Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois duvre 1
Oliv., Fl. trop. Afr. 2: 250 (1871).
Papilionaceae (Leguminosae - Papilionoideae, Fabaceae)
Gevire (Po). Mkuruti (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Baphia kirkii is restricted to coastal regions of Tanzania and to southern Mozambique.
The wood (trade names: baphia, camwood) is used for furniture (especially table and counter tops), heavy duty flooring and turnery. In tropical Africa it is used for construction of local houses and in boat building, but also for tool handles, pestles, stools and carvings, as firewood and in charcoal production. Baphia kirkii is planted as an avenue and ornamental shade tree. A root decoction is drunk to treat epilepsy.
Production and international trade
In the first half of 2004 there was still considerable export of Baphia kirkii logs from Tanzania, but in July 2004 a ban was imposed on the export of round wood.
The heartwood is purplish brown and contains red gum; the sapwood is yellowish white and up to 2 cm wide. The grain is straight or slightly wavy, texture fine and even. The wood has a peppery scent. It is heavy, with a density of 1280 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content, and hard. Shrinkage rates from green to 12% moisture content are 1.5% radial and 2.4% tangential. Green timber has a low moisture content, and air-drying is rapid with little degradation. The wood is difficult to work with machine tools, rapidly blunting saw teeth and cutters. It finishes and polishes very well. It is resilient with good weathering properties. The durability is high, the wood being only rarely attacked by marine borers and termites. The sapwood is not susceptible to Lyctus borer attack. The heartwood is impermeable to preservatives.
Medium-sized tree up to 27 m tall; bole up to 15 m long, with a diameter up to 0.9 m, irregular in form with deep fluting at the base; outer bark grey-brown; crown rounded, much-branched; twigs pendulous, rusty brown hairy but glabrescent. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules early caducous; petiole 13 cm long, thickened at base and top; blade broadly ovate to elliptical, 414 cm Χ 1.57 cm, cuneate to shallowly cordate at base, obtuse to acuminate at apex, leathery, glabrous, pinnately veined with 58 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary raceme 3.57.5 cm long, often grouped into panicle-like leafy inflorescences at the ends of branches. Flowers bisexual, papilionaceous; pedicel 6.518 mm long, hairy; calyx 915 mm long, 2-lobed, sparsely brown hairy; corolla with almost orbicular standard up to 20(25) mm in diameter, white with yellow blotch at base, wings and keel white with a pocket near the base; stamens 10, free, up to 16 mm long; ovary superior, glabrous, style incurved. Fruit an ellipsoid-oblong pod 7.516.5 cm Χ 2.55 cm, flattened, woody, pale brown, dehiscing with 2 valves, 12-seeded. Seeds lens-shaped, 1.52.5 cm Χ 12 cm, black or dark brown.
Baphia comprises about 45 species and is restricted to Africa, including Madagascar where 2 species are found. The distribution area of Baphia kirkii is disjunct, the two sub-areas separated by about 1500 km. Plants from Tanzania are considered to belong to subsp. kirkii, those from Mozambique to subsp. ovata (Sim) Soladoye (synonym: Baphia ovata Sim), differing in slightly smaller flowers and more hairy calyx.
The wood of some other Baphia species is used for similar purposes as that of Baphia kirkii, but most species are of too small size to be important. The best known timber species is Baphia nitida Lodd. (camwood), but the use of the red dye from its wood is more important. Baphia capparidifolia Baker belongs to the same section as Baphia kirkii. This widespread species, occurring from Guinea to western Tanzania and Zambia and in Madagascar, is usually a climbing or scrambling shrub of which the wood is nevertheless used for walking sticks and as supports for fishing nets. Its leaves are used to treat fever and are given to pregnant women when the foetus develops too slowly. The wood of Baphia laurifolia Baill., a shrub or small to medium-sized tree up to 20 m tall occurring from eastern Nigeria to central DR Congo, is used in Gabon for kitchen implements.
Baphia kirkii occurs in coastal forest, thickets and savanna up to 400(900) m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
The distribution area of Baphia kirkii consists of two small regions and the species can easily become endangered with ongoing logging activities. It has been classified by IUCN as vulnerable. Monitoring of the existing populations is recommended.
There is very little information on wood properties, growth and propagation of Baphia kirkii, although it is a locally favoured source of timber. Research on these aspects is desired, as well as on proper management methods of natural stands.
Bryce, J.M., 1967. The commercial timbers of Tanzania. Tanzania Forest Division, Utilisation Section, Moshi, Tanzania. 139 pp.
Milledge, S., 2005. Managing a logging boom in Tanzania. Traffic Dispatches 24: 9.
Soladoye, M.O., 1985. A revision of Baphia (Leguminosae - Papilionoideae). Kew Bulletin 40: 291386.
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.
Gillett, J.B., Polhill, R.M., Verdcourt, B., Schubert, B.G., Milne-Redhead, E., & Brummitt, R.K., 1971. Leguminosae (Parts 34), subfamily Papilionoideae (12). In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 1108 pp.
Lovett, J. & Clarke, G.P., 1998. Baphia kirkii. In: IUCN. 2006 Red list of threatened species. [Internet] http://www.iucnredlist.org. Accessed 2006.
Lovett, J.C., Ruffo, C.K., Gereau, R.E. & Taplin, J.R.D., 2006. Field guide to the moist forest trees of Tanzania. [Internet] Centre for Ecology Law and Policy, Environment Department, University of York, York, United Kingdom. http://www.york.ac.uk/ res/celp/webpages/projects/ecology/ tree%20guide/guide.htm. Accessed August 2006.
Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
Raponda-Walker, A. & Sillans, R., 1961. Les plantes utiles du Gabon. Paul Lechevalier, Paris, France. 614 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2007. Baphia kirkii Baker. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois duvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.