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Canarium madagascariense Engl.

A.DC., Monogr. phan. 4: 111 (1883).
Canarium pulchebracteatum Guillaumin (1909).
Vernacular names
Ramy, aramy (Fr). Mpafu, mbani (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Canarium madagascariense occurs in Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar.
In Madagascar, where Canarium madagascariense is known as ‘ramy’, the wood is used for dugout canoes, boxes, crates, construction, tool handles, matches, everyday furniture and hidden parts of fine furniture, veneer, plywood, hardboard and particle board. It is also considered suitable for joinery, interior trim, turnery, and sometimes for flooring, poles and piles. The dry heartwood is used to make torches, and the wood is used for making charcoal.
The fruits are eaten, especially by children, and the roasted seeds are eaten like groundnuts. The resin is used for caulking boats, as glue, and for trapping birds and small mammals. It has been used in perfumes and paints, and it is used in the manufacture of incense used during religious ceremonies. It is a stimulant and its activity increases when pickled in alcohol. The resin is used medicinally for the treatment of urinary complaints, dental caries, rheumatism, wounds, and as a disinfectant. After heating its vapour is inhaled against headache and other pain, and immersion in its vapour is believed to protect against infections. The resin is sometimes used as an insecticide. Canarium madagascariense serves as an ornamental and shade tree.
Production and international trade
The wood is sometimes exported from Madagascar.
The heartwood is pinkish brown; it is not distinctly demarcated from the greyish sapwood, which is up to 5 cm wide. Freshly cut wood often has a bluish tinge. The grain may be straight but is fairly often interlocked or spiral, the texture medium to coarse. The wood is lustrous and contains an oleoresin.
The wood has a density of 510–690 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. It air dries well. Planks 25 mm thick can be dried to 30% moisture content in 2 months under humid lowland conditions in Madagascar, whereas it takes about 1 month under higher altitude conditions. The rates of shrinkage are high, from green to oven dry (2.8–)5.1–8.0% radial and (6.4–)7.5–10.8% tangential.
At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 105–162 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 10, 300–14,800 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 41–56(–65) N/mm², shear 5–12 N/mm², cleavage (6–)12–23 N/mm and Chalais-Meudon side hardness (1.8–)2.2–4.0.
The wood is sometimes difficult to saw due to high silica content, but normally works easily, with only a slight blunting effect on cutting edges. It nails well, but has poor nail holding properties. It glues easily, takes paint well, stains well and has good veneering properties, but the use of filler is recommended.
The wood is not durable, being liable to attacks by insects, including termites, and fungi. The sapwood is susceptible to Lyctus borers. The heartwood is extremely resistant to impregnation, but the sapwood can be treated with preservatives. The wood is resistant to sea water.
The fruit pulp has a somewhat sweet taste; it contains up to 60% fat.
Deciduous, dioecious, medium-sized to fairly large tree up to 37 m tall; bole straight, branchless for up to 27 m, up to 200 cm in diameter, often buttressed; bark surface smooth or rough, fissured, brown or greyish, bark containing a turpentine-odoured, white, clear resin turning yellowish on hardening; crown round, with spreading branches; young branches, petiole, rachis and inflorescence covered with ferruginous hairs. Leaves alternate, imparipinnately compound with 2–9 pairs of leaflets, up to 25(–55) cm long; stipules absent; petiole up to 7 cm long; petiolules 0.5–3 cm long, hairy; leaflets opposite, ovate-oblong to oblong, 4–20 cm × 2.5–10 cm, the lower pairs smaller and often stipule-like, base rounded to slightly cordate, apex bluntly acuminate, margin entire or wavy, glabrous, but midvein densely hairy below, pinnately veined with 7–20 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence a terminal or axillary panicle, spreading, up to 35 cm long (female inflorescences smaller than male ones), with flowers in clusters of 6–15. Flowers unisexual, regular; pedicel 1(–6) mm long; calyx 2–4(–8) mm long, campanulate, 3-lobed, densely hairy outside; petals 3, free, oblong, c. 5(–10) mm × 3(–8) mm, keeled, white, hairy outside; stamens 6, 2–3 mm long, reduced in female flowers; ovary superior, 3-celled, absent or vestigial in male flowers. Fruit an ovoid-ellipsoid drupe up to 5.5 cm × 3 cm, purple when ripe, indehiscent, with yellow, aromatic, fleshy pulp enclosing a trigonous stone 2–3 cm × 1.5–2 cm, with 3 minor ridges on each side, up to 3-seeded. Seeds compressed narrowly ovoid, up to 2.5 cm × 1 cm, brown. Seedling with epigeal germination; cotyledons divided into 3 linear-elliptical leaflets, lateral leaflets sometimes also deeply divided.
