Clappertonia polyandra (PROTA)
Clappertonia polyandra (K.Schum.) Bech.
- Protologue: Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. 28: 58 (1930).
- Family: Tiliaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
- Cephalonema polyandrum K.Schum. (1900).
Origin and geographic distribution
Clappertonia polyandra is distributed in Central Africa, from Cameroon to DR Congo.
In DR Congo, where it is known as ‘punga’, and Gabon the bark fibre is used for making cord, rope and hunting nets. The fibre has also been woven into cloth. A very similar fibre, also known as ‘punga’, is obtained from Triumfetta species. In DR Congo the leaf sap is taken to ease childbirth and a decoction of the roots and leaves is used as a cure for diarrhoea. Clappertonia polyandra is planted as an ornamental.
Production and international trade
Clappertonia polyandra is mainly used locally. In DR Congo it has sometimes been an important item of commerce, and around 1950 its fibre was exported, mixed with that from Urena lobata L. or Triumfetta cordifolia A.Rich.
When properly retted, the fibre strands are long and strong, but compared to Congo jute (Urena lobata) they are less soft to the touch, coarser, and inferior in their colour, which is yellow or even brownish when extracted from over-mature stems. Utilisation of the fibre is restricted by its coarseness, but it is suitable for making bags, baling material and twine. The fibre is not particularly resistant to water, and therefore not used for making fishing nets.
Shrub up to 4 m tall; branches sparsely puberulous with stellate hairs, glabrescent. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules lanceolate, c. 6 mm long, caducous; petiole 1.5–17 cm long; blade broadly ovate to suborbicular, 8–20 cm × 5–18 cm, lower leaves 3-lobed, base cordate, with 2 glands, apex acuminate, margin toothed, upper surface reddish and sparsely puberulous, lower surface paler, puberulous and with densely puberulous veins, 5–7-veined from the base. Inflorescence a terminal or axillary panicle up to 30 cm long, with 1–3-flowered axillary cymes, glabrous. Flowers bisexual, regular, 4(–5)-merous; pedicel up to 5 mm long; sepals oblong, c. 2 cm long; petals sessile, oblanceolate, c. 1.5 cm long, yellow; fertile stamens numerous, staminodes numerous; ovary superior, oblong, 5–6-celled. Fruit a capsule 3–5 cm × 1.5–2.5 cm, with 5–7 wings 3–5 mm wide, margin of wings covered with glabrous prickles, many-seeded. Seeds round, c. 2 mm in diameter, brownish.
Clappertonia comprises 3 species. Clappertonia polyandra is easily distinguished from Clappertonia ficifolia (Willd.) Decne., as the latter has purple, pink or white flowers and non-winged capsules. 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 polyandra occurs in swamps, riverine or swampy forest, and fallow land.
Fibre is obtained from wild plants only. Stems are cut when 1–2 m long and as the plants are perennial, they can continuously be harvested for several years. Old, lignified stems and branches should be rejected and only young, green ones are to be used for fibre extraction. Green stems yield 3–4% fibre. When produced at a commercial scale the stems are retted in water before extraction of the fibre. For domestic use, the fresh bark is removed with a knife, cleaned by scraping, dried in the sun, and beaten to separate the fibres. When the fibre ribbons are to be used, they are moistened with water to make them supple. The fibre is made into yarn by rolling it on the thigh.
As Clappertonia polyandra is locally common and behaves as a weed in fallows, the risk of genetic erosion is low.
Clappertonia polyandra 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. 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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- Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] http://mobot.mobot.org/ W3T/Search/ vast.html. August 2011.
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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 polyandra (K.Schum.) Bech. [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 6 March 2020.
- See the Prota4U database.