Grewia glandulosa (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Grewia glandulosa Vahl

Protologue: Symb. bot. 1: 34 (1790).
Family: Tiliaceae (APG: Malvaceae)


  • Grewia ulmifolia Bojer (1846).

Vernacular names

  • Dune cross-berry (En).
  • Msokote, msai (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Grewia glandulosa is distributed along the coasts of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, and also occurs in the Indian Ocean islands (Comoros, Mayotte, Madagascar and Seychelles). It has probably been planted in Mauritius.


The bark fibre is used in Madagascar to make good cordage. It was used for tying wood before nails were used. On Zanzibar and Pemba young branches have been used to clean the teeth. In East African traditional medicine a decoction of the root is drunk against flatulence. In Madagascar it is recommended to drink an infusion of the flowering shoot before going to sleep, because of its emollient and calming effects.


Shrub or small tree up to 7.5 m tall; young stems shortly stellate-hairy. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules subulate, 5–10 mm long, finely hairy; petiole 6–12 mm long, stellate-hairy; blade ovate to elliptical-oblong, 4.5–15 cm × 2.5–8.5 cm, base rounded, cordate or truncate, apex acute to acuminate, margin finely and evenly toothed and somewhat glandular, more or less glabrous above, scattered stellate-hairy below. Inflorescence a terminal or leaf-opposed axillary cyme, 2–5-flowered; peduncle up to 9 mm long, hairy; bracts up to 7 mm long. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel thick, up to 11 mm long; sepals linear-oblong, 10–25 mm long, hairy outside, glabrous inside; petals obovate to almost circular, 5–12 mm × 5–6 mm, pinkish purple, with a narrow nectariferous claw c. 1 mm long; androgynophore glabrous for 1.5–2 mm at the base, hairy above the node; stamens numerous, 10–14 mm long, filaments pink to mauve; ovary superior, c. 2.5 mm long, densely hairy, style 5–10 mm long. Fruit a more or less square drupe, 14–28 mm wide, 10–16 mm high, shallowly 4-lobed, densely covered with rusty brown stellate-hairs.

In Kenya Grewia glandulosa flowers more or less throughout the year.

Grewia comprises about 150 species, distributed in the tropical and subtropical parts of Africa, Asia and Australia. Other Grewia species of which the bark has been used for making bark cloth, cordage and textiles in Madagascar include Grewia brideliifolia Baill. (synonym: Grewia faucherei Danguy), Grewia calvata Baker, Grewia cuneifolia Juss. (synonym: Grewia trinervata Baker), Grewia microcyclea (Burret) Capuron & Mabb., Grewia speciosa Burret (synonym: Grewia macrophylla Baker), Grewia rhomboides Bojer (synonym: Grewia polypyrena Baker), Grewia sahafariensis Capuron & Mabb. and Grewia sely R.Vig. The bark of Grewia calvata was formerly beaten with a mallet to obtain barkcloth. As technology evolved, fibres were extracted by crushing the bark, after which they were combed or scutched, making them suitable for spinning and weaving. The fibre of Grewia calvata is much appreciated and can be as finely woven as hemp fibre. The young, straight stem of Grewia calvata is often made into canes and walking sticks. The wood of Grewia microcyclea provides poles used as barge poles for pirogues, and is also used for spear shafts, tool handles and roofing; the fruit is edible. The wood of Grewia sahafariensis and Grewia sely is made into spear shafts. The seed of Grewia rhomboides is edible and has been harvested as a famine food.


In East Africa Grewia glandulosa is common in coastal areas, in dry forest and bush on coral rag and cliff tops, from sea-level up to 50 m altitude, often forming thickets just above the high-water mark. In Madagascar it occurs up to 1000 m altitude.

Genetic resources

In view of its fairly wide distribution and common occurrence, Grewia glandulosa seems not threatened by genetic erosion.


Grewia glandulosa is a relatively unimportant local source of fibre and medicine in coastal areas of East Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. Its importance is unlikely to increase.

Major references

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mabberley, D.J. & Capuron, R., 1999. Révision des Malvaceae-Grewioideae (‘Tiliacées’, p.p.) de Madagascar et des Comores. 4. Les Grewia du sous-genre Burretia (Hochr.) Capuron. Adansonia, séries 3, 21(2): 283–300.
  • 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. January 2009.
  • Whitehouse, C., Cheek, M., Andrews, S. & Verdcourt, B., 2001. Tiliaceae & Muntingiaceae. In: Beentje, H.J. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 120 pp.

Other references

  • Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
  • Bosser, J., 1987. Tiliacées. In: Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Guého, J. & Marais, W. (Editors). Flore des Mascareignes. Familles 51–62. The Sugar Industry Research Institute, Mauritius, l’Office de la Recherche Scientifique Outre-Mer, Paris, France & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 14 pp.
  • Green, M.L., 1925. Species of Grewia described by Bojer. Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information Kew 1925(5): 231–239.
  • Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
  • Rolland, R. & Boullet, V., 2005. Mayotte: biodiversité et évaluation patrimoniale. Contribution à la mise en oeuvre de l’inventaire ZNIEFF. 324 pp.
  • Stiles, D., 1998. The Mikea hunter-gatherers of southwest Madagascar: ecology and socioeconomics. African Study Monographs 19(3): 127–148.
  • Wild, H., 1963. Tiliaceae. In: Exell, A.W., Fernandes, A. & Wild, H. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 2, part 1. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 33–91.
  • Wild, H. & Gonçalves, M.L., 1969. Tiliaceae. In: Fernandes, A. (Editor). Flora de Moçambique. No 28. Junta de Investigações do Ultramar, Lisbon, Portugal. 69 pp.


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

Correct citation of this article

Brink, M., 2009. Grewia glandulosa Vahl. [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 7 March 2020.