Funtumia elastica (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Funtumia elastica (P.Preuss) Stapf

Protologue: Apocynaceae


  • Kickxia elastica P.Preuss.

Vernacular names

  • West African rubber tree, Lagos silk rubber tree (En).


Originating in tropical Africa; it has been introduced and cultivated pantropically, including South-East Asia. Around 1900 there were large plantations in Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon.


The bark contains a white latex which coagulates readily and produces about one-third of its weight of pure rubber. Before the arrival of Hevea rubber, this was the most promising rubber tree in many tropical regions, primarily in West Africa. The rubber is of good quality compared with para rubber, but its yield is much smaller and plantations suffer much more from insect damage. At present it is economically of no importance. In Africa some parts of the tree are also used medicinally: the bark as astringent, the leaves against diarrhoea and to cure whooping-cough, the latex to treat fungal infections and sores. The seed has been used to adulterate Strophanthus seed in the production of strophantin. The floss of the fruits is used like kapok, to stuff cushions. The wood is white and soft, not durable, used for carving household utensils like spoons and bowls; it burns well and is a good firewood.


  • Tree, up to 30 m tall with not straight, cylindrical, unbuttressed bole; bark pale with grey patches and dark brown twigs, containing white latex.
  • Leaves opposite, glabrous; petiole up to 1 cm long; blade oblong-elliptical, up to about 20 cm × 8 cm, margins undulate, with characteristic domatia in the axils of the 7-11 pairs of prominent lateral veins below.
  • Flowers in axillary, many-flowered cymes, 5-merous, white to yellowish; peduncle 1 cm long; pedicel 3-5 mm long; calyx 5 mm long, deeply divided, segments on the inside with 2 glands; corolla salver-shaped, tube 7-9 mm long, segments oblong, about 5 mm long.
  • Fruit composed of 2 divaricating woody follicles about 15 cm × 5-7 cm. Seed fusiform, about 1.5 cm long, narrowed into a slender point at the base, at apex beaked with white, silky hairs.

F. elastica occurs naturally in deciduous forest and is a rapid grower. F. africana (Benth.) Stapf is rather similar to and often co-occurs with F. elastica but its latex will not coagulate and is even not suited to be mixed with better latex.

Selected sources

5, 11, 12, 23, 27, 35.