Abroma augusta (L.) L.f.
by Mrs. Rafidah Abdul Rahman

Abroma augusta (Sterculiaceae) or Devil’s Cotton is called kapas hantu or rami sengat in Malaysia. The name 'Abroma' comes from classical Greek meaning ‘a’ without and 'broma' is food, probably referring to the fruits or seed that are not edible. Kapas hantu is common in many parts of India, throughout SE Asia to S China, and through Indonesia to the Solomon Islands and N Australia. In Peninsular Malaysia it is recorded from Perak, Selangor, Kelantan and Pahang.

Kapas hantu is an erect shrub or small tree which can grow to 10 m tall. The leaves and stems are covered with soft bristly hairs that are very irritating to touch. The leaves are spirally arranged or distichous and are highly variable with two main forms, either 3–5-lobed or simple, lanceolate unlobed ones.

The inflorescences are leaf-opposed or terminal 1(–4)-flowered cymes with the peduncle and pedicel to 3.5 cm long and with a small bract and 2 bracteoles. Its handsome flowers are bisexual, 5-merous, pendent and about 3–5 cm in diameter. The calyx is deeply divided into five, greenish, entire, triangular lobes. It has five spoon-shaped petals, about 2–3.5 cm long, each with a concave base. The lanceolate petals are white, dark purple, red or yellow with a ciliate margin. The staminal tube is short, apically with 5 fascicles of anthers alternating with 5 petal-like staminodes. Each fascicle consists of 3(–4) anthers. Abroma augusta has a superior ovary about 2–3 mm long with 5-carpels each containing many ovules. The style is 5-branched. The fruits are obconical, membranous capsules, about 4–5 cm long, 3–4 cm wide, with a rounded base and truncate top and are 5-winged and angled, sometimes beaked and enveloped by the slightly enlarged, densely prickly calyx. The seeds are numerous, blackish, small, cylindrical to obovoid, 3–4 mm long, about 2 mm wide, without wings or an aril.

Its flowers are ephemeral and fall off at the latest one day after opening. It is pollinated by insects.

When the stems are cut, new shoots may emerge from buds in the axils of the leaf scars at the base of the plant. In Malaysia, Kapas hantu grows in lowland and hill secondary forest below 1200 m altitude, on forest edges, waste places, bordering villages and along the roads. In Peninsular Malaysia, it is often found near limestone.

Although this species has many medicinal uses reported from other regions, there are no records of medicinal use of Abroma augusta in Malaysia.


  1. Aguilar, N.O., Jansen, P.C.M. & Brink, M. (2003). Abroma augusta (L.) L.f. . Plant Resources of South-East Asia (PROSEA): Fibre plants , volume 17. pp. 59-62
  2. Ridley, H.N. (1922). The Flora of Malay Peninsula, Volume 1. Lovell Reeve & Co., Ltd., London, England. pp. 918.
  3. Soepadmo, E., Saw, L.G., Chung, R.C.K. & Kiew, R. (2011). Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak, Volume 7. Sabah Forestry Department, Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), Sarawak Forestry Department, Malaysia. pp. 450.
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