Sida rhombifolia (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Sida rhombifolia L.

Protologue: Sp. pl. 2: 684 (1753).
Family: Malvaceae
Chromosome number: 2n = 14, 18, 28, 36.

Vernacular names

  • Queensland hemp, sida hemp, Cuba jute, arrow-leaf sida, broom jute sida (En).
  • Chanvre du Queensland, herbe dure (Fr).

Origin and geographic distribution

Sida rhombifolia is widely distributed in the tropics and occurs in almost all countries of tropical Africa. In Niger, DR Congo and the Central African Republic it is cultivated as a fibre crop, and in India, Australia and the Americas as well.


The bark of Sida rhombifolia yields fibres that are used in the same way as those of jute (Corchorus spp.). In Niger the fibres are used to make fishing-lines and nets and in the Central African Republic for making large hunting-nets. The stems are woven to produce wattle-work doors, and in Gabon and Kenya they are used for cleaning the teeth. The whole plants are used as brooms in DR Congo, the Central African Republic and Gabon.

The leaves and shoots are used as a vegetable in South Africa and South America. In Indo-China, the roasted leaves are used for making a refreshing drink. Like most Sida species, Sida rhombifolia is appreciated as a fodder. In East Africa, the wood-tar of Sida rhombifolia is used as a dye and in India it is used for blackening teeth. The leaves are used as a soap-substitute in Gabon and Kenya.

In traditional African medicine decoctions of the roots and leaves are widely used as emollients. The leaves or the leaf sap are applied to the skin as an antiseptic and to treat abscesses, ulcers and wounds, for instance in Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, DR Congo, Tanzania and Madagascar. The roots and leaves (DR Congo) or the leaves alone (Gabon) are used as an abortifacient. In Cameroon a watery maceration of the leaves is drunk as an antihypertensive agent, as a sedative, against sexually transmitted diseases and to cure diarrhoea. The same cure for diarrhoea is used in DR Congo where it is also thought to help overcome general stomach complaints and dysentery. Leaves and roots are used in Senegal, the Central African Republic and Madagascar for respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, dyspnoea and pneumonia. The flowers are applied to wasp stings or eaten to ease labour pains. In the Philippines and Indonesia a paste of the leaves mixed with coconut oil is applied to scurf and itch. In Malaysia the plant has been used to treat pulmonary tuberculosis. In Fiji and Papua New Guinea the leaves are used to treat strained muscles, labour pains and migraine. Roots are chewed against toothache in Cameroon and Indonesia, and against dysentery in South-East Asia.

Production and international trade

In tropical Africa Sida species are used and traded at the local level only, for medicinal purposes. Chinese and Ayurvedic herbalists stock Sida rhombifolia plants and trade them through Internet.


The fibre extracted from the bark of Sida rhombifolia is white, supple, soft, lustrous and has an even texture. After careful processing it can be spun with silk. Although it is finer and less strong than the fibre of jute (Corchorus spp.), it has similar properties and can serve as a substitute. The ultimate fibres are 0.8–2.3 mm long and 15–25 μm wide. Bast fibre from Sierra Leone contained 74.2% cellulose and 12.7% lignin, and fibre from India 74.8% cellulose and 10.2% lignin. The seeds contain 16.9% oil.

The leaves and roots contain ephedrine. Ephedrine has been used in China for centuries to treat asthma and bronchitis. Roots also contain flavonoids, tannins, steroids, resins and triterpenoids. In tests for toxicity aqueous extracts were shown to be practically nontoxic. The ethanolic extract of the plant depresses the activities of the smooth muscles of isolated guinea-pig ileum. Macerations of the leaves showed antimicrobial activity against Citrobacter diversus, Escherichia coli, Escherichia paracoli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella enteritidis, Shigella flexneri and Staphylococcus aureus. Methanolic plant extracts show antimicrobial activity against Aspergillus ochraceus, Candida albicans, Candida intermedia, Cunninghamella elegans, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Ethanolic extracts of the leaves and aqueous extracts of the roots showed activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Root extracts showed significant wound healing properties. Finally, in a screening assay, a leaf extract exhibited anticancer activity and anti-HIV activity in 60 human cell lines tested.

