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Albizia gummifera (J.F.Gmel.) C.A.Sm.

Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1930(5): 218 (1930).
Mimosaceae (Leguminosae - Mimosoideae)
Albizia sassa (Willd.) Chiov. (1912).
Vernacular names
Peacock flower, smooth-bark flat-crown (En). Farroba de Lala, mpepe (Po). Mkenge, mchapia tumbili, mchani mbao, mshai (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Albizia gummifera is widespread, occurring from eastern Nigeria to western Ethiopia and Kenya, and south to Zimbabwe and Mozambique; also in central Madagascar.
The wood (trade names: red nongo, mepepe, omulera) is used for light construction, furniture, cabinet work and various implements. It is also suitable for mine props, light flooring, joinery, interior trim, panelling, framing, toys and novelties, sporting goods, boxes, crates, carvings, peeled and sliced veneer, plywood, hardboard and particle board. Logs are traditionally used for the construction of canoes. The wood is sometimes used as firewood and for making charcoal. The wood pulp is suitable for paper production.
Albizia gummifera is planted as an ornamental shade tree. It is valued as a shade tree for crops, e.g. in coffee plantations in Ethiopia, tea plantations in Malawi and vanilla plantations in Madagascar, and is also planted or retained for soil conservation and improvement. The gum from the bark is sometimes used in confectionery.
Various plant parts are used in traditional medicine. In Kenya a bark infusion is taken to treat malaria, in Uganda to hasten parturition. The pounded bark is used in Kenya as a snuff to treat headache, and in Tanzania it is applied externally to treat scabies. In eastern DR Congo a bark maceration is used as a body wash and drink to treat psoriasis. The roots and leaves are purgative and are used in Madagascar to treat diarrhoea and eye troubles. In Malawi roots are soaked in water for 10 minutes, and the liquid is drunk to relieve the pain caused by sprains. In Madagascar a leaf decoction is reputed to have antitussive activity and is administered to treat asthma; leaves are applied to sores and fractures. In Kenya pounded roots are added to a bath to treat skin diseases, and an extract of crushed pods is drunk to treat stomach-ache. In Uganda roots are used to treat sleeping sickness. The foliage is browsed by goats. The flowers produce nectar for bees, which often build nests in the trunk. The leaves are said to quicken the ripening of bananas.
Production and international trade
The timber of Albizia gummifera is mainly used locally and probably not much traded internationally. Production and trade statistics are not available.
The heartwood is yellowish brown or reddish brown, often with a golden tinge, and distinctly demarcated from the 7–10 cm wide pale yellow or white sapwood. The grain is straight or interlocked, texture medium to coarse. Quarter-sawn surfaces are often striped.
The wood properties of Albizia gummifera are variable and depend on the origin of the wood, that from Madagascar being heaviest and strongest. The wood is moderately light to moderately heavy, with a density of 430–800 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. It dries slowly, but generally with little degrade. The shrinkage rates from green to oven dry are 2.9–3.5% radial and 8.2–8.7% tangential. Once dry, the wood is fairly stable in service. At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture was 75 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 8900 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 40.5 N/mm², shear 12 N/mm², cleavage 82 N/mm and Janka side hardness 2840 N in a test of wood from Uganda.
The wood generally saws and works fairly easily with ordinary hand and machine tools, but sawn and planed surfaces tend to pick up. The use of a filler is necessary to obtain a good finish. The wood holds nails and screws well and does not split easily. The gluing and staining properties are satisfactory, and steam bending properties moderate. The wood dust may cause irritation to nose and throat.
