Wissadula rostrata (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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Wissadula rostrata (Schumach. & Thonn.) Planchon ex Hook.f.

Protologue: Hook., Niger Fl.: 229 (1849).
Family: Malvaceae
Chromosome number:


  • Sida rostrata Schumach. & Thonn. (1827),
  • Wissadula amplissima (L.) R.E.Fr. var. rostrata (Schumach. & Thonn.) R.E.Fr. (1908),
  • Wissadula hernandioides (L’Hér.) Garcke var. rostrata (Schumach. & Thonn.) R.E.Fr. (1914).

Origin and geographic distribution

Wissadula rostrata occurs throughout tropical Africa, from Cape Verde and Senegal eastward to Eritrea and southward to South Africa and in Madagascar, but in Mauritius and Réunion it is only known from old collections. It also occurs in Yemen.


In Cameroon the bast fibre is used for making rope and fishing nets. In Sudan a long and strong fibre is extracted from the bark and the plant has been cultivated for this purpose. Stems or twigs are used as toothbrush and made into brooms. In Sudan, and to a lesser extent elsewhere, the plants are browsed by domestic animals.

In traditional medicine in Côte d’Ivoire a laxative or purgative prepared from the plant is given to treat jaundice and to heal bleeding sores. Ashanti people in Ghana apply a compress prepared of the leaves to treat spider bites and stings by bees and wasps. In Togo a maceration of the leaves is drunk to treat bloody diarrhoea. In Benin a decoction of the plant is drunk or applied as a wash against oedema. In the Central African Republic, a compress of the leaves with root scrapings of Morinda lucida Benth. is applied to treat craw-craw. In Tanzania a medicine against stomach problems is made from the plant.

Production and international trade

Wissadula rostrata is only used and traded locally.


Fibre cells in fibre from Nigeria were on average 3.2 mm long and 26.9 μm wide, with a lumen width of 6.8 μm. The high Runkel ratio (2.95) indicates that the fibre is less suitable for newsprint-paper production. The fibre of the very closely related Wissadula periplocifolia (L.) K.Presl ex Thwaites (synonym: Wissadula rostrata var. zeylanica Masters) from Asia is similar in quality to that of kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.).

Several extracts of the plant have shown dose-dependent anti-inflammatory effects against carrageenan-induced oedema in test animals.


Erect, shrubby herb up to 2.5 m tall, branched from the base; stems with white stellate hairs and simple hairs, glabrescent and ultimately covered with a thin greyish bark. Leaves variable within a plant, lower ones petiolate, towards the top becoming nearly sessile and sometimes clasping the stem; stipules c. 6 mm long, bristly; petiole up to 18 cm long, stellate hairy; blade 2.5–19 cm × 1.5–14.5 cm, base truncate to cordate, apex long-caudate, margin entire or slightly toothed, lower surface whitish grey and densely velvety hairy, with scattered stellate hairs, upper surface more sparsely minutely stellate hairy to glabrous and rather dark green. Inflorescence a lax, terminal panicle ultimately up to 50 cm long. Flowers bisexual; pedicel 1–3.5 cm long (elongating to 6–7 cm in fruit), articulated towards the apex, puberulous to stellate-floccose; epicalyx absent; calyx 3–5 mm long, 5-lobed, stellate-pubescent, lobes triangular and acute; petals 5, 4–7 mm long, yellow to orange; staminal tube glabrous, free parts of filaments numerous; ovary superior, consisting of 5 free carpels, carpels 2-celled. Fruit of 5 mericarps, angular obconic; mericarps 7–11 mm × c. 3 mm, beaked, pubescent, glabrescent, opening with 2 apical valves, 1–3-seeded. Seed globose to kidney-shaped, c. 3 mm long, black, hairy.

Wissadula comprises c. 40 species, most of them in the Americas, but 3 in the Old World. The African species Wissadula rostrata has sometimes been recognized at specific rank and sometimes in varietal rank within Wissadula amplissima or Wissadula hernandioides, both from the Americas. Specimens have also often been identified as Wissadula periplocifolia sensu Cufod. In a recent revision it was noted that Wissadula rostrata has greater affinity with the South American Wissadula parviflora (A.St.-Hil.) R.E.Fr., but that it merits recognition as a separate species.


Wissadula rostrata occurs from sea-level up to 1900 m altitude in grassland, bushland, thicket, woodland, forest and fallow land. It usually occurs in light shade on rocky and loamy soils.


In Cameroon the stem is retted in water to obtain the fibre.

Genetic resources

As Wissadula rostrata has a very wide distribution and occurs in a wide range of habitats, including disturbed ones, it is not in danger of genetic erosion.


The quality of the fibre and the wide variation within Wissadula rostrata and its wide adaptability warrant selection of types with a high potential production of high-quality fibre and research into its management as a crop.

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.
  • Exell, A.W. & Meeuse, A.D.J., 1961. Malvaceae. In: Exell, A.W. & Wild, H. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 1, part 2. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 420–511.
  • Fryxell, P.A., 2010. The position of the African Wissadula rostrata in the predominantly neotropical genus Wissadula. Bonplandia 19(1): 5–10.
  • Keay, R.W.J., 1958. Malvaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 335–350.
  • 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

  • Adjanohoun, E.J., Adjakidjè, V., Ahyi, M.R.A., Aké Assi, L., Akoègninou, A., d’Almeida, J., Apovo, F., Boukef, K., Chadare, M., Cusset, G., Dramane, K., Eyme, J., Gassita, J.N., Gbaguidi, N., Goudote, E., Guinko, S., Houngnon, P., Lo, I., Keita, A., Kiniffo, H.V., Kone-Bamba, D., Musampa Nseyya, A., Saadou, M., Sodogandji, T., De Souza, S., Tchabi, A., Zinsou Dossa, C. & Zohoun, T., 1989. Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Bénin. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 895 pp.
  • 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.
  • Hauman, L. & Wouters, W., 1963. Malvaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 10. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 92–190.
  • Marais, W. & Friedmann, F., 1987. Malvacées. 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. 57 pp.
  • Medina, J.C., 1959. Plantas fibrosas da flora mundial. Instituto Agronômico Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil. 913 pp.
  • Mensah, A.Y., Donkor, P.O. & Fleischer, T.C., 2011. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities of the leaves of Wissadula amplissima var. rostrata. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines 8(2): 185–195.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Olotuah, O.F., 2006. Suitability of some local bast fibre plants in pulp and paper making. Journal of Biological Sciences 6(3): 635–637.
  • Portères, R., 1974. Un curieux élément culturel Arabico-Islamique et Néo-Africain : les baguettes végétales machées servant de frotte-dents. Journal d’Agriculture Tropicale et de Botanique Appliquée 21(4–6) : 1–36; 111–149.
  • 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.


  • L.P.A. Oyen, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Oyen, L.P.A., 2011. Wissadula rostrata (Schumach. & Thonn.) Planchon ex Hook.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 3 March 2020.