Adulterations and substitutes

Decoctions of the roots and leaves of Abutilon, Triumfetta and Urena species are used as emollients in the same way as those of Sida species. Raw material of Ephedra species for the production of herbal medicine and pure ephedrine is produced in China on a large scale. In 2007, US$13 million worth of ephedrine for export was produced from 30,000 t of raw material from Ephedra species.


Perennial, erect herb or shrublet up to 2(–3) m tall; stems with stellate hairs or densely covered with soft, curly hairs. Leaves alternate, simple; stipules linear, 3–12 mm long; petiole up to 2.5 cm long; blade oblanceolate to ovate, 0.5–13 cm × 0.5–6 cm, cuneate to rounded at the base, acuminate to rounded at the apex, margin serrate, upper surface stellate-pubescent, with simple hairs or glabrous, lower surface more densely hairy than upper surface. Flowers axillary and solitary or clustered at the end of lateral branches, bisexual, regular; pedicel up to 3.5(–6) cm long, jointed near apex; epicalyx absent; calyx 10-ribbed at base, 5-lobed to the middle, 5–8 mm long; petals 5, 6–8 mm long, white, pale yellow or yellowish pink; staminal column 1–3 mm long, hairy, with stalked glands; ovary superior. Fruit a subglobose schizocarp of (8–)9–12 (–14) follicle-like mericarps; mericarps 3–3.5 mm long, smooth or reticulately sculptured, with 1–2 short or long awns or none, black, 2–3-seeded. Seeds flattened, kidney-shaped, c. 2 mm in diameter, dark brown to black, glabrous.

Other botanical information

Sida comprises c. 200 species, distributed in the tropics and subtropics. It has been suggested that on the basis of the morphological and geographical diversity, Sida could be of polyphyletic origin. It is morphologically fairly close to Abutilon and Wissadula, and all lack the epicalyx.


In a transverse section of the stem the bast fibres occur in a circle of rectangular wedges, with c. 42 fibre bundles per wedge. The bundles are square, rectangular to irregular in shape, but uniformly distributed, with c. 14 cells per bundle.

Growth and development

Because of the tough stems and the ability to grow fast from seed, Sida rhombifolia is considered a noxious weed in many crops and pastures. Overgrazing will cause a rapid increase as the stems are unpalatable to cattle. It has well developed roots and grows well even under dry conditions. In shaded places the leaves remain smaller and are less hairy than those growing in exposed conditions.


Sida rhombifolia is a ruderal species, mostly found close to settlements, along roads and paths, and in forest edges and clearings. It is also often found on river banks, in riverine forest and in overgrazed grassland and bushland and occurs at 200–2800 m altitude.

Propagation and planting

The majority of the seeds of Sida rhombifolia are dormant for 12–24 months after maturity. Germination was 8% at a temperature of 35°C and was increased to 62% by a hot water (80°C) pretreatment of 10 minutes followed by a cold water (5°C) pretreatment of 10 minutes. Treatment of seed by soaking for 25 minutes in H2SO4 resulted in a germination of 100%. The optimum temperature range for germination is 25–35°C.


Although cultivation of Sida rhombifolia as a fibre crop has been taken up in several countries, few details have been published. Along the river Niger it is cultivated after retreat of flood-waters. In the Central African Republic it is planted as a border crop in arable fields and the crop cycle is 4.5–5 months.

Diseases and pests

Mycoplasma-type organisms cause yellow symptoms on Sida rhombifolia in Burkina Faso. In Australia the beetle Calligrapha pantherina, native to Mexico, has been released as a biological control agent for the control of weedy Sida spp. The beetle is specific to Sida and it leads to complete defoliation of plants.


Harvesting of Sida rhombifolia is mostly done from the wild.


In DR Congo fibre yields of 1300 kg/ha have been recorded. In experiments in Rwanda in the 1950s fibre yields of 240 kg/ha were obtained, with the fresh, defoliated stems yielding 4.0% fibre after 6 days of retting.

Handling after harvest

Extraction of the fibre is difficult, but these problems should be easily overcome through experimentation. In the Central African Republic the stems are left to dry for 10–12 days and retting in water takes another 20 days. In South Africa the leaves are preserved by drying before storing to be consumed later as a vegetable.

Genetic resources

Sida rhombifolia is widely distributed, also as a weed, and locally rather common in open and disturbed areas. Therefore it is not likely to succumb to the threats of genetic erosion. Small germplasm collections are kept in Russia and in the United Kingdom.


