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close this bookKenya Trees, Shrubs and Lianas (National Museum of Kenya, 1994, 762 p.)
View the documentAnnonaceae - Soursop family
View the documentMonimiaceae - Lemonwood family
View the documentLauraceae - Avocado family
View the documentHernandiaceae
View the documentRanunculaceae - Buttercup family
View the documentBerberidaceae - Berberis family
View the documentMenispermaceae - Curare family
View the documentAristolochiaceae
View the documentPiperaceae - Pepper family
View the documentTurneraceae
View the documentCapparaceae (Capparidaceae) - Caper family
View the documentMoringaceae - Moringa family
View the documentViolaceae - Violet family
View the documentPolygalaceae
View the documentCrassulaceae
View the documentPortulacaceae
View the documentPolygonaceae - Sorrel family
View the documentPhytolaccaceae
View the documentChenopodiaceae
View the documentAmaranthaceae
View the documentBalsaminaceae - Balsam family
View the documentLythraceae - Henna family
View the documentSonneratiaceae
View the documentOliniaceae
View the documentOnagraceae - Fuchsia family
View the documentThymelaeaceae
View the documentNyctaginaceae - Bougainvillea family
View the documentProteaceae - Protea family
View the documentDilleniaceae
View the documentPittosporaceae
View the documentFlacourtiaceae (incl. Samydaceae) - Kei-apple family
View the documentCanellaceae - Cinnamon family
View the documentTamariceae - Tamarisk family
View the documentPassifloraceae - Passionflower family
View the documentCucurbitaceae - Cucumber family
View the documentBegoniaceae - Begonia family
View the documentCaricaceae - Papaya family
View the documentOchnaceae - Ochna family
View the documentAncistrocladaceae
View the documentMyrtaceae - Eucalypt/clove family
View the documentLecythidaceae
View the documentMelastomataceae
View the documentCombretaceae - Combretum family
View the documentRhizophoraceae - Mangrove family
View the documentGuttiferae (including Hypericaceae) - Garcinia family
View the documentTiliaceae - Jute family
View the documentSterculiaceae - Cola family
View the documentBombacaceae - Baobab family
View the documentMalvaceae - Cotton family
View the documentMalphigiaceae
View the documentEyrthroxylaceae - Coca family
View the documentLinaceae - Flax family
View the documentEuphorbiaceae - Rubber, Cassava, Castor oil family
View the documentMontiniaceae
View the documentRosaceae - Rose family
View the documentChrysobalanceae
View the documentDichapetalaceae (including Chailletiaceae)
View the documentCaesalpiniaceae - Cassia family
View the documentMimosaceae - Mimosa family
View the documentPapilionaceae - Pea family
View the documentHamamelidiceae
View the documentBuxaceae - Box family
View the documentSalicaceae -Willow family
View the documentMyricaceae
View the documentCasuarinaceae - Casuarina family
View the documentUlmaceae
View the documentMoraceae - Fig family
View the documentUrticaceae - Stinging nettle family
View the documentAquifoliaceae - Holly family
View the documentCelastraceae - Miraa family
View the documentIcacinaceae
View the documentSalvadoraceae - Mswaki family
View the documentOlacaceae - Sour plum family
View the documentOpiliaceae
View the documentLoranthaceae - Mistletoe family
View the documentSantalaceae - Sandalwood family
View the documentRhamnaceae - Buffalo thorn family
View the documentVitaceae - Grapevine family
View the documentRutaceae - Citrus family
View the documentSimaroubaceae
View the documentBalanitaceae - Desert date family
View the documentBurseraceae - Myrrh family
View the documentMeliaceae - Mahogany family
View the documentSapindaceae - Mkaapwani family
View the documentMelianthaceae
View the documentAnacardiaceae - Mango family
View the documentConnaraceae
View the documentCornaceae - Dogwood family
View the documentAlangiaceae
View the documentAraliaceae - Mutati family
View the documentUmbelliferae - Carrot family
View the documentEricaceae - Heather family
View the documentEbenaceae - Ebony family
View the documentSapotaceae - Shea butter family
View the documentMyrsinaceae - Rapanea family
View the documentLoganiaceae - Strychnos family
View the documentOleaceae - Olive family
View the documentApocynaceae - Lmuria family
View the documentAsclepiadaceae - Milkweed family
View the documentRubiaceae - Coffee family
View the documentCompositae - Sunflower family
View the documentLobeliaceae
View the documentGoodeniaceae
View the documentBoraginaceae - Cordia family
View the documentSolanaceae - Potato family
View the documentConvolvulaceae - Sweet potato family
View the documentScrophulariaceae - Witchweed family
View the documentBignoniaceae - Flame tree family
View the documentPedaliaceae - Sesame family
View the documentAcanthaceae - Sarim family
View the documentVerbenaceae - Teak family
View the documentCyclocheilaceae
View the documentLabiatae/Lamiaceae - Mint, basil family

Malvaceae - Cotton family

Stellate hairs usually present. Stipules usually present. Epicalyx often present; petals 5; stamens united in a tube around the style. Fruit a capsule, or composed of follicles.

