Hibiscus micranthus (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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List of species


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Hibiscus micranthus L.f.


Protologue: Suppl. Pl. 308 (1782).
Family: Malvaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 64

Vernacular names

  • Mchachando, mchunga ng’ombe, mlasa, msase, mtapatapa, muambe (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Hibiscus micranthus is distributed from Africa eastward to India. In tropical Africa it occurs from Mauritania and Senegal eastward to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, and from there southward to South Africa and Madagascar.

Uses

In Togo the bark fibre is spun into fishing lines. The stems are made into baskets in Uganda and into brooms in Ghana and Tanzania. The Rendille of Kenya use the bark for making containers.

In Tanzania the leaves are eaten as a vegetable and the twigs are used, either peeled or unpeeled, as chewing sticks. The plant is recorded to be browsed by livestock in Kenya and Uganda, whereas in Burkina Faso the foliage is recorded not to be eaten by stock. Children in Uganda eat the ripe seeds.

In traditional medicine the roots are chewed or taken pounded as a cure for cough. In Sudan the roots are used to cure venereal diseases. In Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania root preparations are applied as dressings on wounds and sores of humans and domestic animals. In Kenya the ash of burned roots is applied to boils. In Kenya and Tanzania roots preparations are taken to cure bronchitis and pneumonia. In Tanzania the leaves are used for treating earache, the leaf sap is taken against dysentery, water in which leaves have been pounded is taken against stomach-ache, and leaf pulp is applied on swellings. In Botswana pounded leaves are applied to boils on the buttock, or the root is boiled in water that is drunk as a cure. The latter treatment is also used in Kenya by the Embu and the Meru as a cure for ulcers. The leaf sap is used as an antidote for snakebites and as a treatment for kidney problems and stomach-ache. In Tanzania and Zambia the whole plant is used to treat fever, especially convulsive fever in children. The plant is used as a febrifuge in the traditional medicine of Saudi Arabia, India and Sri Lanka. In India a root paste is applied to the skull to cure head ache.

Properties

The seed contains 15.2% oil (dry weight basis). Fatty acids present in the seed oil include: palmitic acid 18.6%, stearic acid 3.5%, oleic acid 10.1% and linoleic acid 59.8%. The oil also contains malvalic acid (1.7%) and sterculic acid (3.1%), which are cyclopropenoid fatty acids known to cause physiological disorders in animals.

The methanol extract of the bark of twigs inhibited growth of Actinomyces viscosus and the extract of the wood of twigs inhibited growth of Streptococcus mutans¸ which justifies their use as chewing sticks.

Botany

Perennial herb or shrub up to 3 m tall; stem erect, longitudinally ridged with age, usually with stiff, rarely with soft, stellate hairs. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules filiform, 2–6 mm long, stiff hairy; petiole 1–23 mm long; blade ovate, elliptical or lanceolate, up to 3.5(–6) cm × 2.5(–5) cm, base cuneate, rounded or truncate, apex acute, obtuse or rounded, margin serrate, both sides sparsely to densely soft-hairy. Flowers axillary, solitary, bisexual, 5-merous; pedicel 3–40(–55) mm long, articulated in upper half; epicalyx of 5–8 subulate, linear or lanceolate segments 1.5–6(–7) mm long, persistent; calyx lobes lanceolate or triangular, 2.5–4.5 mm long, fused in lower half (up to 3.5 mm in some cultivars), persistent, green, densely stiff-hairy; petals free, 5–9(–12) mm long, outside stiff stellate-hairy, white to pink; stamens numerous, filaments united into a column 1.5–5 mm long surrounding the style; ovary superior. Fruit a round capsule 5–10 mm in diameter, sparsely pubescent. Seeds reniform, 2–3 mm × 1.5–2 mm, black. Seedling with epigeal germination.

Over its enormous range of distribution, and even within a country like Ethiopia, the variation in characteristics of Hibiscus micranthus is huge. The only consistent characteristic is the small size of flowers and fruits. As the variation is otherwise largely continuous, it makes subdivision in subspecies or varieties meaningless.

Hibiscus comprises c. 200 species, mainly in the tropics and subtropics; many of them grown as ornamentals.

Ecology

Hibiscus micranthus occurs from sea-level up to 2100 m altitude in grassland and bushland on many different soil types. It is often found in waste places and as a weed of cultivation.

Management

Hibiscus micranthus is only collected from the wild. The 1000-seed weight is c. 4 g. Seeds store very well for long periods. Seeds stored in the United States for 40 years at –12°C had a germination percentage of 100%.

Genetic resources

Collections of Hibiscus micranthus in genebanks are few and the wide variation within the species is poorly understood and certainly not covered by the existing collections. As the species is widespread and not heavily exploited, there is no threat whatsoever of genetic erosion.

Prospects

Hibiscus micranthus will continue to be used locally for its fibre and as a source of traditional medicine. Research into its medicinal properties is strongly recommended.

Major references

  • 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.
  • Ruffo, C.K., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 2002. Edible wild plants of Tanzania. Technical Handbook No 27. Regional Land Management Unit/ SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 766 pp.
  • SEPASAL, 2011. Hibiscus micranthus. [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/. August 2011.
  • Verdcourt, B. & Mwachala, G.M., 2009. Malvaceae. In: Beentje, H.J. & Ghazanfar, S.A. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 169 pp.
  • Vollesen, K., 1995. Malvaceae. In: Edwards, S., Mesfin Tadesse & Hedberg, I. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 2, part 2. Canellaceae to Euphorbiaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 190–256.

Other references

  • Al-Yahya, M.A., Tariq, M., Parmart, N.S. & Ageel, A.M., 1987. Pharmacological investigations of Hibiscus micranthus Linn., a febrifuge used in Saudi Arabian folk medicine. Phytotherapy Research 1(2): 73–75.
  • Heine, B. & Heine, I., 1988. Plant concepts and plant use; an ethnobotanical survey of the semi-arid and arid lands of East Africa. Part 3. Rendille plants (Kenya). Cologne Development Studies 8. Breitenbach, Saarbrücken, Germany. 120 pp.
  • Ichikawa, M., 1987. A preliminary report on the ethnobotany of the Suiei Dorobo in northern Kenya. African Study Monographs, Supplement 7: 1–52.
  • Jansen, P.C.M., 1981. Spices, condiments and medicinal plants in Ethiopia, their taxonomy and agricultural significance. Agricultural Research Reports 906. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands. 327 pp.
  • Kareru, P.G., Kenji, G.M., Gachanja, A.N., Keriko, J.M. & Mungai, G., 2007. Traditional medicines among the Embu and Mbeere peoples of Kenya. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines 4(1): 75–86.
  • Khan, M.N., Ngasappa, O. & Matee, M.I.N., 2000. Antimicrobial activity of Tanzanian chewing sticks against oral pathogen microbes. Pharmaceutical Biology 38: 235–240.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Newmark, W.D., 2001. Conserving biodiversity in East African forests: a study of the eastern arc mountains. Ecological Studies 155. Springer, Berlin, Germany. 197 pp.
  • Sundar Rao, K. & Lakshminarayana, G., 1985. Fatty acid compositions of seed oils of seven Hibiscus species of Malvaceae. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society 62(4): 714–715.
  • Walters, C., Wheeler, L.M. & Grotenhuis, J.M., 2005. Longevity of seeds stored in a genebank: species characteristics. Seed Science Research 15: 1–20.

Author(s)

  • C.H. Bosch, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Bosch, C.H., 2011. Hibiscus micranthus L.f. [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 2 March 2020.