Other botanical information
Canarium comprises about 80 species distributed in high-rainfall areas in the Old World tropics; it is most common in South-East Asia, with only 3–4 species in tropical Africa. However, the genus is currently under revision, and preliminary estimates indicate that about 30 species are present in Madagascar, most of which have still to be described.
Canarium madagascariense is extremely variable, and it has sometimes been divided into various species and wood types (e.g. ‘white ramy’ and ‘red ramy’). Within Canarium madagascariense several subspecies have tentatively been distinguished, with subsp. madagascariense (synonyms: Canarium liebertianum Engl., Canarium multiflorum Engl.) occurring in East Africa and Madagascar, and subsp. obtusifolium (Scott-Elliot) Leenh. (synonyms: Canarium boivinii Engl., Canarium obtusifolium Scott-Elliot) and subsp. bullatum Leenh. in Madagascar only.
Canarium paniculatum (Lam.) Benth. ex Engl. (vernacular name: ‘bois colophane’) is a tree up to 25 m tall, with a bole up to 2 m in diameter. It is endemic to Mauritius, where it occurs occasionally in the remnants of native forest in upland regions. Its wood has been used in construction. The resin is known as ‘élemi de Maurice’. A leaf poultice and the resin are applied to body parts affected by rheumatism; the leaf poultice is also applied on ulcerations. Extracts of the stem, wood and bark have shown antibacterial activity. Canarium paniculatum is now highly threatened and is classified as endangered in the 2007 IUCN Red list.
Wood-anatomical description (IAWA hardwood codes):
Growth rings: 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; 26: intervessel pits medium (7–10 μm); 27: intervessel pits large ( 10 μm); 32: vessel-ray pits with much reduced borders to apparently simple: pits horizontal (scalariform, gash-like) to vertical (palisade); 42: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 100–200 μm; 47: 5–20 vessels per square millimetre; 56: tyloses common. Tracheids and fibres: 61: fibres with simple to minutely bordered pits; 65: septate fibres present; 68: fibres very thin-walled; 69: fibres thin- to thick-walled. Axial parenchyma: 75: axial parenchyma absent or extremely rare; 78: axial parenchyma scanty paratracheal; 92: four (3–4) cells per parenchyma strand. Rays: 97: ray width 1–3 cells; 106: body ray cells procumbent with one row of upright and/or square marginal cells; 115: 4–12 rays per mm. Secretory elements and cambial variants: 130: radial canals. Mineral inclusions: 136: prismatic crystals present; 137: prismatic crystals in upright and/or square ray cells.
(M. Thiam, P. Détienne & E.A. Wheeler)
Growth and development
In Madagascar Canarium madagascariense flowers mainly in October–January. The fruits and seeds are important elements in the diets of lemurs and other small mammals.
In Madagascar Canarium madagascariense occurs widespread but scattered in moist and dry forests, especially along watercourses, from sea-level up to 2000 m altitude. In Tanzania it is rare in forest remnants on sandy soils in shallow river valleys, from sea-level up to 300 m altitude, in areas with an average annual rainfall of about 1000 mm.
In a forest inventory in north-western Madagascar (altitude 220 m), a one-hectare plot contained 34 Canarium madagascariense trees with a diameter of 10 cm or more.
Genetic resources
Canarium madagascariense seems to be approaching extinction in Tanzania. It does not seem to be threatened in Madagascar.
In Madagascar Canarium madagascariense is a useful multipurpose tree, and, despite the poor durability of the wood, it is a valued native species for commercial forestry in Madagascar, due to the large size of the tree. It seems worthwhile to explore the potential for plantations of the species, but no information is available on appropriate propagation techniques and management practices. Research in these areas is therefore needed.
Major references
• 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.
• Guéneau, P. & Guéneau, D., 1969. Propriétés physiques et mécaniques des bois malgaches. Cahiers scientifiques No 2, Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 51 pp.
• Gillett, J.B., 1991. Burseraceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 95 pp.
• Guéneau, P., Bedel, J. & Thiel, J., 1970–1975. Bois et essences malgaches. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 150 pp.
• Leenhouts, P.W., 1959. Revision of the Burseraceae of the Malaysian area in a wider sense. 10a. Canarium Stickm. Blumea 9(2): 275–647.
• Parant, B., Chichignoud, M. & Rakotovao, G., 1985. Présentation graphique des caractères des principaux bois tropicaux. Tome 5. Bois de Madagascar. CIRAD, Montpellier, France. 161 pp.
• Perrier de la Bâthie, H., 1946. Burséracées (Burseraceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), famille 106. Imprimerie Officielle, Tananarive, Madagascar. 50 pp.
• Raharimampionona, J., 2003. Canarium madagascariense. Ravintsara 1(3): 15.
