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Cosmetics: bark / Medicine: resin /Insecticide: bark

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Cosmetics: bark / Medicine: resin /Insecticide: bark
Boehmeria malabarica Webb. §È¾¯¾­, ª÷©ª¼¤

Other names: Local: toutiang, peuak thiang, nang thiang, peuak meuak, nan nyao. Thai: khai pla. Chinese: shui-moa-pi.

Remarks: Taxonomy is unclear, and possible another species Debregeasia longifolia (Burs.f.) Wedd. is also used, but has more narrow leaves, more contrast between upper/lower leaf blade, slower growth and less glue in the bark which traders often refuse (synonyms: B. glomerulifera Miq., Urtica malabarica Wall.) There seems to be also some confusion with Helicteras isora.
Use: Interviews with Chinese traders report sapane fibers are used in production of incense, mosquito repellents and glue. Local villagers use the sap for treating stomach and intestinal complaints.

Active ingredients:
Harvesting: Stems are cut 5-10 cm above the ground and pulled away from the stump. Sections of 1-2 m are cut to facilitate transport.
Yields, densities: One hectare may produce 63 kg of fresh, or 21 kg of dried bark.
Access rules: Planting sapane in the forest requires 3 years for the plant to mature, making management arboreous, and rather open access like. In some areas villagers started to introduce management rules, by not allowing root cutting. Planting in homegardens is more secure.
Sustainability: Commercial harvesting started in 1997 and since destructive harvesting practices are evident. Villagers cut stems or strip all bark from stems or extraction of roots, as root bark is also saleable. When some aboveground parts are left intact and plants are not uprooted regeneration is possible from roots of the parent clump, with mature stems after 3 years. Regeneration by planting sapane is most appropriate to ensure sustainability.
Conservation status: According to local people this varies per location; from stable to depleted resources.
Processing: After harvest the bark is stripped from stem and dried in the sun in small bundles, or broken in small pieces to facilitate packing and transportation. Storing in dry, well-ventilated conditions is essential to avoid fungus attack. No further processing takes place in Lao PDR, but in China the bark is crushed and boiled to make glue. In making incense sticks fragrant substances are mixed with sawdust and applied to tiny sticks with glue made from sapane.

Quality criteria:
Marketing: Exported to China and Thailand since 1996. It was the 3rd most important NTFP exported in 2000, with 685 tonnes a US$0.33 exported from Oudomxai province, in 2003 the export price was US$0.5, with total export of 184 tonnes. The price is increasing due to depletion of the resource. Currently the price obtained by villagers is ca. US$0.1-0.5/kg. In Oudomxai sapane has made up 9% of the family income, ca. US$10.
Market prospects: At present main profits are made in China with little information on marketing, processing and lack of Chinese language for Lao people to obtain a better share.
Propagation: Sapane has been unsuccessfully tried to propagate from seed, with seed very small and difficult to collect. However, it is also reported that under natural conditions sapane grows better from seed than from regeneration from existing clumps. Nurseries are now mainly using planting material from separated rootstock and stem cuttings. Stems can then be planted out in the forest after 3-4 months. It seems to establish best as part of the open fallow vegetation in the sun. Sapane likes to climb into other trees, which should then be present in the fallow land. Some minor problems have occurred with caterpillars eating the leaves. Fencing is required to keep cattle out.
Description: Sapane is a straggling shrub or climber, 1-3 m and DBH 0.5-2 cm. Thick bark with brown marks at irregular intervals over the stem. Mature stems have bark grey-black in colour, younger stems are red. Bark has sticky sap. Simple leaf, alternate, ovate-lanceolate, margin serrated, 6-8 cm by 2.5-4 cm, leaf petiole red, 1.5 cm long. Inflorescences is a small cluster occurring from the auxiliary, flowers tiny. Fruit is ball-shaped with a single seed.

Distribution & Ecology: Sapane regenerates naturally all over SE Asia, growing along streams, mountain slopes, mixed and evergreen forests, and fallow lands. It needs sunlight to grow, and rich, very moist soils. Often found in fallowed swidden over 2–3 years of age, but is usually gathered in forest with a humid environment. In Lao PDR mainly found in the northern provinces.

Debregesia longifolia

Boehmeria malabarica

Photographs: Henning Wehebrink,

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