Prota 7(2): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 2
Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1932(2): 101 (1932).
Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae)
Origin and geographic distribution
Chidlowia sanguinea is restricted to West Africa, where it occurs from Guinea and Sierra Leone to Ghana.
In Côte d’Ivoire the wood, known as ‘bala’, is locally used for joinery, stakes and rifle butts. It is suitable for heavy construction and probably occasionally used in building local houses, and is also suitable for sliced veneer. The seeds are reportedly eaten in Côte d’Ivoire.
The heartwood is dark greenish grey with a bronze tinge to dark brown and distinctly demarcated from the narrow yellowish white to pale greyish brown sapwood. The grain is interlocked, texture moderately fine and even. Radial surfaces show a ribbon figure. The wood is moderately heavy and hard. It is difficult to saw due to its hardness and the presence of interlocked grain. It is liable to splitting upon nailing.
The purine base triacanthine (chidlovine) has been isolated from roots, twigs and leaves.
Small to medium-sized tree up to 25(–30) m tall; bole often twisted, crooked, fluted and low-branching, up to 80(–100) cm in diameter, with many adventitious stems, occasionally with steep buttresses; bark surface irregularly flaky and scaly, greyish to brownish, with many lenticels, inner bark fibrous, soft, pink to reddish brown; crown widely spreading; twigs glabrous, with lenticels. Leaves alternate, paripinnately compound with 4–6 pairs of leaflets; stipules small, caducous; petiole up to 2.5 cm long, rachis up to 25 cm long; leaflets ovate to elliptical or obovate, 4–12 cm × 2–5 cm, acuminate at apex, leathery, glabrous. Inflorescence a slender, pendulous panicle up to 30 cm long, usually on older branches, many-flowered. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, deep red; pedicel slender, c. 3 mm long; calyx campanulate, c. 2 mm long, with very short teeth; petals free, ovate-elliptical to oblong-elliptical, 6–7 mm long, slightly fleshy; stamens 10, free, c. 2.5 cm long; ovary superior, slender, 4–5 mm long, with stipe c. 2.5 mm long, style slender, c. 2 cm long. Fruit a strap-shaped pod up to 60 cm × 6 cm, flattened, glabrous, glossy dark brown, dehiscing with 2 woody valves becoming spirally twisted, up to 15-seeded. Seeds nearly round, flattened, 2–2.5 cm in diameter, shining red-brown and finely pitted. Seedling with epigeal germination; hypocotyl c. 3 cm long, epicotyl 8–10 cm long; cotyledons thick and fleshy, rounded, c. 2.5 cm long; first 2 leaves opposite, pinnately compound with 2 pairs of leaflets.
The flowers develop just after the appearance of new leaves, in Sierra Leone between February and May. It has been suggested that they are pollinated by birds. Fruits ripen about one year after flowering. They are explosively dehiscent, dispersing the seeds over some distance. The presence of nitrogen-fixing root nodules has been reported.
Chidlowia comprises a single species. Its affinity is still uncertain.
Chidlowia sanguinea occurs in evergreen and moist semideciduous forest. It is usually found in the middle storey of primary forest, but occasionally also in secondary forest and gallery forest. It was very abundant in the upper basins of the Sassandra and Cavally rivers, locally occurring in nearly pure stands in the understorey. It also occurs in forest in the mountains, e.g. in the Mount Nimba region.
The boles of large trees are often hollow, which diminishes the commercial value and may cause danger during felling.
Genetic resources and breeding
Chidlowia sanguinea is locally common, e.g. in western Côte d’Ivoire and in parts of Sierra Leone and Liberia. However, with the splitting-up of undisturbed forest in West Africa, it may be liable to genetic erosion.
Chidlowia sanguinea will likely remain of no commercial importance because of its usually poorly shaped and short bole and its hard wood that is difficult to saw and work. Little is known about this species, and research is needed on phytochemistry and possible toxic effects of the seeds, which are reputedly edible.
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Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2010. Chidlowia sanguinea Hoyle. In: Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Louppe, D. & Oteng-Amoako, A.A. (Editors). Prota 7(2): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 2. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.