Reports on durability of the heartwood are contradictory, but in general it is susceptible to fungal, wood borer and termite attack. The heartwood is resistant to impregnation by preservatives.
In an experiment in Ethiopia, the leaves and twigs of Albizia gummifera contained per 100 g dry matter: N 3.8 g, P 0.2 g, K 1.5 g, lignin 26 g, soluble polyphenols 8.5 g; they had a C/N ratio of 12. Mulching a maize crop with the leaves and twigs resulted in a smaller yield increase than green manure of the other species tested, probably due to the low P and K content of the Albizia gummifera green manure.
A dichloromethane extract of Albizia gummifera root bark showed considerable in-vitro antitrypanosomal activity, with an IC50 value of 0.07 μg/ml, which confirms its use as a traditional treatment of sleeping sickness. Extracts also showed in-vitro antimalarial activity against Plasmodium falciparum, although much less than chloroquine used as reference drug. The presence of triterpenoid saponins, sapogenin lactones and macrocyclic spermine alkaloids (budmunchiamines) has been reported for the stem bark. These last compounds were active against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.
Adulterations and substitutes
The wood of Albizia zygia (DC.) J.F.Macbr. is very similar to that of Albizia gummifera and is used for the same purposes.
Medium-sized deciduous tree up to 30 m tall; bole straight and cylindrical, up to 75(–100) cm in diameter, without buttresses or with small, thick buttresses; bark yellowish to grey, usually smooth, inner bark with clear gum; crown flattened; young branches finely pubescent, but soon glabrescent. Leaves alternate, bipinnately compound with (3–)5–7(–8) pairs of pinnae; stipules lanceolate, up to 7 mm long, caducous; petiole 2.5–4.5 cm long, near the base of upper side with a sessile gland, rachis 4.5–11 cm long, pubescent; leaflets in 6–17 pairs per pinna, sessile, obliquely rhombic, up to 2 cm × 1 cm, often auricled at proximal side of base, obtuse to acute at apex, glabrous but with some hairs on midrib and margins. Inflorescence an axillary head on a 2.5–5 cm long peduncle. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, reddish white, almost sessile, subtended by up to 6 mm long, caducous bracteoles; calyx obconical, 2–5 mm long, minutely pubescent outside; corolla 7–12 mm long, with 4.5–6 mm long tube, pubescent outside; stamens numerous, 2.5–3.5 cm long, united into a tube for most of their length, white in lower part and reddish in upper part; ovary superior, ellipsoid, 1.5–2.5 mm long, gradually tapering into a 2.5–3.5 cm long style. Fruit an oblong, flat pod 10–21 cm × 2–4 cm, with stipe c. 1 cm long, glabrous, transversely veined, pale brown to reddish brown when ripe, opening with 2 papery valves, 9–12-seeded. Seeds flattened globose to broadly oblong, 8–12 mm × 7–10 mm.
Other botanical information
Albizia comprises about 120 species and occurs throughout the tropics. Approximately 35 species are found in continental Africa and about 30 in Madagascar. It is characterized by the head-like inflorescence, with 1–2 central flowers modified, functionally male and having a larger, nectar-producing staminal tube. Molecular analyses showed that Albizia is heterogeneous, and a revision of the genus is needed. Albizia gummifera is related to Albizia zygia, and hybrids between the two species have been recorded. Albizia gummifera is frequently confused with Albizia adianthifolia (Schumach.) W.Wight, which differs in its pubescent leaflets and pods.
Albizia grandibracteata Taub. is another closely related species. Like that of Albizia gummifera, its wood is known under the trade name ‘red nongo’. It differs from Albizia gummifera in having fewer leaflets per pinna (as in Albizia zygia) and broad bracts and stipules. Hybrids between Albizia gummifera and Albizia grandibracteata have been recorded. Albizia grandibracteata occurs in eastern DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, southern Sudan, south-western Ethiopia, western Kenya, Uganda and northern Tanzania. Its wood is similar to that of Albizia gummifera and used for the same purposes. It is also used as firewood and for charcoal production. In DR Congo a leaf infusion, together with other ingredients, is used in a vapour bath to treat fever, in Uganda the pounded leaf is taken mixed with other ingredients to treat diarrhoea, and in Kenya a root infusion is drunk to treat tonsillitis. A methanolic extract of leaves of Albizia grandibracteata and saponins isolated from this extract have shown in-vitro antitumour activity against KB and MCF7 cell lines. Like Albizia gummifera, Albizia grandibracteata is planted as an ornamental and shade tree, and to improve the soil.
