Sclerosperma mannii (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Sclerosperma mannii H.Wendl.


Protologue: Trans. Linn. Soc. London 24: 427 (1864).
Family: Arecaceae (Palmae)

Synonyms

  • Sclerosperma dubium Becc. (1934).

Origin and geographic distribution

Sclerosperma mannii is distributed in Liberia and from south-eastern Nigeria eastward to eastern DR Congo and southward to Cabinda (Angola).

Uses

The leaves are widely used for thatching, sometimes together with those of Raphia spp. They are also used for making walls. In Gabon they are used for the entrances of Bwiti temples, because of the silvery leaf undersurface. The petioles are recorded to be used in Cameroon for mattresses.

The young fruits are locally eaten. In DR Congo the fruit, the shoot and the soft part of the lower stem are eaten raw as vegetables. In traditional medicine the leaf ash is applied to the eyelid for the treatment of itching eye worm (loa loa filariasis).

Properties

No information is available on the properties of thatching material from Sclerosperma mannii.

Botany

Monoecious, short or acaulescent, clustering, unarmed palm; stem, if evident, very short, fairly stout, ringed with leaf scars. Leaves ascending, very large, divided, juvenile leaves deeply bifid; sheath up to 35 cm long, becoming split opposite the petiole, margins fibrous; petiole slender, 150–300 cm long, channelled adaxially, rounded proximally, becoming triangular distally; rachis 80–150 cm long, continuing in the terminal leaflet, rounded abaxially, ridged adaxially; leaflets 8–17(–24), subopposite to alternate, consisting of several narrow folds, folds 30–45(–63) cm × (3–)6–9(–13) cm, jaggedly toothed at the apex, margin toothed, midvein prominent, upper surface dark green, lower surface glaucous to silvery and with small scales along the veins; terminal leaflet deeply bifid, broadly rhomboid in outline, 30–45 cm × (20–)30–45 cm, with asymmetrical base. Inflorescence solitary, between the leaves, spike-like, many-flowered; peduncle up to 12(–19) cm long, densely hairy; prophyll 2-keeled, becoming fibrous; peduncular bract tubular, 18–25 cm long, forming a fibrous net around the flowers; rachis 10–14 cm long, with at the base a few triads of 2 male flowers and 1 female flower, and distally numerous rows of male flowers; triads subtended by a short, pointed, fibrous bract; distal staminate flowers subtended by small, acuminate bracts. Flowers unisexual, 3-merous, bracteoles present in triads; male flowers in triads more or less pedicellate and asymmetrical, distal ones sessile and symmetrical, sepals distinct, basally imbricate, 3–4 mm long, petals distinct, elliptical, 6–8 mm long, stamens c. 60, filaments short, pistillode absent; female flowers broadly ovoid, larger than male ones, sepals connate in a 3-lobed cupule or margins of 2 sepals distinct and imbricate, petals distinct, asymmetrical, staminodes 6, ovary superior, stigma 3-angled. Fruit a drupe 25–30(–35) mm × 22–29 mm, purplish to black; exocarp thin; mesocarp thin, fibrous; endocarp bony, thick. Seed globose, 15–23(–25) mm × 20–25 mm.

Sclerosperma comprises 3 species and is distributed from Liberia to Angola. Sclerosperma profiziana Valk. & Sunderl. is a clustering palm up to 6(–12) m tall, with a stem up to 2 m tall and undivided leaves. It is distributed in Ghana, Congo, DR Congo and Angola. Its leaves are widely used for thatching, especially young leaves not yet damaged by wind. The kernel was formerly used for making rings. Sclerosperma walkeri A.Chev. is a short palm with a very short stem and divided leaves, distributed in Gabon and DR Congo. Its leaves are widely used for thatching and locally used for making mats and walls. All Sclerosperma species are pleonanthic, i.e. the stems do not die after flowering.

Ecology

Sclerosperma mannii occurs from sea-level up to 1400 m altitude in the shrub layer of lowland evergreen forest, ranging from forest just behind the mangrove swamp forest, through periodically inundated forest to valley bottom forest at higher elevations. It persists in secondary growth.

Management

Sclerosperma mannii can be propagated with suckers split from the parent plant.

Genetic resources

Sclerosperma mannii has a wide distribution, but occurs highly localised, with many disjunctions. Because of the extent of habitat loss throughout its distribution range there is risk of genetic erosion.

Prospects

Sclerosperma mannii will remain a useful local source of thatching material in West and Central Africa. Research on the properties of thatching material from Sclerosperma mannii might be useful.

Major references

  • Latham, P., 2004. Useful plants of Bas-Congo province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. DFID, London, United Kingdom. 320 pp.
  • Terashima, H., Kalala, S. & Malasi, N., 1991. Ethnobotany of the Lega in the tropical rain forest of eastern Zaire: part one, zone de Mwenga. African Study Monographs, Supplement 15: 1–61.
  • Uhl, N.W. & Dransfield, J., 1987. Genera palmarum - a classification of palms based on the work of Harold E. Moore Jr. The L.H. Bailey Hortorium and the International Palm Society. Allen Press, Lawrence KS, United States. 610 pp.
  • van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H., Sunderland, T.C.H. & Couvreur, T.L.P., 2008. A revision of the genus Sclerosperma (Arecaceae). Kew Bulletin 63: 75–86.

Other 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.
  • d’Oliveira Feijão, R., 1961. Elucidário fitológico. Plantas vulgares de Portugal continental, insular e ultramarino. Classificão, nomes vernáculos e aplicações. Volume 2, I–O. Instituto Botânico de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal. 462 pp.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Raponda-Walker, A. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon. Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.
  • Russell, T.A., 1968. Palmae. In: Hepper, F.N. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 3, part 1. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 159–169.
  • van Valkenburg, J., Sunderland, T., Ngok Banak, L. & Issembé, Y., 2007. Sclerosperma and Podococcus in Gabon. Palms 51(2): 77–83.
  • Wright, C.H., 1901–1902. Palmae. In: Thiselton-Dyer, W.T. (Editor). Flora of tropical Africa. Volume 8. Lovell Reeve & Co, London, United Kingdom. pp. 97–127.
  • Yamada, T., 1999. A report of the ethnobotany of the Nyindu in the eastern part of the former Zaire. African Study Monographs 20(1): 1–72.

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., 2011. Sclerosperma mannii H.Wendl. [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 8 March 2020.