Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Ann. Sci. Nat., Bot., sér. 4, 6: 123 (1856).
Large-leaved onionwood, broad-leaved onionwood (En). Msikundazi (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cassipourea gummiflua occurs from Sierra Leone east to Kenya and south to South Africa, also in Madagascar.
The wood of Cassipourea gummiflua is a useful general purpose timber. It is suitable for light construction, poles, masts, flooring, vehicle bodies, furniture and cabinet work, handles and ladders, boxes and crates, interior trim, implements, joinery, toys and novelties, turnery, veneer and plywood, and for hardboard and particle board. It is also used as firewood and for the production of charcoal. In Mozambique the wood of Cassipourea gummiflua as well as that of Anthocleista grandiflora Gilg are known under the trade name ‘mezambe’. Cassipourea gummiflua is also used as an ornamental and as a shade tree. The bark is exploited for unspecified medicinal uses.
The heartwood is greyish or yellowish white and indistinctly demarcated from the sapwood. The grain is straight, texture moderately fine and even. Freshly-sawn wood has a strong onion-like smell, which persists to some extent in the dry wood. The wood has a density of 480–720 kg/m³ at 15% moisture content. It is moderately hard and strong. It seasons slowly with a tendency to warp, and should be dried under cover to avoid excessive splitting. The wood is liable to blue stain attack and discolours easily.
The wood is easy to saw and work with hand and machine tools. It finishes to a fine surface. It turns, moulds and glues well, and can be peeled or sliced satisfactorily. The durability of the wood is low. It is susceptible to termite and marine borer attack. The heartwood is extremely resistant to impregnation, the sapwood moderately resistant.
The alkaloid cassipourrine has been isolated from dry twigs and leaves of Cassipourea gummiflua. The much-cited report that ingestion of Cassipourea gummiflua wood shavings by poultry results in sex change of female chicks is erroneous. It later appeared that the shavings concerned were from Funtumia africana (Benth.) Stapf; the androgenic effect is due to infection of these shavings with the steroid-producing saprophytic fungus Fusarium solani.
Evergreen shrub or small to large tree up to 40 m tall; bole straight, up to 40(–60) cm in diameter; bark pale grey or brown, smooth with raised lenticels; young branches hairy, later glabrous. Leaves opposite, simple, glabrous; stipules between the petioles, 2–4 mm long; petiole (6–)8–15(–17) mm long; blade elliptical to oblong or ovate, 5–15(–21) cm × 2.5–10.5 cm, base rounded to cuneate, apex rounded to acuminate, margin entire to sinuate or toothed. Inflorescence an axillary fascicle, dense and congested, many-flowered. Flowers bisexual, regular, 4–6-merous; pedicel 1–4 mm long, jointed in upper half; calyx tubular to campanulate, tube 2–4 mm long, lobes 0.5–1.5 mm long, semi-circular to deltoid; petals linear-spatulate, 4.5–6 mm × 1 mm, deeply fringed, white; stamens 8–12(–14); ovary superior to half-inferior, 2(–3)-celled, glabrous to densely hairy especially above the middle, style 2.5–6 mm long. Fruit an ellipsoid to spherical or obovoid capsule 6–11 mm × 4.5–7 mm, blackish, glabrous or shortly hairy, dehiscent, few-seeded. Seeds ovoid, 3–6.5 mm × 1.5 mm, dark red, with orange aril, testa leathery.
Cassipourea comprises about 70 species, widely distributed in the tropics. Within Cassipourea gummiflua 4 varieties are distinguished: var. gummiflua , restricted to Madagascar; var. mannii (Hook.f. ex Oliv.) J.Lewis (synonym: Cassipourea glabra Alston), distributed from Sierra Leone to Angola; var. ugandensis (Stapf) J.Lewis (synonym: Cassipourea ugandensis (Stapf) Engl.), distributed from Cameroon to Kenya and Zambia; and var. verticillata (N.E.Br.) J.Lewis (synonym: Cassipourea verticillata N.E.Br.), distributed from Cameroon to Tanzania and South Africa.
The aril of Cassipourea gummiflua is eaten by birds and monkeys, which may disseminate the seeds.
Cassipourea gummiflua occurs in rainforest, riverine forest, swamp forest and montane forest, up to 2600 m altitude.
Genetic resources and breeding
In view of its wide distribution Cassipourea gummiflua is not liable to genetic erosion.
The wood of Cassipourea gummiflua will remain a useful local source of timber. Information on this species is too scarce to judge its potential.
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• Lovett, J.C., Ruffo, C.K. & Gereau, R.E., 2003. 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 December 2005.
• Smith, A.J. & Wells, J.W., 1978. The source of androgenic activity in the African wood Funtumia latifolia: a steroid hormone formed by the action of Fusarium solani. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 29(9): 783–787.
• Wright, W.G. & Warren, F.L., 1967. Rhizophoraceae alkaloids. Part 1. Four sulphur-containing bases from Cassipourea spp. Journal of the Chemical Society, Section C, Organic Chemistry, 1967: 283–284.
Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2006. Cassipourea gummiflua Tul. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
part of flowering branch
obtained from Zimbabweflora