Prota 16: Fibres/Plantes à fibres
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.
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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.