Dombeya laurifolia (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Dombeya laurifolia (Bojer) Baill.

Protologue: Bull. Mens. Soc. Linn. Paris 1: 494 (1885).
Family: Sterculiaceae (APG: Malvaceae)

Origin and geographic distribution

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


Fibre from the bark is used for making rope. Properly prepared fibres can be woven in the same way as jute and be used for the production of sacks. The bark is used for bundling rice and other agricultural products. In the past it was used for tying captives and made into barkcloth. The wood is used for construction and planks; it is suitable for the production of boxes and crates.


Reports on the fibre quality range from inferior to excellent for rope making. The wood is white, soft and brittle.


Shrub or small tree up to 15(–18) m tall, with branches densely covered with brown scales; bark of older branches reddish or brown, furrowed, mucilaginous; young branches angular. Leaves alternate, simple, entire; stipules triangular, 2–2.5 mm long, caducous; petiole 3–15 mm long, angular, densely scaly; blade very variable, obovate, elliptical or rarely lanceolate, 2.5–13 cm × 1–5.5 cm, base cuneate, attenuate or rounded, apex acuminate, rounded, retuse or attenuate, margin entire and more or less revolute, leathery, both surfaces scaly, but lower surface more densely so, upper surface becoming glabrous and shiny, palmately veined with 3 basal veins. Inflorescence an axillary cyme 2–7 cm long, densely scaly. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 3–10 cm long, angular, scaly; epicalyx bracts 3, inserted on pedicel, ovate, 1–1.5 mm long, caducous; calyx deeply 5-fid, lobes ovate-lanceolate, 3–4 mm long, scaly outside, glabrous inside; petals free, broadly and obliquely obovate, 6–10 mm × 3–7 mm, white; androecium crown-shaped, staminal tube 0.5–1.5 mm long, stamens 5–10(–15), filaments unequal, 0.5–2.5 mm long, free or connate above the crown, alternating by 1–2(–3) with 5 staminodes 3–4.5 mm long; ovary superior, globose, densely scaly, 2–4(–5) locular; stylar column 0.5–1 mm long, with 2–4(–5) branches 1–3.5 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.

Many other Dombeya species endemic to Madagascar are used as fibre plants. The bark fibre of Dombeya longicuspis Baill., a shrub up to 5 m tall, is used for making rope. The branches of Dombeya mandenensis Arènes, a shrub or small tree up to 8 m tall, are excellent toothbrushes; they contain a mucilage helping against inflammation of the gums. The wood is used as fuelwood. Care should be taken in the exploitation of this species, however, as it is threatened with extinction. Fibre from the bark of Dombeya mandrakensis Arènes is used for making rope.


Dombeya laurifolia occurs up to 1300(–1400) m altitude in forest, sometimes in rocky locations.


Dombeya laurifolia is often planted around villages. The bark is often bored by phytophagous insects. 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.

Genetic resources

Dombeya laurifolia is widespread and common around villages, and therefore it seems not threatened with genetic erosion.


Dombeya laurifolia is a useful local source of material for tying and rope making. As detailed information on the fibre properties is lacking, it is difficult to assess the prospects of this species.

Major references

  • Applequist, W.L., 2009. Two new species of Dombeya (Malvaceae) from Madagascar. Novon 19(3): 289–294.
  • 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

  • Carter Ingram, J., Whittaker, R.J. & Dawson, T.P., 2005. Tree structure and diversity in human impacted littoral forests, Madagascar. Environmental Management 35(6): 779–798.
  • Dumetz, N., 1999. High plant diversity of lowland rainforest vestiges in eastern Madagascar. Biodiversity and Conservation 8(2): 273–315.
  • Lowry, P.P., Randriatafika, F. & Rabenantoandro, J., 2008. Conservation status of vascular plant species from the QMM / Rio Tinto mining area at Mandena, Tolagnaro (Fort Dauphin) region, southeast Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development 3(1): 55–63.
  • Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] W3T/Search/ vast.html. September 2009.
  • 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 laurifolia (Bojer) 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.