Family : Malvaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to Africa (Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo, Uganda and Zambia) where it grows in the thickets and at the margins of the swampy forests from the sea level up to about 1200 m of altitude.
The genus is honoured to the Scottish explorer and collector Hugh Clapperton (1788-1827); the specific name is the Latin adjective “ficifolius, a, um” = fig and “folium” = leaf, hence with leaves similar to those of the fig.
Common names: bolo-bolo (English); arbrisseau des marais (French).
The Clappertonia ficifolia (Willd.) Decne. (1846) is an erect evergreen perennial shrub, 1-3 m tall, with stem covered by stellate hairs of brown-orange colour and reddish young branches. The leaves, on a 0,5-1 cm long petiole covered by short reddish down, are alternate, very variable, oblong-ovate to 3-7-lobed, with rounded apex and toothed margins, 4-13 cm long and 1,5-10 cm broad, wrinkled aboven covered by short and dense tawny down below. Terminal inflorescences, about 15 cm long, bearing few bisexual flowers usually tetramerous, of 6-9 cm of diameter, with oblong-linear petaloid sepals, 3-4 cm long and 0,4-0,6 cm broad, of pink to purple red colour, unguiculate petals (petals with long narrow base similar to a stem) with obovate lamina, 3-4,5 cm long and 2-3 cm broad, of pink to bright blue mauve colour, rarely white, numerous fertile stamina and yellow or pink staminodes and superior ovary.The fruits are oblong dehiscent capsules, 3-6 cm long and of 1,5-2,5 cm of diameter, covered by thick and hispid hairs surmounted by bristles, containing numerous globose seeds slightly flattened, of about 2 mm of diameter, greyish.
It reproduces by seed, in organic loam with addition of sand or of agri-perlite per a 30% maintained constantly humid at the temperature of 24-26 °C, and by cutting.
Amply diffused species in the places of origin and of remarkable importance for the local populations due to the particularly resistant fibres obtained from it, utilized for cordages, fishing nets, sacks, mats, common use objects and in the fabrication of paper, but that are not commercially exploited despite the characteristics that can be compared, or are even better, than those of the jute. It is at times utilized as ornamental in various countries with tropical and humid subtropical climates, due to the practically continuous blooming and the facility of cultivation, in full sun and with ample availability of water, with frequent prunings for a more compact posture and for stimulating the blooming. Where the climate does not allow the cultivation in open air, it may be cultivated in pot with draining organic loam, maintained constantly humid, in the most possibly luminous position and lowest values of temperature not under the 16 °C.
Synonyms: Honckenya ficifolia Willd. (1793).