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Cordia millenii Baker

Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1894: 27 (1894).
Cordia platythyrsa Baker (1894).
Vernacular names
African cordia, drum tree (En). Cordia d’Afrique, ebais (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Cordia millenii is widespread, occurring from Sierra Leone east to western Kenya and western Tanzania, and south to DR Congo and northern Angola. It is commonly planted, especially in West Africa.
The wood, often traded as ‘cordia wood’ or ‘pooli’, is commonly used for construction, joinery, interior trim, panelling, furniture, musical instruments including drums, boxes, toys, utensils, tool handles, shingles, canoes and carving. It is suitable for boat building, cabinet work, veneer, plywood and hardboard. It is also used as firewood.
In Cameroon large pieces of bark are stripped from the bole to make hut-walls and partitions. In West Africa seed powder mixed with palm oil is taken as a vermifuge and applied externally to ringworm and itching skin, whereas a leaf decoction is also taken to dispel worms, and to treat asthma, cough and colds. Cordia millenii is commonly planted as a village shade tree. It has also been planted in reafforestation programmes. In Uganda Cordia millenii trees are often left for shade in Eucalyptus and coffee plantations. The flowers provide nectar and pollen for honey bees.
Production and international trade
The wood of Cordia millenii is only occasionally exported and has no importance in the international trade. It is mainly used locally.
The heartwood is pale brown to yellowish brown or medium brown, occasionally pale purplish or pinkish brown, and not distinctly demarcated from the whitish or yellowish, 4–6 cm wide sapwood. The grain is straight or interlocked, often producing a stripe figure, texture medium to coarse.
The wood is moderately lightweight, with a density of 410–500(–600) kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. It air dries rapidly and well, but in kiln drying a high temperature schedule is recommended. The rates of shrinkage are moderate, from green to oven dry 2.6–3.6% radial and 4.6–4.8% tangential. Once dry, the wood is stable in service.
At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 67–79 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 6860–8600 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 28–43 N/mm², shear 6.5–9 N/mm², cleavage 10 N/mm, Janka side hardness 2615 N and Chalais-Meudon side hardness 1.3.
The wood saws and works well with ordinary saw teeth and cutting tools and with only slight blunting effect. Planing is satisfactory at a standard angle of 30° for back-sawn surfaces, but for quarter-cut material reduction to an angle of 20° is advisable to obtain best results, especially when the grain is interlocked. The wood polishes well when a filler is used. It holds nails and screws well, but is somewhat fissile. The wood has good gluing, peeling and slicing characteristics. It is moderately durable to durable with an expected service life of 8–25 years. It is resistant to termite and dry-wood borer attacks and moderately resistant to fungal attacks. Wood dust may cause allergic reactions of skin and mucous membranes in wood workers.
The wood contains 42% cellulose, 33% lignin, 13% pentosan, 1.7% ash and 0.02% silica; the solubility in alcohol-benzene is 8.2%, in hot water 1.0% and in a 1% NaOH solution 10.7%. The terpenoid benzoquinone derivatives cordiachromes A–F have been isolated from the heartwood. Allantoin, β-sitosterol, balanophonin, precesterol and 3-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-β-sitosterol have been isolated from the bark, together with sphingolipids and cerebrosides.
Adulterations and substitutes
The wood of Cordia millenii resembles some grades of African mahogany (Khaya and Entandrophragma) and it has been exported as a substitute.
Deciduous, dioecious, small to medium-sized tree up to 30(–35) m tall; bole cylindrical, often irregularly bent, branchless for up to 10(–15) m, up to 100(–120) cm in diameter, old trees often with stout but low buttresses; bark surface smooth in young trees becoming scaly and fissured in older trees, pale brown to greyish brown, inner bark soft, fibrous, yellowish, rapidly becoming greenish to dark brown upon exposure, with an earthy smell; crown fairly thin, flattened, with widely spreading branches; twigs short-hairy. Leaves alternate to nearly opposite, simple; stipules absent; petiole slender, 2.5–16 cm long; blade broadly ovate-elliptical to nearly round, (3.5–)10–28(–33) cm × (2–)5–17(–26) cm, rounded to cordate at base, rounded to short-acuminate at apex, margins nearly entire to slightly and irregularly toothed, deep green above and olive green and hairy below, more or less 3-veined from the base and with 4–8 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence a large, terminal, very lax, spreading panicle up to 45 cm long, consisting of condensed cymes. Flowers unisexual, regular, whitish, nearly sessile, sweet-scented; calyx tubular, 6–12 mm long, finely hairy outside, with 3–4 lobes; corolla with funnel-shaped tube 5–12 mm long and 4–7 lobes 4.5–7 mm long; stamens alternating with corolla lobes, exserted; ovary superior, ovoid, glabrous, 4-celled, style twice bifid with 4 linear stigmas; male flowers with rudimentary ovary, female flowers with sterile stamens. Fruit an ovoid to ellipsoid drupe up to 4.5 cm × 3 cm, yellowish to brown when ripe, enclosed at base by the persistent and enlarged calyx, stone containing 1–2(–4) seeds. Seedling with epigeal germination; hypocotyl 2–4 cm long, finely hairy, epicotyl c. 0.5 cm long, hairy; cotyledons leafy, fan-shaped and folded, c. 2 cm × 2 cm, toothed at the apical edge, with slender petiole up to 8 mm long; first leaves alternate, toothed, hairy.
