Ficus capreifolia (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
Introduction
List of species


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Ficus capreifolia Delile


Protologue: Ann. Sci. Nat. Bot., sér. 2, 20: 94 (1843).
Family: Moraceae

Vernacular names

  • Sandpaper fig, riverine sandpaper fig, river sandpaper fig, rough-leaved fig, willow wild fig (En).
  • Arbre papier de verre (Fr).

Origin and geographic distribution

Ficus capreifolia is widely distributed in tropical Africa, from Senegal and Gambia eastward to Somalia and from there southward to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It also occurs in South Africa and Swaziland.

Uses

The bark, stripped off in long lengths, is used for making rope and string. Split twigs are used for plaiting baskets in Zimbabwe. The rough leaves are used as sandpaper for polishing wooden objects such as sticks, spears, bows, tool handles and earrings, and for the preparation of hides.

The leaf and the latex from the bark are used for tanning. The leaf is eaten in Senegal. The fruit is eaten and can be made into a fermented drink. The leaves, fruits and young shoots are used as fodder. Unspecified plant parts are used for construction of house roofs and as fuel. In Tanzania the leaf sap and a decoction of the root are taken for the treatment of schistosomiasis, and the leaf sap or the powdered root is sprinkled on syphilitic ulcers.

Properties

The wood is soft. The latex from the bark is recorded to be urticant. A dichloromethane extract from the leaf has shown fungicidal activity against Cladosporium cucumerinum, due to the presence of the furanocoumarin psoralen. The extract also showed inhibitory activity on the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. A methanol extract of the twig has shown radical scavenging activity.

Botany

Evergreen, dioecious shrub or small tree up to 8 m tall, occasionally lianescent; bole up to 80 cm in diameter; outer bark smooth, whitish, grey or greyish brown, inner bark pinkish, with watery or milky latex; young branches hairy. Leaves more or less distichous and alternate or almost opposite or verticillate; stipules free, linear to lanceolate, 0.5–1 cm long, membranous, reddish, partly hairy, quite persistent; petiole up to 2(–2.5) cm long, scabrid, hairy or glabrescent; blade almost ovate to oblong or lanceolate, sometimes elliptical, 2–16.5 cm × 1–7 cm, base cordate to obtuse, apex acute, acuminate, obtuse, 3-lobed or 3-dentate, margin almost entire or slightly toothed, papery, both surfaces scabrid, pinnately veined with 4–12(–16) pairs of lateral veins, with glandular spots in the axils of the main lateral veins below. Inflorescence a fig, the flowers enclosed within, figs 1–2 together in the leaf axils, obovoid, ellipsoid or globose, 1–3.5 cm in diameter, stipe up to 5 mm long, hispidulous, green to pale yellow at maturity; peduncle 0.5–2 cm long; basal bracts 3, scattered or in a whorl, no bracts on the outer surface of the receptacle. Flowers unisexual; male flowers pedicellate, with 3–6 tepals and 1–3 stamens; female flowers with 4–6 tepals, 1-celled ovary and long style, seed flowers and gall flowers distinct.

Ficus comprises about 750 species, with about 100 species in Africa, 500 species in tropical Asia and Australia, and 150 species in tropical America.

Ficus capreifolia grows fast. Branches often root when they touch the ground, resulting in the formation of thickets. The flowers are pollinated by the wasp Kradibia gestroi. Fruiting is usually at the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season. In southern Africa fruiting is recorded to occur in September–February. The fruits attract birds and fruit bats.

Ecology

Ficus capreifolia occurs from sea level up to 2600 m altitude in low-rainfall coastal and riverine locations and swamps, often forming stands or thickets. It tolerates prolonged inundation.

Management

Ficus capreifolia can be propagated by seed extracted from over-ripe or dried fruits and by cuttings, which root easily.

Genetic resources

It is unknown whether Ficus capreifolia is threatened by genetic erosion.

Prospects

Ficus capreifolia is a useful multipurpose plant, providing not only fibre, plaiting material and sandpaper, but also a range of other products, including food, fodder and traditional medicines. Unfortunately, information on properties, such as fibre, food and fodder quality, is lacking, making it difficult to assess the prospects for this species.

Major references

  • Arbonnier, M., 2004. Trees, shrubs and lianas of West African dry zones. CIRAD, Margraf Publishers Gmbh, MNHN, Paris, France. 573 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.
  • Burkill, H.M., 1997. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 4, Families M–R. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 969 pp.
  • Friis, I., 1989. Moraceae. In: Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia. Volume 3. Pittosporaceae to Araliaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 271–301.
  • SEPASAL, 2009. Ficus capreifolia. [Internet] Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) database. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. http://www.kew.org/ ceb/sepasal/. June 2009.

Other references

  • Cavendish, W., 1999. The complexity of the commons: environmental resource demands in rural Zimbabwe. The Centre for the Study of African Economies Working Paper Series. Working Paper 92. 52 pp.
  • Coates Palgrave, K., 1983. Trees of southern Africa. 2nd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 959 pp.
  • Cogne, A.-L., 2002. Phytochemical investigation of plants used in African traditional medicine: Dioscorea sylvatica (Dioscoreaceae), Urginea altissima (Liliaceae), Jamesbrittenia fodina and Jamesbrittenia elegantissima (Scrophulariaceae). PhD thesis, Université de Lausanne, Institut de Pharmacognosie et Phytochimie, Lausanne, Switzerland. 208 pp.
  • 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.
  • Heine, B. & Heine, I., 1988. Plant concepts and plant use; an ethnobotanical survey of the semi-arid and arid lands of East Africa. Part 1. Plants of the Chamus (Kenya). Cologne Development Studies 6. Breitenbach, Saarbrücken, Germany. 103 pp.
  • Johnson, D., Johnson, S. & Nichols, G., 2002. Gardening with indigenous shrubs. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 112 pp.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Stave, J., Oba, G., Nordal, I. & Stenseth, N.C., 2007. Traditional ecological knowledge of a riverine forest in Turkana, Kenya: implications for research and management. Biodiversity Conservation 16: 1471–1489.
  • Stefanesco, E. & Bintoni-Juliassi, O., 1982. 101 wild fodder and food plants of Angonia province of Tete Mozambique. Field Document No 39. Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Maputo, Mozambique. 208 pp.
  • Vivien, J., 1990. Fruitiers sauvages du Cameroun. Fruits Paris 45(2): 149–160.

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.

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 capreifolia Delile. [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.