Ficus bussei (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
Introduction
List of species


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Ficus bussei Warb. ex Mildbr.


Protologue: Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 46: 213 (1911).
Family: Moraceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 26

Vernacular names

  • Busse’s fig, Zambezi fig (En).
  • Mkuyu, mtamba (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Ficus bussei is distributed from eastern DR Congo, Somalia and Kenya southward through Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia to Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Uses

String and rope are made from the bark. The wood is made into furniture and mortars. The root powder mixed with water is drunk for the treatment of impotence, cardiac pain and hysteria. A bark decoction is drunk in case of retention of the afterbirth. Ash from the bark is taken with butter against hiccups.

Description

Monoecious, medium-sized tree up to 25 m tall, often starting as an epiphyte; bole fluted, aerial roots often present; outer bark smooth, grey to dark brown, inner bark pale pink and brown, fibrous, with latex; young branches hairy to glabrous. Leaves spirally arranged, clustered near the ends of branches, simple; stipules up to 1.5(–5) cm long, glabrous or hairy at the base, caducous; petiole 2–8 cm long, hairy; blade ovate to oblong or elliptical, 5–30 cm × 3–11.5(–13) cm, base cordate, rarely rounded, apex acute to obtuse, margin entire to wavy, leathery, upper surface glabrous or hairy on midvein, lower surface glabrous or sparsely hairy, pinnately veined with (8–)9–16 pairs of lateral veins, with glandular spot at the base of the midvein beneath. Inflorescence a fig, the flowers enclosed within, figs 1–2 together in the leaf axils, globose or rarely ellipsoid, 1.5–3 cm in diameter, hairy, smooth or warted, green or yellow at maturity; peduncle 1–2.5 cm long, recurved; basal bracts 3–7 mm long, persistent, lateral bracts absent. Flowers unisexual; male flowers with 2–4 tepals and 1 stamen; female flowers with 2–4 tepals.

In southern Africa Ficus bussei flowers in September–February.

Ficus comprises about 750 species, with about 100 species in Africa, 500 species in tropical Asia and Australia, and 150 species in tropical America. In Central Africa the bark of various other Ficus species, including Ficus lingua De Wild. & T.Durand ex Warb. (synonym: Ficus buxifolia De Wild.), Ficus preussii Warb., Ficus scassellatii Pamp. (synonym: Ficus michelsonii Boutique & J.Léonard) and Ficus wildemaniana Warb. have been used for making cloth. Ficus lingua is a medium-sized hemi-epiphytic tree up to 30 m tall, distributed from Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire eastward through Central Africa to Kenya and Uganda, and from there southward to Mozambique and South Africa. Ficus preussii is a hemi-epiphytic shrub or small tree up to 10 m tall, occurring from Nigeria eastward through Central Africa to Uganda. Ficus scassellatii (Swahili name: mninga) is a small to large hemi-epiphytic tree up to 50 m tall, distributed from eastern DR Congo, Somalia and Kenya southward through Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Ficus wildemaniana a hemi-epiphytic shrub or tree, distributed from Cameroon eastward through Central Africa to Uganda. Cloth was made from these species by removing pieces of bark from the bole and large branches, soaking them in water for several days, drying them in the shade and beating them with a mallet to make them supple enough for use. Ficus lingua is also used for shade and outside tropical Africa as an ornamental plant, for instance as a bonsai tree. Ficus scassellatii is used for shade, amenity and grave marks; its latex is used for producing birdlime. The latex of Ficus wildemaniana is drunk with honey for the treatment of cardiac problems.

Ecology

Ficus bussei occurs from sea-level up to 600(–1000) m altitude in lowland forest, woodland, riverine and swamp forest, coral rag forest and flood plains, occasionally at springs.

Genetic resources

It is unclear whether Ficus bussei is threatened by genetic erosion.

Prospects

Ficus bussei is known to be a local source of fibre for cordage, but no information is available on the properties of its fibre, making it difficult to assess its prospects. However, the species seems not important at present and is unlikely to gain importance in the future.

Major references

  • Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
  • Berg, C.C. & Hijman, M.E.E., 1989. Moraceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 95 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.
  • Hauman, L., Lebrun, J. & Boutique, R., 1948. Moraceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., De Wildeman, E., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Lebrun, J., Louis, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 1. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 52–176.
  • Samuelsson, G., Farah, M.H., Claeson, P., Hagos, M., Thulin, M., Hedberg, O., Warfa, A.M., Hassan, A.O., Elmi, A.H., Abdurahman, A.D., Elmi, A.S., Abdi, Y.A. & Alin, M.H., 1992. Inventory of plants used in traditional medicine in Somalia. 3. Plants of the families Lauraceaea to Papilionaceae. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 37: 93–112.

Other references

  • Berg, C.C., 1988. New taxa and combinations in Ficus (Moraceae) of Africa. Kew Bulletin 43(1): 77–97.
  • Friis, I., 1999. Moraceae. In: Thulin, M. (Editor). Flora of Somalia. Volume 2. Angiospermae (Tiliaceae-Apiaceae). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. pp. 91–104.
  • Hyde, M. & Wursten, B., 2002. Ficus bussei Mildbr. & Burret. [Internet ] Flora of Zimbabwe. http://www.zimbabweflora.co.zw/ speciesdata/ species.php?species_id=120230. June 2009.
  • Lovett, J.C., Ruffo, C.K., Gereau, R.E. & Taplin, J.R.D., 2007. Field guide to the moist forest trees of Tanzania. [Internet] Centre for Ecology Law and Policy, Environment Department, University of York, York, United Kingdom. http://celp.org.uk/ projects/ tzforeco/. June 2009.
  • Medley, K.E., 1993. Extractive forest resources of the Tana River national primate reserve, Kenya. Economic Botany 47(2): 171–183.
  • Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] http://mobot.mobot.org/ W3T/Search/ vast.html. July 2009.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Tanno, T., 1981. Plant utilization of the Mbuti Pygmies - with special reference to their material culture and use of wild vegetable foods. African Study Monographs 1: 1–53.
  • 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.
  • van Noort, S., Gardiner, A.J. & Tolley, K.A., 2007. New records of Ficus (Moraceae) species emphasize the conservation significance of inselbergs in Mozambique. South African Journal of Botany 73(4): 642–649.

Author(s)

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

Correct citation of this article

Brink, M., 2010. Ficus bussei Warb. ex Mildbr. & Burret. [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 March 2020.