1. Leaves covered with minute scales 6. Thespesia

* Leaves stellate-hairy or glabrous 2

2. Leaf margins toothed 3

* Leaf margins entire, even in lobed leaves 5

3. Leaf apex acuminate; epicalyx absent 1. Abutilon

* Leaf apex acute; epicalyx present 4

4. Fruit a dehiscent capsule; petals 30-70mm long 4. Hibiscus

* Fruit consisting of 5 carpels; petals 14-25mm long 5. Pavonia

5. Inland tree, found above 800m 2. Azanza

* Coastal shrubs or trees, found below 500m 6

6. Climbing shrub; epicalyx of 3 lobed bracts 3. Gossypioides

* Shrub or tree; epicalyx of 5-20 entire bracts 4. Hibiscus

A recent find from the Tana R. Delta is Abelmoschus ficulneus (L.) Wight & Arn., a wild relative of the okra with a laterally splitting calyx.


Plants with stellate hairs. Flowers usually axillary and solitary, but sometimes apparently paniculate (through suppression of leaves). Epicalyx absent; calyx with a tube and 5 lobes. Fruit with many mericarps in a circle around a torus, joined.

1. Young parts sticky-glandular; flowers yellow, with a red or purple centre 1. A. hirtum

* Young parts not sticky-glandular 2

2. Flowers mauve; mericarps 12-25, rounded 2. A. longicuspe

* Flowers yellow; mericarps 25-40, acuminate 3. A. mauritianum

1. Abutilon hirtum (Lam.) Sweet

Woody herb or shrub 1-2m; with glandular hairs on young branches. Leaves (broadly) ovate, base cordate, apex acuminate, margin crenate-serrate, 2-16 by 1-14cm, stellate-pubescent, somewhat sandpapery. Flowers yellow or orange, with purple or crimson centre, solitary and axillary; petals 15-22mm long.

Fruit of 20-30 mericarps.

K123467; 1-1350 (?1800)m; I-XII (VI)

Dry bushland, usually near luggas or riverine; also on black cotton soil, and a weed of irrigation schemes.

Matawi (GAB), Olorerirepi (MAA), Kapiyan (PKT), Sulube (SAM), Etoo, Asrilipog, Ekwangat (TUR).

The stem is used to make string.

Abutilon hirtum

2. Abutilon longicuspe A. Rich.

Shrub 1.5-5m. Leaves broadly ovate, base cordate, apex acuminate, margin crenate-serrate, up to 20 by 18cm, stellate-velvety. Flowers mauve, with a darker centre, axillary, but appearing as if in terminal panicles; petals 10-14mm long. Fruit of 12-25 mericarps.

K123467; 1500-3000m; I-III, VI-XII(IX)

In forest margins or -regrowth, also in groundwater/riverine woodland.

Mondwe, Mwondwe (KIK), Loldongoiyet (NDO, KIP), Omorovianda (KIS), Osupikioi-oibor (MAA), Cheptonge (PKT), Mukundkunda (TAI), Ekwanga (TUR). The stem is used to make string and withies. Note: In the East African Herbarium there are two taxa marked “sp. aff. longicuspe” occurring in the same habitat as that species. Taxon A (=A. cecili N. E. Br.) has a larger, hairy calyx and angular (not rounded) mericarps; taxon B has very small fruits and clear venetion. This information comes from a manuscript by Miss C.H.S. Kabuye.

Abutilon longicuspe

3. Abutilon mauritianum (Jacq.) Medic. sensu lato

Woody herb or shrub 0.5-2.5m. Leaves broadly ovate, base cordate, apex acuminate, margin serrate-crenate, up to 18 by 16cm, grey-green velvety beneath. Flowers yellow, solitary and axillary; petals 14-33mm long. Fruit of 25-40 mericarps.

K13457; 1-2050m; I, IV-XII (VIII-IX)

Forest margins, wooded or bushed grassland, secondary bushland, ruderal sites; on the coast in bushland or thicket on coral.

Maumanda (SWA), Chibangula mavi (DIG), Mukeu (KIK), Jeptula (MAR), Malasa (PKM). A leaf infusion is used against dysentry by the Digo; leaves are used as toilet paper for babies.