• Raharimampionona, J., Phillipson, P.B., Daly, D.C. & Lowry, P.P., 2007. Taxonomic studies on Burseraceae in Madagascar. Abstracts of the 18th AETFAT congress, Yaoundé, Cameroon, 26 February–2 March 2007. p. 44.
• Sallenave, P., 1971. Propriétés physiques et mecaniques des bois tropicaux. Deuxième supplément. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 128 pp.
Other references
• Andriamahery, M., 1994. Aperçu sur l’utilisation des plantes médicinales par la communauté rurale de la région d’Andasibe. Thèse pour l'obtention du grade de Docteur en médecine, Etablissement d'Enseignement Supérieur des Sciences de la Santé, Faculté de Médecine Université d'Antananarivo, Madagascar. 74 pp.
• Andriamihaja, S., 1986. Essai d’inventaire des plantes medicino-dentaires malgaches (Tome I). Rapport du Mission Française de Coopération et d’Action Culturelle & Ministère de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique pour le Développement de la République Malagasy. 316 pp.
• Boiteau, P., Boiteau, M. & Allorge-Boiteau, L., 1999. Dictionnaire des noms malgaches de végétaux. 4 Volumes + Index des noms scientifiques avec leurs équivalents malgaches. Editions Alzieu, Grenoble, France.
• Coode, M.J.E., 1979. Burséracées. In: Bosser, J., Cadet, T., Julien, H.R. & Marais, W. (Editors). Flore des Mascareignes. Familles 64–68. The Sugar Industry Research Institute, Mauritius, l’Office de la Recherche Scientifique Outre-Mer, Paris, France & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 8 pp.
• d’Amico, C. & Gautier, L., 2000. Inventory of a 1-ha lowland rainforest plot in Manongarivo (NW Madagascar). Candollea 55(2): 319–340.
• Gachathi, N., 1999. Recent advances on classification and status of the main gum-resin producing species in the family Burseraceae. In: Mugah, J.O., Chikamai, B.N., Mbiru, S.S. & Casadei, E. (Editors). Conservation, management and utilization of plant gums, resins, and essential oils. Proceedings of a Regional conference for Africa held in Nairobi, Kenya 6–10 October 1997. pp. 18–22.
• Grenfell, S., 1999. Complexe Manongarivo / Tsaratanana. Plan de gestion. Rapport de l'Association National pour la Gestion des Aires Protégées (ANGAP). pp. 39–42.
• Guéneau, P., 1971. Bois de Madagascar. Possibilités d’emploi. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Antananarivo, Madagascar. 75 pp.
• Gurib-Fakim, A. & Brendler, T., 2004. Medicinal and aromatic plants of Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles and Mascarenes. Medpharm, Stuttgart, Germany. 568 pp.
• Gurib-Fakim, A., Marie, D. & Narod, F., 2005. The pharmacological properties of the isolated bioactive compounds from endemic medicinal plants of Mauritius. Acta Horticulturae 675: 133–137.
• Holloway, L., 2004. Ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation in Madagascar. Ecological Restoration 22(2): 113–119.
• InsideWood, undated. [Internet] Accessed May 2007.
• Lovett, J.C., Ruffo, C.K., Gereau, R.E. & Taplin, J.R.D., 2007. Field guide to the moist forest trees of Tanzania. [Internet] Centre for Ecology Law and Policy, Environment Department, University of York, York, United Kingdom. res/celp/webpages/projects/ecology/ tree%20guide/guide.htm. Accessed January 2008.
• Raharimampionona, J., 2006. Canarium. A Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Madagascar. [Internet] florataxon.aspx?flora_id=12&taxon_id=105501. Accessed January 2008.
• Rahelinoro, F.M., 1994. Etude des plantes médicinales utilisées dans la lutte contre la “fièvre” dans la réserve spéciale de Manongarivo et environs - Ambanja. Thèse pour l'obtention du grade de Docteur en médecine, Etablissement d’Enseignement Supérieur des Sciences de la Santé, Faculté de Médecine, Université d’Antananarivo, Madagascar. 70 pp.
• Sallenave, P., 1964. Propriétés physiques et mécaniques des bois tropicaux. Premier supplément. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 79 pp.
• Strahm, W., 1998. Canarium paniculatum. In: IUCN. 2007 Red list of threatened species. [Internet] Accessed January 2008.
• Takahashi, A., 1978. Compilation of data on the mechanical properties of foreign woods (part 3) Africa. Shimane University, Matsue, Japan, 248 pp.
• Vasey, N., 1997. How many red ruffed lemurs are left? International Journal of Primatology 18(2): 207–216.
• Wild, H., 1963. Burseraceae. In: Exell, A.W., Fernandes, A. & Wild, H. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 2, part 1. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 263–285.
Sources of illustration
• Perrier de la Bâthie, H., 1946. Burséracées (Burseraceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), famille 106. Imprimerie Officielle, Tananarive, Madagascar. 50 pp.
M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

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:
Brink, M., 2008. Canarium madagascariense Engl. 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, leaf; 3, inflorescence; 4, fruits.
Redrawn and adapted by Achmad Satiri Nurhaman

tree habit


male flower
obtained from

branch with young infructescence
obtained from

fruiting branch
obtained from

fruiting branch
obtained from