Albizia viridis E.Fourn., a tree up to 20 m tall from Madagascar, may be confused with Albizia gummifera because of its obliquely rhombic leaflets, but it differs in having stipels at the base of pinnae and stamens united at base in a much shorter tube. In northern and eastern Madagascar the wood of Albizia viridis is used for flooring and furniture. Albizia mahalao Capuron is close to Albizia viridis, but has oblong to elliptical leaflets (not rhombic). It is a small tree up to 10(–15) m tall, rather frequent on sandy soils in southern Madagascar. Its wood is used for construction. Albizia mainaea Villiers is a small tree up to 15 m tall with a bole diameter up to 60 cm, widespread in western and southern Madagascar. It resembles Albizia gummifera, but can be distinguished by its grooved leaf rachis, almost completely glabrous leaflets and pubescent pods. Its wood is brown and hard and used for construction and canoes.
Wood-anatomical description (IAWA hardwood codes):
Growth rings: (1: growth ring boundaries distinct); (2: growth ring boundaries indistinct or absent). Vessels: 5: wood diffuse-porous; 13: simple perforation plates; 22: intervessel pits alternate; 23?: shape of alternate pits polygonal; 25: intervessel pits small (4–7 μm); 26: intervessel pits medium (7–10 μm); 29: vestured pits; 30: vessel-ray pits with distinct borders; similar to intervessel pits in size and shape throughout the ray cell; 42: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 100–200 μm; 43: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 200 μm; 46: 5 vessels per square millimetre; (47: 5–20 vessels per square millimetre); 58: gums and other deposits in heartwood vessels. Tracheids and fibres: 61: fibres with simple to minutely bordered pits; 65: septate fibres present; 66: non-septate fibres present; 69: fibres thin- to thick-walled. Axial parenchyma: 76: axial parenchyma diffuse; (79: axial parenchyma vasicentric); 80: axial parenchyma aliform; 81: axial parenchyma lozenge-aliform; (83: axial parenchyma confluent); (90: fusiform parenchyma cells); 91: two cells per parenchyma strand; 92: four (3–4) cells per parenchyma strand. Rays: 98: larger rays commonly 4- to 10-seriate; 104: all ray cells procumbent; (114: 4 rays per mm); 115: 4–12 rays per mm. Mineral inclusions: 136: prismatic crystals present; 142: prismatic crystals in chambered axial parenchyma cells.
(P. Mugabi, A.A. Oteng-Amoako & P. Baas)
Growth and development
Trees are capable of growing rapidly. The roots develop nitrogen-fixing nodules containing Bradyrhizobium bacteria. Albizia gummifera trees live in association with arbuscular mycorrhizae.
Albizia gummifera occurs in rainforest and riverine forest, sometimes also in savanna vegetation close to forest, usually at higher altitudes, up to 2500 m, but sometimes near sea-level. It is locally common. In Zimbabwe it is reportedly fire resistant and only slightly sensitive to frost.
Propagation and planting
Seeds for planting should be collected from the trees before the pods dehisce, to avoid insect damage. There are 10,000–15,000 seeds per kg. Fresh seeds may have a germination rate of up to 80% in 3–10 days, and do not require pre-treatment. However, in Ethiopia seedcoat-induced dormancy has been recorded, hampering complete, rapid and uniform germination. Scarification improves the germination capacity and vigour of the seeds. Seeds can be stored for more than one year in a sealed container in a cool place, after adding ash to reduce insect damage. Stored seeds should be soaked in water before planting. A fine and firm seedbed is required for even germination and vigorous seedling growth. Wildlings are sometimes collected for planting.