Abutilon mauritianum

Abutilon mauritianum


Leaves with stellate hairs. Flowers solitary, axillary; epicalyx present, fused with the calyx, almost non-lobed. Fruit a 5-valved capsule.

Azanza garckeana (F. Hoffm.) Excell & Hillcoat

Tree (rarely a shrub) 2.5-9m. Leaves palmately 3-5-lobed, base cordate, 5-7-nerved, up to 20 by 20cm, stellate-tomentose or -pubescent beneath. Flowers yellow or mauve, with a red or purple centre; petals 5-6cm long. Fruit red, round to broadly ellipsoid, 3-4cm long, densely hairy.

K4; 900-1500m; III-IV, IX *

Wooded (Combretum) grassland.

Mutoo (KAM). The fruit exudate is edible.

Azanza garckeana

Azanza garckeana

Azanza garckeana


Epicalyx present, large, consisting of 3 lobed bracts. Fruit a 3-valved capsule.

Gossypioides kirkii (Mast.) J.B. Hutch.

Climbing shrub, 1-2.5m; stems and branches angled or winged. Leaves deeply 3-5-lobed, base cordate and 3-5-nerved, up to 15 by 15cm, glabrous to stellate-pubescent. Flowers yellow, with a red or purple centre, on 1-3-flowered side branches; petals 25-30mm long. Fruit ellipsoid, 12-15mm across, with woolly floss inside.

K7; 1-450m; II, IX, XI *

Forest margin, coastal thicket, Brachystegia woodland.

Mpamba mwitu (SWA), Msifu mwitu (DUR), Mukushapungu (GIR).

Gossypioides kirkii

Gossypioides kirkii


Flowers usually axillary and solitary; epicalyx present, of 5-20 bracts. Fruit a loculicidally dehiscent capsule.

1. Climbing shrub 4. H. sp. aff. rostellatus

* Erect, non-climbing plants 2

2. Leaves suborbicular or broadly ovate, often lobed, with a (sub) cordate base, stellate-pubescent; petals entire 3

* Leaves ovate, base cuneate or obtuse, glabrous or nearly so; petals much-lobed; Coast 2. H. schizopetalus

3. Leaf-base (sub-) cordate; epicalyx with 5 long lobes 1. H. calyphyllus

* Leaf-base cordate, with overlapping lobes; epicalyx with 10 short (less than 5mm) lobes 3. H. tiliaceus

Note. There are some taxa more or less closely related to H calyphyllus: for a proper treatment a specialist will have to look into the whole genus.

1. Hibiscus calyphyllus Cav.

Woody herb or shrub 0.7-3m. Leaves suborbicular or broadly ovate, obscurely or clearly 3-5-lobed, base (sub) cordate, apex acute, margin serrate, up to 12 by 12 (19 by 19)cm, stellate-pubescent and often somewhat sandpapery. Flowers yellow with red or purple throat; petals up to 6cm. Fruit ellipsoid, to 25 by 15mm.

K1234567; 550-2400m; I-XII

Riverine, in forest margins, thickets, bushland and bushed grassland, both in wet and rather dry habitats.

Leltangoyet, Leledonget (KIP), Esubukioi narok (MAA), Kapenyan (PKT), Sulube (SAM), O’tanya (TUG), Nauru-kasiko (TUR). The bark is used to make string or rope.

Hibiscus calyphyllus

Hibiscus calyphyllus

2. Hibiscus schizopetalus (Mast.) Hook.f.

Shrub, 2-4.5m. Leaves ovate or elliptic, base cuneate or. obtuse, 3-veined from base, apex acute, margin crenate-dentate, 3-9 by 1.5-4cm, glabrous or nearly so. Flowers bright red, long-stalked; petals 3-6cm long, much-divided. Fruit ellipsoid, to 38 by 16mm.

K7; 1-150m; VIII-IX *

In deciduous coastal bushland, often near water (e.g. mangrove).

Hibiscus schizopetalus

3. Hibiscus tiliaceus L.

Shrub or tree 2.5-7.5m, evergreen. Leaves very pale green beneath, almost round, base deeply cordate, apex (shortly) acuminate, margin (almost) entire, 5-9-nerved from base, 3-16 by 3-16cm, stellate-tomentellous. Flowers yellow with red base fading to red, long-stalked in terminal panicles; petals 6-7cm long. Fruit round, 20-25mm.

K7; near high water mark; I, III-IV, IX-XII *

On beach or mangrove edge.

Mtakawa (SWA), Mkungu-Wazimu (BAJ). The bark yields a strong fibre.