Other botanical information
Cordia is a large pantropical genus of about 250 species, with the majority of the species occurring in the New World and about 35 species indigenous in tropical Africa. Cordia platythyrsa Baker is usually kept separate from Cordia millenii differing in its often smaller, ovate and short-hairy leaves and smaller fruits. However, there is much overlap in characters between the two species and they are combined here, as proposed already by Warfa (1988). In the literature, they have been much confused, and the wood has always been mixed.
Wood-anatomical description (IAWA hardwood codes):
Growth rings: 1: growth ring boundaries distinct. Vessels: 5: wood diffuse-porous; 13: simple perforation plates; 22: intervessel pits alternate; 23: shape of alternate pits polygonal; 25: intervessel pits small ( 4–7 μm); 26: intervessel pits medium (7–10 μm); 30: vessel-ray pits with distinct borders; similar to intervessel pits in size and shape throughout the ray cell; 43: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 200 μm; 46: 5 vessels per square millimetre; 56: tyloses common. Tracheids and fibres: 61: fibres with simple to minutely bordered pits; 66: non-septate fibres present; 69: fibres thin- to thick-walled. Axial parenchyma: 80: axial parenchyma aliform; 82: axial parenchyma winged-aliform; 83: axial parenchyma confluent; 85: axial parenchyma bands more than three cells wide; 89: axial parenchyma in marginal or in seemingly marginal bands; 90: fusiform parenchyma cells; 91: two cells per parenchyma strand. Rays: 98: larger rays commonly 4- to 10-seriate; 106: body ray cells procumbent with one row of upright and/or square marginal cells; 107: body ray cells procumbent with mostly 2–4 rows of upright and/or square marginal cells; 110: sheath cells present; 115: 4–12 rays per mm. Storied structure: 122: rays and/or axial elements irregularly storied. Secretory elements and cambial variants: 131: intercellular canals of traumatic origin. Mineral inclusions: 136: prismatic crystals present; 137: prismatic crystals in upright and/or square ray cells; 138: prismatic crystals in procumbent ray cells; 141: prismatic crystals in non-chambered axial parenchyma cells; 152: crystals of other shapes (mostly small); 154: more than one crystal of about the same size per cell or chamber; 157: crystals in tyloses.
(E. Ebanyenle, P.E. Gasson & E.A. Wheeler)
Growth and development
Young trees usually produce a flat crown of horizontal branches, one of which bends upwards and develops into a leading shoot. This results in a curved bole and because this process is repeated the bole becomes irregularly bent in larger trees. Cordia millenii trees grow rapidly. In Sierra Leone mean annual increments in bole diameter of 3.3–6.3 cm have been recorded for trees up to 18 years old. The tree is leafless for a period of up to 2 months, but seem to be evergreen at some localities. In West Africa Cordia millenii usually flowers from March to May, after new leaves have developed. Fruits ripen towards the end of the rainy season, from June to August. The fruits are eaten by animals including elephants, chimpanzees and hornbills, which probably serve as seed dispersers.
In West and Central Africa Cordia millenii is most common in semi-deciduous forest, where it is most abundant in secondary forest. In East Africa it is usually found in rainforest, but also in riverine forest and thickets in grassland, up to 1650 m altitude. It prefers well-drained localities.
Propagation and planting
Cordia millenii is a light-demanding pioneer species. Seedlings are mainly found in gaps in the forest canopy, and can be very common along roadsides. There are about 4000 seeds per kg. Germination of seeds takes 10–32 days after sowing. A germination rate of 77% has been reported from Ghana, but 20–25% only from Côte d’Ivoire. Hand scarification of seeds significantly accelerates germination and may increase the germination rate to nearly 100%. The seeds can be stored when they are spread on a dry concrete floor and protected against rodents. Wildlings are sometimes collected for planting.
