Prota 7(2): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 2
Taxon 39: 676 (1990).
2n = 16
Enantia polycarpa (DC.) Engl. & Diels (1901).
African yellow wood, yellow wood (En). Moambe jaune (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Annickia polycarpa occurs from Sierra Leone east to Nigeria and western Cameroon.
The wood of Annickia polycarpa is used for house building, light flooring, interior trim, joinery, furniture, cabinet making, musical instruments such as xylophones, tool handles, ladders, paddles, shovels, toys, novelties, boxes, crates, canoes, carving and turnery. It is suitable for ship building, veneer and plywood.
The bark is extensively used for hut construction in West Africa, especially in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. It yields a bright yellow dye used for dyeing cloth, leather, mats, cotton and palm fibre. In southern Nigeria the fibrous bark is used for making cups. Various traditional medicines are prepared from the bark. In Côte d’Ivoire, a bark decoction is used as an antiseptic to treat sores, ulcers, leprosy and ophthalmia, whereas the Guéré people use a bark extract in arrow poison. In Liberia and Nigeria the bark is used for the treatment of skin infections and sores. In Sierra Leone bark decoctions are applied to ulcers and taken to treat jaundice. Bark decoctions are widely used to treat fever including malaria and to promote wound healing.
Production and international trade
The wood of Annickia polycarpa has no commercial value on the international market; it is locally used for domestic products.
The heartwood is bright yellow, gradually turning brown with age; it is not distinctly demarcated from the sapwood. The grain is straight, texture fine. The wood has lustrous surfaces. It is medium-weight with a density of about 580 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. The rates of shrinkage are low, from green to oven dry 2.1–3.0% radial and 3.6–5.0% tangential.
At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 98 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 12,350 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 47 N/mm², Janka side hardness 4625 N and Janka end hardness 8045 N.
Although the wood is soft, it is tough. It works easily with hand and machine tools, but splits easily. The wood polishes well and takes a good finish. It is easy to nail, usually without splitting, and holds nails firmly. The wood glues and stains well, and the peeling and slicing characteristics are good. It is not durable being susceptible to attacks by fungi, Lyctus borers, pinhole borers, termites and marine borers. The heartwood is moderately resistant to impregnation but the sapwood is easy to treat with preservatives.
The bark and leaves contain many biologically active alkaloids, most of them with an isoquinolic structure such as berberine and protoberberines. These compounds are probably responsible for the remarkable antitrypanosomal activity demonstrated in experiments. Quinine and dihydroquinidine have been isolated from the bark; this supports the traditional use against malaria in West Africa. Bark extracts showed antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae. The berberine alkaloids are responsible for the dyeing characteristics of the bark.
Adulterations and substitutes
The wood of Annickia affinis (Exell) Versteegh & Sosef is similar to that of Annickia polycarpa and used for similar purposes.
Small to medium-sized tree up to 20 m tall; bole usually straight and cylindrical, up to 40 cm in diameter, without buttresses; bark smooth to slightly rough or fissured, green to blackish, inner bark fibrous, bright yellow; crown often small with horizontal branches; twigs glabrous, pale brown. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 3–8 mm long; blade narrowly elliptical to obovate, 5–27 cm × 2–8 cm, cuneate at base, acuminate at apex, leathery, minutely hairy above, short-hairy with stellate hairs below, pinnately veined with 8–13 pairs of lateral veins. Flowers solitary on young shoots, bisexual, regular, 3-merous; pedicel 1–2(–2.5) cm long, short-hairy; sepals triangular, 1–2 cm long, hairy outside; petals opposite the sepals, elliptical, 2.5–3.5 cm long, fleshy, densely hairy and green outside, glabrous and yellow inside; stamens numerous, 3–3.5 mm long; carpels numerous, 2.5–3 mm long, hairy, stigma sessile. Fruit consisting of 5–55 indehiscent, ellipsoid to obovoid follicles 2–2.5 cm long, red to blackish when ripe, on reddish stalk up to 6 cm long, 1-seeded. Seed oblong to obovoid, slightly warty. Seedling with epigeal germination; hypocotyl 8–12 cm long, swollen at base, hairy, epicotyl 3–10 mm long, hairy; cotyledons remaining within the seed coat, leafy; first leaves opposite.
