Combretum constrictum

Family : Combretaceae

Text © Pietro Puccio


English translation by Mario Beltramini


Combretum constrictum, Combretaceae, powderpuff combretum, Thailand powderpuff

Combretum constrictum is a sarmentose shrub of Tropical Africa, even 3 m tall. Flamboyant globose 6-8 cm inflorescences. Roots were locally used as vermifuge for children © Giuseppe Mazza

The species is native to Tropical Africa (Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia and Tanzania), where it grows in the forests mainly close to the coasts and along the water streams in periodically flooded areas.

The name assigned to the genus resumes that used by Pliny the Elder for designating a species we have not been able to identify due to the incomplete description; the name of the species s the Latin adjective “constrictus, a, um” = dense, compact, with reference to the inflorescence.

Common names: powderpuff combretum, Thailand powderpuff (English); liane vermifuge, petit badamier (French).

The Combretum constrictum (Benth.) M.A.Lawson (1871) is an evergreen, sarmentose semi-herbaceous shrub, with whitish bark, 1,5-3 m tall. The leaves, on a 0,2-0,6 cm long petiole, are alternate, rarely opposite, coriaceous, obovate-elliptic with pointed apex, 4-12 cm long and 2-6 cm broad; the persistent bases of the petioles form short, bevelled and curved spines. The inflorescences are globose racemes mainly terminal, 6-8 cm long, bearing 20-30 flowers with funnel-shaped calyx with a 6 mm long tube and 5 pink triangular lobes 4 mm long and 3 mm broad, corolla with 5 linear-lanceolate, 6-8 mm long and 1,5-2,5 mm broad, red petals, and 8-10 bright red, 2,5 cm long, stamina. The fruits are sessile almost ellipsoid with five ribs, 2,5 cm long and of 1,2-1,5 cm of diameter, containing one seed only. It propagates by seed in organic loam with addition of sand per a 30% maintained humid at the temperature of 22-24 °C; it easily reproduces also by cutting, utilizing woody apical portions 10-15 cm long, and by layering.

Particularly ornamental species due to the compact inflorescences with the long stamina produced almost continuously, cultivable in full sun exclusively in the tropical and subtropical climate regions. Of easy cultivation, requires only regular watering at the moment of the implant, but once well rooted can bear short periods of drought; it is not particular about the soil and stands well the pruning, can be, therefore, grown as bush or a small tree, utilizable consequently, due to the contained dimensions, also in small gardens. It is well suited for the cultivation in pot to be sheltered during the coldest months, where the climate does not allow the permanence in open air, in particularly luminous premises, with day temperatures of 20-24 °C and lowest night ones not less than 16 °C. The waterings must be regular in summer, more spaced in winter, allowing the substratum to partially dry up before giving water again, and the fertilizations, from spring to autumn, done preferably with hydrosoluble balanced products with microelements.

Various parts of the plant are employed in the traditional medicine; in particular, the roots were used in the past as vermifuges in the children.

Synonyms: Poivrea constricta Benth. (1849); Combretum infundibuliforme Engl. (1895); Combretum bussei Engl. & Diels (1907).


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