Hibiscus tiliaceus

4. Hibiscus sp. off. H. rostellatus Guill. & Perr.

A climber to 10m high, e.g. Luke & Robertson 1323.

K7; Vitengeni R., Mangea, Cha Simba and Jaribuni.


Flowers usually solitary, but sometimes in terminal “heads”; epicalyx present. Fruit of indehiscent carpels separating from the torus.

1. Epicalyx of 6-9 bracts which are much longer than calyx; mericarps not awned 2. P. propinqua

* Epicalyx of 10-12 bracts, about as long as the calyx; mericarps awned 2

2. Leaves unlobed or 3-lobed, longer than wide, sparsely hairy; flowers solitary 1. P. kilimandscharica

* Leaves 3-5-lobed, as long as wide, densely hairy; flowers in groups 3. P. wens

1. Pavonia kilimandscharica Gürke

Woody herb or shrub 1-1.5m. Leaves narrowly elliptic, sometimes 3-lobed, base cuneate or obtuse, apex acute, margin crenate-dentate, 2-5.5 by 0.9-3.3cm, stellate-sandpapery. Flowers white or mauve with purple centre, solitary and axillary; petals 18-20mm long. Fruit about 8mm long, each mericarp with 5-6mm long acumen.

K12345; 1600-2700m; I, VII-XI *

Dry or moist forest; also in dense riverine forest.

Chemandililiet (KIP).

Pavonia kilimandscharica

2. Pavonia propinqua Garcke

(P. grewioides Boiss.)

Shrub 0.3-2m. Leaves ovate, base cuneate or rounded, (subcordate), apex rounded, margins crenate-serrate, 2-7.5 by 1-4cm, stellate-sandpapery. Flowers yellow or cream, fading to pink or reddish, axillary; petals 14-15mm long. Mericarps 7-9mm long.

K1467; 1-1300m; I-VIII, X-XII (V, XII)

Dry bushland or bushed grassland; also on black cotton soil.

Pavonia propinqua

3. Pavonia urens Cav.

Woody herb or shrub 1-4m, with somewhat irritant hairs. Leaves 3-5-lobed (except the uppermost ones which are unlobed and oblong), with coarsely serrate-dentate margins, 3-20 by 3-20cm, stellate-sandpapery above, stellate-pubescent beneath. Flowers pink or mauve, in small clusters; petals 14-20mm long. Mericarps about 5mm long, 3-awned.

K1234567; 1250-2900m; I-XII (IX, XII)

Forest (margins), riverine vegetation, secondary bush/grassland.

Murera-Njau, Muruamba (KIK), Modosiet (KIP), Olmeswa, Osubukioi-Orok (MAA), Matus (MAR), Sulube (SAM). The stems are used for making rope. Note: many varieties have been described, but I prefer to see this as a single, variable species, as in the Flora Zambesiaca.

Pavonia urens

Pavonia urens


Branchlets, petioles and leaves with small scales. Flowers solitary and axillary, or in terminal racemes. Epicalyx of 3-5 bracts. Calyx cupuliform, persistent. Fruit woody, indehiscent.

1. Leaf apex obtuse 1. T. danis

* Leaf apex long-acuminate 2. T. populnea

1. Thespesia danis Oliv.

Shrub or tree, 1-6(10)m, with fissured bark. Leaves very broadly ovate, base cordate, apex obtuse (rarely apiculate), 2-9 by 2-8cm, densely scaly. Flowers yellow, with a red, pink or purple centre, solitary; petals 32-40mm long. Fruit depressed globose, only young ones seen.

K147; 1-500m; I-V, VII-IX, XI-XII

Forest (margins), secondary bushland, wooded grassland, thicket, riverine, semi-evergreen bushland.

Muhowe (SWA, DIG, GIR), Mlambale (BON, SOM), Mudaanisa (ILW), Danis (ORM), Muoro (PKM), Dane, Danis (SAN), Kobahan, Khaphan (SOM). The stems are used to make rungus, bows and arrows, and are also employed as fire-(friction-) sticks; a root decoction is employed against gonorrhoea; dye is made from flowers and fruits.

Thespesia danis

Thespesia danis

2. Thespesia populnea (L.) Corr.

Shrub 3-7.5m; bark grey. Leaves broadly ovate, base cordate, apex acuminate, 6-15 by 5-12cm, densely scaly. Flowers yellow, fading to reddish, solitary, petals 65-85mm long. Fruit depressed globose, 25 by 35-45mm.

K7; 0-10m; I, IX, XI*

On beach near high watermark, or in mangrove swamp. The wood is durable in the ground and in water.

Thespesia populnea