Dombeya buettneri (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Dombeya buettneri K.Schum.

Protologue: Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 15: 133 (1892).
Family: Sterculiaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
Chromosome number: 2n = 54.


  • Dombeya bagshawei Baker f. (1905),
  • Dombeya claessensii De Wild. (1928).

Origin and geographic distribution

Dombeya buettneri is distributed from Guinea and Sierra Leone eastward through the coastal countries of West Africa, the Central African Republic and northern DR Congo to Sudan and eastern Ethiopia, and from there southward through eastern DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania to Zambia.


The stem bark is locally used for tying and for making ropes and nets. In DR Congo it is made into cords that are used to support a basket on the back for carrying. In Uganda the bark is used for making baskets and the young shoot for making beehives.

In African traditional medicine an infusion of the root is drunk as a laxative and a decoction of the root is drunk to prevent miscarriage. Root, bark and leaf preparations are used against diarrhoea. An aqueous extract of the leaf is used for the treatment of gastrointestinal problems. The leaf sap is applied on wounds, and the powdered leaf or a decoction of the leaf is taken or inhaled against headache. A decoction of the leaf is drunk to prevent diseases in children and as an emetic, whereas an infusion of the leaf is used for the treatment of haemorrhoids. A decoction of the leaf or leafy twig forms part of preparations drunk for the treatment of mental illness.

In traditional veterinary medicine the leaf sap forms part of preparations given to cattle with diarrhoea or theileriosis (East Coast fever).


Investigations in Rwanda in the 1950s indicated that the fibre had a specific strength of 427 N/mm² and a breaking length of 29 km.

In experiments with rats, an aqueous extract of the leaf caused significant reduction in gastric acid secretion and reduced the extent of gastric mucosal damage induced by ethanol.


Shrub or small tree up to 10 m tall; outer bark brown; inner bark tough and fibrous, exuding a sticky sap when cut; stems terete or angled at nodes, densely covered with stellate, simple, glandular hairs or glabrescent. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules narrowly lanceolate to broadly ovate, 6–20 mm × 2–11 mm, acuminate, more or less persistent; petiole (1.5–)2–19(–23) cm long, hairy; blade suborbicular, obscurely to distinctly 3–5-lobed, 5–26 cm × 3.5–25 cm, base cordate, apex acute to rounded or emarginate, margin toothed, upper surface softly pubescent or puberulous, lower surface densely pilose-pubescent or tomentose. Inflorescence axillary, corymbose, rarely subumbellate, 4–23(–27) cm long, dense or lax, many-flowered; peduncle 2–22 cm long, hairy; bracts ovate-lanceolate, 6–12 mm × 2–6 mm, acuminate, caducous. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 7–40 mm long; epicalyx bracts at base of calyx or inserted on pedicel, ovate, 6–16 mm × 2–7 mm, acute to acuminate, caducous; calyx lobes reflexed or erect, lanceolate-acuminate, 6–15 mm × 2–5(–6) mm, hairy outside; petals obliquely obovate, 9–20 mm × 6–16 mm, white to pale pink, sometimes with a red base, androecium 9–16 mm long, stamens 10–15, in a single whorl, up to 6 mm long, alternating with 5 staminodes 5–11 mm long, all filaments united into a staminal tube 1–7 mm long with a strongly convex outer surface; ovary superior, globose, hairy, 5-celled, style 4–9 mm long, 5-branched. Fruit an ovoid to globose capsule 7–9 mm in diameter, brown, appressed silky-hairy. Seeds trigonous, 2–3 mm × 1–3 mm, rough, reddish or dark brown.

In Benin Dombeya buettneri flowers and bears fruits in November–January.

Dombeya comprises about 200 species, mainly distributed in Madagascar, with about 20 species in mainland Africa and 14 in the Mascarenes. Revisions of the genus have been carried out for mainland Africa and the Mascarenes, but not for Madagascar, and the number of species described for Madagascar is possibly too high.


Dombeya buettneri occurs from 150 m altitude in West Africa up to 2200 m altitude in East Africa, in grassland, bushland, wooded grassland, open woodland and forest. It is also found in abandoned fields.


Dombeya buettneri can be propagated by seed and wildlings. Seed should be collected before the fruit splits open. The tree coppices well. Regrowth is abundant after cutting or after bush fires, and thinning and pruning are recommended. In Rwanda the bark is removed from the stem and retted in running water for 3–4(–15) days, after which it is scraped to obtain the fibre. About 1 kg of fibre was obtained from 34 kg of green, defoliated stems.

Genetic resources

As Dombeya buettneri is widespread and common, it is not threatened with genetic erosion.


Dombeya buettneri is locally used as fibre plant. Detailed information on its properties is lacking. Dombeya buettneri has various uses in traditional medicine, and the usefulness of the leaf in the treatment of gastrointestinal problems has been confirmed in experiments with rats.

Major references

  • Burkill, H.M., 2000. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 5, Families S–Z, Addenda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 686 pp.
  • Cheek, M. & Dorr, L., 2007. Sterculiaceae. In: Beentje, H.J. & Ghazanfar, S.A. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 134 pp.
  • Katende, A.B., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 1995. Useful trees and shrubs for Uganda: identification, propagation and management for agricultural and pastoral communities. Technical Handbook 10. Regional Soil Conservation Unit, Nairobi, Kenya. 710 pp.
  • Seyani, J.H., 1991. The genus Dombeya (Sterculiaceae) in continental Africa. Opera Botanica Belgica 2. National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise, Belgium. 186 pp.
  • Vollesen, K., 1995. Sterculiaceae. 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. 165–185.

Other references

  • Adjanohoun, E.J., Adjakidjè, V., Ahyi, M.R.A., Aké Assi, L., Akoègninou, A., d’Almeida, J., Apovo, F., Boukef, K., Chadare, M., Cusset, G., Dramane, K., Eyme, J., Gassita, J.N., Gbaguidi, N., Goudote, E., Guinko, S., Houngnon, P., Lo, I., Keita, A., Kiniffo, H.V., Kone-Bamba, D., Musampa Nseyya, A., Saadou, M., Sodogandji, T., De Souza, S., Tchabi, A., Zinsou Dossa, C. & Zohoun, T., 1989. Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Bénin. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 895 pp.
  • 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.
  • Baerts, M. & Lehmann, J., 1989. Guérisseurs et plantes médicinales de la région des crêtes Zaïre-Nil au Burundi. Annales Sciences Economiques Vol. 18. Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, Tervuren, Belgium. 214 pp.
  • Bizimana, N., 1994. Traditional veterinary practice in Africa. Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammmenarbeit (GTZ), Eschborn, Germany. 917 pp.
  • Dubois, L., 1951. Note sur les principales plantes à fibres indigènes utilisées au Congo belge et au Ruanda-Urundi. Bulletin Agricole du Congo Belge 42: 870–890.
  • Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
  • Lejeune, J.B.H., 1953. Contribution à l'étude des plantes à fibres, à Rubona. Bulletin Agricole du Congo Belge 44: 743–772.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Okwari, O.O., Ettarh, R.R., Akpogomeh, B.A. & Eteng, M.U., 2000. Gastric anti-secretory and anti-ulcerogenic effects of Dombeya buettneri in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 71(1–2): 315–219.
  • Terashima, H. & Ichikawa, M., 2003. A comparative ethnobotany of the Mbuti and Efe hunter-gatherers in the Ituri forest, Democratic Republic of Congo. African Study Monographs 24(1–2): 1–168.

Sources of illustration

  • 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.


  • M. Brink, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Brink, M., 2010. Dombeya buettneri K.Schum. [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 6 March 2020.