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Brachystegia floribunda Benth.

Hooker’s Icon. Pl. 14: sub t. 1359 (1881).
Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae)
Origin and geographic distribution
Brachystegia floribunda is distributed in DR Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Angola and Mozambique.
The inner bark is used for lashings. The wood is used for poles, rafters, planks, tool handles and mine props. In Malawi it is used as fuelwood and for making charcoal. The tree is browsed by livestock and is a source of feed for bees and edible caterpillars. In traditional medicine in Malawi a leaf infusion is used for the treatment of eye problems.
The durability of the wood is low.
Deciduous small tree up to 13(–25) m tall; bole up to 50 cm in diameter; outer bark shallowly fissured longitudinally or coarsely reticulate, flaking in thick rectangular scales, dark grey, inner bark reddish; crown at first thin, narrow, erect-branched, finally spreading and irregularly rounded; young branches pubescent or glabrous. Leaves alternate, 7–18 cm long, pendulous, paripinnately compound with 2–5 pairs of leaflets, the pairs widely spaced; stipules intrapetiolar, free, lanceolate, 5–30 mm × 1–8 mm, early caducous, without auricles; petiole (1.5–)2–7 cm long, slender, pulvinate; rachis (2.5–)3–8(–12) cm long, not or shallowly canaliculate above, margins neither raised nor winged; leaflets ovate, oblong, lanceolate, elliptical or falcate, (2–)3–8(–12) cm × (1–)2–3.5(–7) cm, usually increasing in size distally, base obliquely cuneate or truncate, apex acuminate, acute or retuse, glabrous. Inflorescence a terminal or axillary panicle up to 10 cm × 8 cm, mainly on older wood or leafless branchlets, hairy; bracts ovate, up to 3.5 mm × 3 mm. Flowers bisexual, greenish-white, fragrant; pedicel up to 3 mm long; bracteoles 2, valvate, obovate or circular, 4–6(–8) mm × 2.5–4(–5) mm; sepals 5, ovate to triangular, 2–3 mm × 1–2 mm, imbricate; petals 1–2, filiform or linear, up to 2 mm × 1 mm; stamens 10, united to 1–2 mm at the base, filaments 8–10 mm long; ovary superior, style 7–8 mm long. Fruit an oblong to obovate pod 8–14 cm × 2.5–4.5 cm, with a 5–8(–10) mm long beak, flattened, pendulous, thinly woody, smooth, deep brown, purple to blue-black, with sutural wings 3–5 mm wide, up to 8-seeded. Seeds oblong to circular, 10–20 mm × 10–15 mm, flattened.
In DR Congo Brachystegia floribunda flowers in (August–) September–October, and has ripe fruits in (June–)July–August.
Brachystegia is a taxonomically difficult genus comprising about 30 species, distributed in tropical Africa. Brachystegia bakeriana Hutch. & Burtt Davy is a deciduous shrub or small tree up to 6(–12) m tall, distributed in Zambia and Angola where it forms dense thickets on white Kalahari sands, or often pure stands on margins of wetlands. In Zambia the fibre from its inner bark is used for hut and fence construction and for tying bundles. Brachystegia bakeriana is classified as vulnerable in the IUCN Red list of threatened species, due to its limited distribution area and the decline of its habitat. Brachystegia stipulata De Wild. is a small tree up to 8(–9) m tall, distributed in DR Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. Its bark is made into cords and its wood is used in construction and for making charcoal.
Brachystegia floribunda occurs at 700–2100 m altitude in deciduous woodland, usually with an average annual rainfall above 1000 mm. It is locally abundant, usually dominant, often in pure stands, or co-dominant with Brachystegia spiciformis Benth., Brachystegia longifolia Benth., Julbernardia paniculata (Benth.) Troupin, Faurea saligna Harv. and Uapaca spp., less often with Brachystegia boehmii Taub., Julbernardia globiflora (Benth.) Troupin or Isoberlinia angolensis (Welw. ex Benth.) Hoyle & Brenan.
Genetic resources and breeding
As Brachystegia floribunda is fairly widely distributed and locally abundant, it seems not threatened with genetic erosion.
Brachystegia floribunda is a useful local resource, not only yielding fibre but also a range of other products. Detailed information on its properties is not available, making it difficult to assess the prospects of the species.
Major references
• Brenan, J.P.M., 1967. Leguminosae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae. In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 230 pp.
• Brummitt, R.K., Chikuni, A.C., Lock, J.M. & Polhill, R.M., 2007. Leguminosae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae. In: Timberlake, J.R., Pope, G.V., Polhill, R.M. & Martins, E.S. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 3, part 2. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 218 pp.
• Greenway, P.J., 1950. Vegetable fibres and flosses in East Africa. The East African Agricultural Journal 15(3): 146–153.
• Morris, B., 1996. Chewa medical botany. A study of herbalism in southern Malawi. Monographs from the International African Institute. LIT Verlag/Transaction, London, United Kingdom. 557 pp.
• Wilczek, R., Léonard, J., Hauman, L., Hoyle, A.C., Steyaert, R., Gilbert, G. & Boutique, R., 1952. Caesalpiniaceae. 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. 234–554.
Other references
• Abbot, P.G. & Lowore, J.D., 1999. Characteristics and management potential of some indigenous firewood species in Malawi. Forest Ecology and Management 119(1): 111–121.
• Bingham, M.H., 1990. An ethno-botanical survey of Senanga West. Senanga West Agricultural Development Area, Department of Agriculture, Republic of Zambia. 27 pp.
• Campbell, B., 1996. The miombo in transition: woodlands and welfare in Africa. Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia. 266 pp.
• Kambewa, P.S., Mataya, B.F., Sichinga, W.K. & Johnson, T.R., 2007. Charcoal, the reality: a study of charcoal consumption, trade and production in Malawi. Small and Medium Forestry Enterprise Series No 21. IIED, London, United Kingdom. 60 pp.
• Lawton, R.M., 1980. Browse in miombo woodland. In: Le Houérou, H.N. (Editor). Browse in Africa: the current state of knowledge. International Livestock Centre for Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. pp. 25–31.
• Malaisse, F., 1997. Se nourir en fôret claire africaine. Approche écologique et nutritionelle. Les presses agronomiques de Gembloux, Gembloux, Belgium & CTA, Wageningen, Netherlands. 384 pp.
• Missouri Botanical Garden, undated. VAST (VAScular Tropicos) nomenclatural database. [Internet] W3T/Search/ vast.html. Accessed April 2010.
• Phiri, P.S.M., 1998. Brachystegia bakeriana. In: IUCN. Red list of threatened species. Version 2010.1. [Internet] Accessed April 2010.
• Wickens, G.E., 1980. Alternative uses of browse species. In: Le Houérou, H.N. (Editor). Browse in Africa: the current state of knowledge. International Livestock Centre for Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. pp. 155–182.
M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
E.G. Achigan Dako
PROTA Network Office Africa, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), P.O. Box 30677-00100, Nairobi, Kenya

Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2010. Brachystegia floribunda Benth. In: Brink, M. & Achigan-Dako, E.G. (Editors). Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map wild