Other botanical information
Annickia is a small genus of 8 species nearly confined to West and Central Africa, but with one species endemic to north-eastern Tanzania. Annickia is characterized by having only 3 petals, which are opposite the sepals. The relationship with other genera in the family Annonaceae is still unclear.
Annickia ambigua (Robyns & Ghesq.) Setten & Maas (synonym: Enantia ambigua Robyns & Ghesq.) resembles Annickia polycarpa, but differs in slightly smaller flowers and shorter stiped follicles. It is a small tree up to 8(–12) m tall with bole up to 30 cm in diameter, occurring in southern Gabon, western Congo and western and central DR Congo. The wood resembles that of Annickia polycarpa and is used for similar purposes. The bark is used for treating wounds and as a dye.
The wood and bark of Annickia lebrunii (Robyns & Ghesq.) Setten & Maas (synonym: Enantia lebrunii Robyns & Ghesq.) are reportedly used for the same purposes. Annickia lebrunii is a small tree up to 10(–20) m tall with bole up to 25(–90) cm in diameter, occurring in Gabon (1 collection) and eastern DR Congo. Its wood is medium-weight, with a density of about 540 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content.
Annickia kummerae (Engl. & Diels) Setten & Maas (synonym: Enantia kummerae Engl. & Diels) is a medium-sized tree up to 30 m tall endemic to rainforest in north-eastern Tanzania. The wood is used for poles, implements and tool handles, and as firewood. The bark is used to dye mats yellowish and to treat wounds. Bark extracts showed strong antiplasmodial activity as well as moderate antitrypanosomal and antileishmanial activities. Annickia kummerae is classified as endangered in the IUCN Red List.
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); 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; 47: 5–20 vessels per square millimetre. Tracheids and fibres: 61: fibres with simple to minutely bordered pits; 66: non-septate fibres present; 69: fibres thin- to thick-walled. Axial parenchyma: 86: axial parenchyma in narrow bands or lines up to three cells wide; 88: axial parenchyma scalariform; 89: axial parenchyma in marginal or in seemingly marginal bands; 92: four (3–4) cells per parenchyma strand. Rays: 98: larger rays commonly 4- to 10-seriate; 102: ray height > 1 mm; (103: rays of two distinct sizes); 104: all ray cells procumbent; 106: body ray cells procumbent with one row of upright and/or square marginal cells; 114: ≤ 4 rays per mm; 115: 4–12 rays per mm.
(N.P. Mollel, P.E. Gasson & H. Beeckman)
Growth and development
Flowering occurs from March to August and fruits appear from December to July. However, in Sierra Leone flowers have been recorded in November and fruits from November to February. Ripe fruits are eaten by monkeys that may disperse the seeds.
Annickia polycarpa typically occurs in the middle story of evergreen and semi-deciduous forest. It avoids drier forest types, and is a shade bearer. It can be found in secondary forest, but does not tolerate forest fires.
Propagation and planting
There are about 800 seeds per kg. Germination of seeds usually starts after 3 weeks, and after about 1 month the germination rate is 90–100%.
Handling after harvest
Logs should be treated with preservatives immediately after harvesting because they are susceptible to attack by blue stain fungi.
Annickia polycarpa is fairly widespread and there are no indications of overexploitation, and therefore it does not seem to be threatened by genetic erosion.
Annickia polycarpa will continue to provide timber, dye and medicine for local uses. The usually small size of the bole and the low durability of the wood are serious drawbacks to increased usage as a timber tree. Several pharmacological properties deserve more research attention for potential drug development, especially the antitrypanosomal, antimalarial and antibacterial activities of the bark. More information is needed on natural regeneration and growth rates of Annickia polycarpa.
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Sources of illustration
• Versteegh, C.P.C. & Sosef, M.S.M., 2007. Revision of the African genus Annickia (Annonaceae). Systematics and Geography of Plants 77: 91–118.
Correct citation of this article:
Obeng, E.A, 2011. Annickia polycarpa (DC.) Setten & Maas. In: Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Louppe, D. & Oteng-Amoako, A.A. (Editors). Prota 7(2): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 2. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
1, flowering twig; 2, flower; 3, fruit.
Redrawn and adapted by Isaac Ossei Agyekumhene