Sida rhombifolia will only continue to play a role locally in the production of fibres. It might be of interest as a local industrial source of the alkaloid ephedrine. However, ephedrine can also be produced synthetically, and its use in medicine is rapidly becoming obsolete.

Major references

  • Balu Perumal, 2001. Sida L. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 496–500.
  • 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.
  • Kirby, R.H., 1963. Vegetable fibres: botany, cultivation, and utilization. Leonard Hill, London, United Kingdom & Interscience Publishers, New York, United States. 464 pp.
  • Muanza, D.N., Euler, K.L., Williams, L. & Newman, D.J., 1995. Screening for antitumor anti-HIV activities of nine medicinal plants from Zaire. International Journal of Pharmacognosy 33: 98–106.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Other references

  • 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.
  • Balakrishnan, N., Bhaskar, V.H., Sangameswaran, B., Panda, A.B., Singh, S., Raj, N.R., Kumar, C.S.S. & Sathish, A., 2008. Wound healing properties of hydroalcoholic extract of Sida (Indian) species. Plant Archives 8(1): 485–487.
  • Bhat, R.B., Etejere, E.O. & Oladipo, V.T., 1990. Ethnobotanical studies from Central Nigeria. Economic Botany 44(3): 382–390.
  • Brugés, K. & Reguero-Reza, M.T., 2007. Evaluacion preliminar de toxicidad, genotoxicidad y actividad antimicrobiana de Sida rhombifolia L. Revista Colombiana de Biotecnologia 9(1): 5–13.
  • Dubois, L., 1951. Note sur les principales plantes à fibres indigènes utilisées au Congo belge et au Ruanda-Urundi. Bulletin Agricole du Congo Belge 42: 870–890.
  • Kambu, K., Tona, L., Luki, N., Cimanga, K. & Makuba, W., 1989. Evaluation de l’activité antimicrobienne de quelques préparations traditionelles antidiarrheiques utilisées dans la ville de Kinshasa - Zaire. Médecine Traditionelle et Pharmacopée 3(1): 15–24.
  • Lejeune, J.B.H., 1953. Contribution à l'étude des plantes à fibres, à Rubona. Bulletin Agricole du Congo Belge 44: 743–772.
  • Lonsdale, W.M, Farrell, G. & Wilson, C.G., 1995. Biological control of a tropical weed: a population model and experiment for Sida acuta. Journal of Applied Ecology 32(2): 391–399.
  • Maiti, R.K., 1979. A study of the microscopic structure of the fiber strands of common Indian bast fibers and its economic implications. Economic Botany 33(1): 78–87.
  • Maiti, R., 1997. World fiber crops. Science Publishers, Enfield, New Hampshire, United States. 208 pp.
  • Norman, A.G., 1937. The composition of some less common vegetable fibres. Biochemical Journal 31: 1575–1578.
  • Noumi, E., Houngue, F. & Lontsi, D., 1999. Traditional medicines in primary health care: plants used for the treatment of hypertension in Bafia, Cameroon. Fitoterapia 70: 134–139.
  • Perrotta, D.M., Coody, G. & Culmo, C., 1996. Adverse events associated with ephedrine-containing products. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly 45(32): 689–691.
  • Robinson, B.B. & Johnson, F.L., 1953. Abaca: a cordage fiber. Agriculture Monograph No 21. United States Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, Maryland, United States. 130 pp.
  • Seal, S. & Gupta, K., 1998. Germination behaviour of two species of Sida, a medicinal plant. Tropical Ecology 39(2): 279–281.
  • Shackleton, S.E., Dzerefos, C.M., Shackleton, C.M. & Mathabela, F.R., 1998. Use and trading of wild edible herbs in the central lowveld savanna region, South Africa. Economic Botany 52(3): 251–259.
  • Ugborogho, R.E., 1983. Evolution of Sida L. (Malvaceae) in West Africa. Bulletin du Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, séries 4, 5, section B, Adansonia 1: 93–102.
  • van Borssum-Waalkes, J., 1966. Malesian Malvaceae revised. Blumea 14: 1–251.
  • Verdcourt, B., 2004. The variation of Sida rhombifolia L. (Malvaceae) in East Africa. Kew Bulletin 59(2): 233–239.
  • 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.

Sources of illustration

  • Balu Perumal, 2001. Sida L. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 496–500.


  • 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. Sida rhombifolia L. [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 2 March 2020.