leone contained 74% cellulose and 11% lignin. The bark is said to be suitable for paper pulp.
Shrub up to 3 m tall; young branches reddish, with dull yellowish to brownish stellate hairs. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules lanceolate, 8–12 mm long; petiole 0.5–9 mm long, with short and soft hairs; blade usually oblong to ovate, 1–15 cm × 1–12 cm, lower leaves 3–5-lobed, base rounded to subcordate, apex rounded, margin toothed, upper surface green and with stiff hairs or minutely soft hairy, lower surface short soft hairy to densely white hairy, 5–7-veined from the base. Inflorescence a terminal or axillary panicle up to 15 cm long, with 1–3-flowered axillary cymes up to 3.5 cm long; bracts conspicuous, unequal, caducous. Flowers bisexual, regular, 4(–5)-merous; pedicel 5–14 mm long; sepals up to 3.5 cm long, 6 mm wide, pinkish to purplish red; petals round, up to 3 cm × 2 cm, clawed, bright pink, purple or blue-mauve, rarely white; fertile stamens 16, yellow or pink, staminodes numerous; ovary superior, oblong, 4–8-celled, densely yellow-hairy. Fruit a capsule 3–7 cm × 18–25 mm, entirely covered with hairy prickles, each tipped with a bristle, many-seeded. Seeds round, c. 2 mm in diameter, greyish.
Clappertonia comprises 3 species. Clappertonia ficifolia is easily distinguished from Clappertonia polyandra (K.Schum.) Bech. as the latter has yellow flowers and winged capsules with a line of prickles on the margins of the wings. In Gabon the 2 occur in different altitudinal zones: Clappertonia ficifolia is found from sea-level to c. 485 m altitude, and Clappertonia polyandra above 460 m altitude.
Clappertonia ficifolia occurs from sea-level up to 1200 m altitude in swamps, riverine and swampy forest, forest fringes and thickets. In fallow land it can become dominant or even form an almost pure, dense stand and these populations are often exploited for fibre production.
Propagation is possible by either root cuttings or seeds. Experiments in Nigeria just after the Second World War showed that an excellent fibre could be obtained when the stems of flowering plants were retted for about 28 days.
Clappertonia ficifolia is widespread and behaves as a weed in fallows. Hence, there do not seem to be threats of genetic erosion.
Clappertonia ficifolia is one of the fibre-producing species within the mandate of the International Jute Study Group (formerly the International Jute Organization) together with jute (Corchorus spp.), kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.), roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.) and Urena lobata L. Although most research attention is directed to Corchorus olitorius L., the prospects for natural fibres are such that attention should be given to Clappertonia spp. as well.
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- 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., 2011. Clappertonia ficifolia (Willd.) Decne. [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 7 December 2020.
- See the Prota4U database.