The addition of NPK fertilizer is recommended for seedlings. In planting experiments in Ethiopia, Albizia gummifera showed a survival rate of 94%. Young planted trees can be managed by coppicing and lopping. They are often damaged by strong wind, from which they should be protected.
Handling after harvest
Freshly harvested logs float in water and can be transported by river. Treatment of the logs with preservatives is necessary if they are to be left in the forest for some time, to avoid damage by fungi or insects.
Genetic resources
Albizia gummifera is widespread and locally common, also in secondary forest. It is therefore not easily liable to genetic erosion.
Albizia gummifera is a multipurpose species. It seems to have good prospects as a commercial timber tree in sustainably managed forests and in afforestation projects. Further tests are needed to confirm its promise as an auxiliary tree in agroforestry systems. Once adequate vegetative propagation techniques have been developed, Albizia gummifera deserves to be promoted for planting.
Major references
• Bekele-Tesemma, A., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 1993. Useful trees and shrubs for Ethiopia: identification, propagation and management for agricultural and pastoral communities. Technical Handbook No 5. Regional Soil Conservation Unit/SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 474 pp.
• Bolza, E. & Keating, W.G., 1972. African timbers: the properties, uses and characteristics of 700 species. Division of Building Research, CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia. 710 pp.
• Burkill, H.M., 1995. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 3, Families J–L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 857 pp.
• du Puy, D.J., Labat, J.N., Rabevohitra, R., Villiers, J.-F., Bosser, J. & Moat, J., 2002. The Leguminosae of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 750 pp.
• Katende, A.B., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 1995. Useful trees and shrubs for Uganda: identification, propagation and management for agricultural and pastoral communities. Technical Handbook 10. Regional Soil Conservation Unit, Nairobi, Kenya. 710 pp.
• Keay, R.W.J., 1989. Trees of Nigeria. A revised version of Nigerian trees (1960, 1964) by R.W.J. Keay, C.F.A. Onochie and D.P. Stanfield. Clarendon Press, Oxford, United Kingdom. 476 pp.
• Takahashi, A., 1978. Compilation of data on the mechanical properties of foreign woods (part 3) Africa. Shimane University, Matsue, Japan, 248 pp.
• Thulin, M., 1989. Fabaceae (Leguminosae). In: Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia. Volume 3. Pittosporaceae to Araliaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 49–251.
• Tigabu, M. & Oden, P.C., 2001. Effect of scarification, gibberellic acid and temperature on seed germination of two multipurpose Albizia species from Ethiopia. Seed Science and Technology 29(1): 11–20.
• World Agroforestry Centre, undated. Agroforestree Database. [Internet] World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi, Kenya. Sites/TreeDBS/ aft.asp. Accessed September 2006.
Other references
• Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
• Brenan, J.P.M., 1970. Leguminosae (Mimosoideae). In: Brenan, J.P.M. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 3, part 1. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 153 pp.
• Chifundera, K., 2001. Contribution to the inventory of medicinal plants from the Bushi area, South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. Fitoterapia 72: 351–368.
• Coates Palgrave, K., 1983. Trees of southern Africa. 2nd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 959 pp.
• Debella, A., Haslinger, E., Schmid, M.G., Bucar, F., Michl, G., Abebe, D. & Kunert, O., 2000. Triterpenoid saponins and sapogenin lactones from Albizia gummifera. Phytochemistry 53(8): 885–892.
• Debray, M., Jacquemin, H. & Razafindrambao, R., 1971. Contribution à l’inventaire des plantes médicinales de Madagascar. Travaux et Documents No 8. ORSTOM, Paris, France. 150 pp.
