Dombeya coria (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Dombeya coria Baill.

Protologue: Bull. Mens. Soc. Linn. Paris 1: 491 (1885).
Family: Sterculiaceae (APG: Malvaceae)

Origin and geographic distribution

Dombeya coria is endemic to Madagascar, where it occurs in the eastern part of the country.


The bark yields excellent fibre for rope making. The fibre was traditionally used by fishermen to make fishing lines and to string caught crabs. It was also used for attaching pieces of wood before nails were used for this purpose. The bark was formerly made into barkcloth.


Shrub or small tree up to 15 m tall; branches cylindrical, with a brown and glabrous bark. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules ovate to orbicular, 10–20 mm × 7–15 mm, with acumen 3–10 mm long, hairy, caducous; petiole up to 15 cm long, cylindrical, lower part glabrous, upper part with stellate and simple hairs; blade broadly ovate with an acuminate apex, or orbicular with 3 triangular, acuminate lobes, up to 19 cm × 19 cm, base deeply cordate, apex acuminate or rounded, margin toothed and ciliate, both surfaces stellate hairy, upper surface shiny, lower surface paler, palmately veined with 5–7 basal veins, venation prominent, especially below. Inflorescence an axillary umbel, axis up to 18 cm long, lower part glabrous, upper part laxly hairy, many-flowered. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel up to 6 cm long; epicalyx bracts 3, inserted on pedicel, ovate-orbicular, 15 mm × 10 mm, with acumen 5 mm long, caducous; calyx deeply 5-fid, lobes lanceolate, up to 25 mm long, apex acuminate, hairy outside; petals free, obovate, asymmetrical, 30 mm × 22 mm, pink; androecium utricle-shaped, utricle 2.5 mm long, stamens 25–30, white, filaments 5 mm long, alternating with 5 staminodes 12 mm long; ovary superior, hairy, 5-celled, stylar column 13–15 mm long, with 5 branches 3–3.5 mm long. Fruit a loculicidal capsule.

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.

Various other Dombeya species endemic to Madagascar yield excellent cordage fibre, such as Dombeya andapensis Arènes, a small tree up to 13 m tall, Dombeya cannabina (Bojer) Baill., a small tree up to 10 m tall, not only used for cordage but also for making clothes, Dombeya macropoda Hochr., a shrub or small tree up to 12 m tall, not only valued for its fibre but also for its wood, which is white and easy to carve and was formerly sought after for making dug-out canoes, and Dombeya somanga Arènes, a small tree often planted near dwellings to have material for tying at hand.


Dombeya coria occurs up to 1200 m altitude, in forest and along streams.


Formerly the bark was beaten with a mallet to obtain barkcloth, later the fibre was extracted by crushing the bark, after which the fibre was combed or scutched, making it suitable for spinning and weaving. Nowadays, the bark is retted to obtain the fibre. The fibre is stored to have it at hand when needed.

Genetic resources

It is unknown whether Dombeya coria is threatened by genetic erosion.


Quantitative information on the fibre properties is lacking, but the fibre of Dombeya coria has a very good reputation. The fact that is kept in stock to have it at hand when needed also indicates that it is locally highly valued.

Major references

  • Arènes, J., 1959. Sterculiacées (Sterculiaceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), famille 131. Firmin-Didot et cie., Paris, France. 537 pp.
  • Boiteau, P., Boiteau, M. & Allorge-Boiteau, L., 1999. Dictionnaire des noms malgaches de végétaux. 4 Volumes + Index des noms scientifiques avec leurs équivalents malgaches. Editions Alzieu, Grenoble, France.

Other references

  • Decary, R., 1946. Plantes et animaux utiles de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille, 54e année, 6e série, 4e volume, 1er et dernier fascicule. 234 pp.
  • Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] W3T/Search/ vast.html. January 2010.
  • Schatz, G., undated. A catalogue of the vascular plants of Madagascar. [Internet]. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, United States. flora_info.aspx?flora_id=12. September 2009.
  • Seyani, J.H., 1991. The genus Dombeya (Sterculiaceae) in continental Africa. Opera Botanica Belgica 2. National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise, Belgium. 186 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 coria Baill. [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.