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Triumfetta rhomboidea Jacq. 1760
pronounced: tree-um-FET-tuh rom-BOY-dee-uh
(Malvaceae – the hibiscus family)
common names: Triumfetta Burr, Chinese Burr
Triumfetta was named (by Linnaeus) for Giovanni Battista Triumfetti (1656–1709), professor of Botany and Director of the Botanical Garden in Rome. Rhomboidea is from the Greek ρομβοειδης (rhomboides), of a rhomboid. This is to do with the shape of the leaves. When the species was first described by Nikolaus Joseph Freiherr von Jacquin (1727–1817), the Dutch botanist, he thought the leaves were somewhat rhomboidal in shape. Jacquin was a very important influence in the early stages of systematic botany, and is often referred to as ‘the Austrian Linnaeus’. He took part in a collecting voyage to the Caribbean from 1755–1759, visiting most of the islands there, and also the coastal regions of Venezuela and Columbia. Jacquin was the first botanist to bring back to Europe collections and drawings from many of these places, and Linnaeus himself much admired his writings. When Linnaeus received Jacquin’s first publication on West Indian plants (Enumeratio systemica plantarum∗) in 1760, he wrote “I have seldom seen such a small booklet so rich in golden knowledge. I read it during the evening and could not sleep at night because I dreamed of your beautiful plants”. The book was one of the first books by an author other than Linnaeus or his immediate pupils in which the binary system of nomenclature was used. Jacquin went on to write many more botanical books, and to fill a number of important academic positions, his final post being Professor of Botany and Chemistry at the University of Vienna, where he was also director of the University botanic garden.
This is an erect half-woody herb or shrub 75–150 cm in height. The glabrous stems are longitudinally grooved. The simple leaves are alternate, the blade ovate to rhombic in shape with 3–5 lobes, sometimes nearly as wide as broad, and 2–10 cm long. The upper leaves are oblong to ovate-lanceolate, smaller, and not lobed. The leaf margins are irregularly serrate, the leaf surfaces softly pubescent with stellate hairs, and the blade palmately veined.
The flowers are small and yellow, clustered on the leaf axils. There are 5 yellow obovate petals about 5 mm long, and 10–15 stamens. Flowers are produced all the year round. The fruit is a subglobose burr with the body 3–4 mm in diameter, covered with 75–100 hooked spines 1–1.5 mm long.
The plant prefers dry, disturbed sites and pastures, and can become a pest in crops. It may be abundant along road verges and paths, in clearings, and on open hillsides. It is invasive, out-competing native vegetation and displacing native species. The burrs may cause injury to some animals, and to bare-footed humans. They attach themselves readily to clothing and animal fur.
The roots, bark and leaves secrete mucilage – a gum-like substance found in the cell walls or seed coats of some plants. This contains carbohydrates that have a soothing effect on inflamed tissues, and they are often used as an ingredient in some cosmetic preparations. In folklore medicine, a decoction of the roots is used for intestinal ulcers, and a decoction of roots and leaves is used as an emollient. A hot infusion of roots is used to hasten inception or to facilitate childbirth. In Rwanda, the plant is used to make an abortifacient, and to treat snakebite. In Nepal, the leaves are used to treat boils.
∗ The systematic naming of Plants
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2010, 2012
Page last updated 5th March 2017