• Decary, R., 1946. Plantes et animaux utiles de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille, 54e année, 6e série, 4e volume, 1er et dernier fascicule. 234 pp.
• Eggeling, W.J. & Dale, I.R., 1951. The indigenous trees of the Uganda Protectorate. Government Printer, Entebbe, Uganda. 491 pp.
• Freiburghaus, F., Ogwal, E.N., Nkunya, M.H.H., Kaminsky, R. & Brun, R., 1996. In vitro antitrypanosomal activity of African plants used in traditional medicine in Uganda to treat sleeping sickness. Tropical Medecine and International Health 1(6): 765–771.
• Gilbert, G. & Boutique, R., 1952. Mimosaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 3. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 137–233.
• Hamill, F.A., Apio, S., Mubiru, N.K., Mosango, M., Bukenya-Ziraba, R., Maganyi, O.W. & Soejarto, D.D., 2000. Traditional herbal drugs of southern Uganda, 1. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 70: 281–300.
• Hines, D.A. & Eckman, K., 1993. Indigenous multipurpose trees for Tanzania: uses and economic benefits for people. FAO Forestry Paper, Rome, Italy.
• InsideWood, undated. [Internet] Accessed May 2007.
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
• Krief, S., Thoison, O., Sevenet, T., Wrangham, R.W. & Lavaud, C., 2005. Triterpenoid saponin anthranilates from Albizia grandibracteata leaves ingested by primates in Uganda. Journal of Natural Products 68(6): 897–903.
• Maundu, P., Berger, D., Saitabau, C., Nasieku, J., Kipelian, M., Mathenge, S., Morimoto, Y. & Höft, R., 2001. Ethnobotany of the Loita Maasai. Towards community management of the forest of the Lost Child. Experiences from the Loita Ethnobotany Project. UNESCO People and Plants Working Paper 8, Paris, France. 34 pp.
• Ofulla, A.V.O., Rukunga, G.M., Chege, G.M.M., Kiarie, F., Muthaura, C.N., Githure, J.I. & Kofi Tsekpo, W.M., 1996. Antimalarial activity of fractions isolated from Albizia gummifera and Aspilia mossambicensis crude extracts. African Journal of health Sciences 3(2): 44–46.
• Rukunga, G.M. & Waterman, P.G., 1996. New macrocyclic spermine (budmunchiamine) alkaloids from Albizia gummifera: with some observations on the structure-activity relationships of the budmunchiamines. Journal of Natural Products 59(9): 850–853.
• Sommerlatte, H. & Sommerlatte, M., 1990. A field guide to the trees and shrubs of the Imatong Mountains, southern Sudan. Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammmenarbeit (GTZ), Nairobi, Kenya. 372 pp.
• Williamson, J., 1955. Useful plants of Nyasaland. The Government Printer, Zomba, Nyasaland. 168 pp.
• Wubet, T., Kottke, I., Demel Teketay & Oberwinkler, F., 2003. Mycorrhizal status of indigenous trees in dry Afromontane forests of Ethiopia. Forest Ecology and Management 179: 387–399.
Sources of illustration
• Coates Palgrave, O.H., 1957. Trees of Central Africa. National Publications Trust, Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia. 466 pp.
A. Maroyi
Department of Biological Sciences, Bindura University of Science Education, P.B. 1020, Bindura, Zimbabwe

D. Louppe
CIRAD, Département Environnements et Sociétés, Cirad es-dir, Campus international de Baillarguet, TA C-DIR / B (Bât. C, Bur. 113), 34398 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
A.A. Oteng-Amoako
Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), University P.O. Box 63, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana
M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
J.R. Cobbinah
Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), University P.O. Box 63, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana
Photo editor
G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Maroyi, A., 2007. Albizia gummifera (J.F.Gmel.) C.A.Sm. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map wild

1, leafy twig; 2, flowering twig; 3, leaflet; 4, fruit.
Redrawn and adapted by Achmad Satiri Nurhaman

tree habit



flowering tree

flowering branch
obtained from

obtained from


wood in transverse section

wood in tangential section

wood in radial section