In general the density of larger Cordia millenii trees in the forest is quite low, but in some areas they are common. In southern Cameroon the density is locally up to 0.5 bole of more than 60 cm in diameter per ha, with an average total wood volume of up to 4.8 m³/ha, and in some forests in Sierra Leone up to 0.3 bole of more than 60 cm in diameter per ha. In western Uganda Cordia millenii is locally abundant.
The trees can be managed by coppicing. Growth of coppice from cut stumps is usually vigorous under favourable light conditions. Although Cordia millenii is planted in many areas, detailed management practices are lacking.
The minimum bole diameter for harvesting Cordia millenii is 60 cm in Cameroon and 70 cm in the Central African Republic and Ghana.
A bole branchless for 15 m and 80 cm in diameter may yield 4 m³ of timber.
Handling after harvest
Freshly harvested boles float in water and thus can be transported by river. Brittle or pulpy heart may be present in large logs.
Genetic resources
Although Cordia millenii is locally common and its exploitation is moderate, it is included in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. However, it is classified as a lower-risk species of least concern. The status of the species should be kept under review.
More research is needed on appropriate management systems in natural forest to ensure sustainable exploitation of Cordia millenii. Currently Cordia millenii is not exported on a large scale, but the decorative wood qualities present a great potential as a commercial timber, as well as its ability to regenerate well in disturbed forest and its fairly rapid growth. The often irregular shape of the bole is a drawback, which can possibly be overcome by selective breeding and proper management. Cordia millenii may have prospects for use in agroforestry systems.
Taxonomic studies are needed to confirm that Cordia millenii and Cordia platythyrsa are conspecific. These should take into account the whole distribution area.
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.
• Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
• CIRAD Forestry Department, 2009. Cordia d’Afrique. [Internet] Tropix 6.0. africa/cordia.pdf. Accessed September 2009.
• Hawthorne, W.D., 1995. Ecological profiles of Ghanaian forest trees. Tropical Forestry Papers 29. Oxford Forestry Institute, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, United Kingdom. 345 pp.
• Hindle, J.R., 1994. West African Cordia - a monograph. Dissertation in partial fulfillment of the requirements for Magister of Scientia degree in Environmental Forestry, School of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University College of North Wales, Bangor, United Kingdom. 73 pp.
• Katende, A.B., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 1995. Useful trees and shrubs for Uganda: identification, propagation and management for agricultural and pastoral communities. Technical Handbook 10. Regional Soil Conservation Unit, Nairobi, Kenya. 710 pp.
• Savill, P.S. & Fox, J.E.D., 1967. Trees of Sierra Leone. Forest Department, Freetown, Sierra Leone. 316 pp.
• Verdcourt, B., 1991. Boraginaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 125 pp.
• Vivien, J. & Faure, J.J., 1985. Arbres des forêts denses d’Afrique Centrale. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 565 pp.
• Warfa, A.M., 1988. Cordia (Boraginaceae) in NE tropical Africa and tropical Arabia. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis 174, Uppsala, Sweden. 78 pp.
Other references
• African Regional Workshop (Conservation & Sustainable Management of Trees, Zimbabwe), 1998. Cordia platythyrsa. In: IUCN. 2007 IUCN Red list of threatened species. [Internet] Accessed September 2009.
• Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (Editors), 2006. Flore analytique du Bénin. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. 1034 pp.
• ATIBT (Association Technique Internationale des Bois Tropicaux), 1986. Tropical timber atlas: Part 1 – Africa. ATIBT, Paris, France. 208 pp.
• Aubréville, A., 1959. La flore forestière de la Côte d’Ivoire. Deuxième édition révisée. Tome troisième. Publication No 15. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 334 pp.
• Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
• Dalziel, J.M., 1937. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 612 pp.
• de la Mensbruge, G., 1966. La germination et les plantules des essences arborées de la forêt dense humide de la Côte d’Ivoire. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 389 pp.
• Hausen, B.M., 1981. Woods injurious to human health: a manual. Walter de Gruyter & Co., Berlin, Germany. 189 pp.
• Keay, R.W.J., 1989. Trees of Nigeria. A revised version of Nigerian trees (1960, 1964) by Keay, R.W.J., Onochie, C.F.A. & Stanfield, D.P. Clarendon Press, Oxford, United Kingdom. 476 pp.
• Mapongmetsem, P.M., Duguma, B., Nkongmeneck, B.A. & Selegny S., 1999. The effect of various seed pretreatments to improve germination in eight indigenous tree species in the forests of Cameroon. Annals of Forestry Science 56: 679–684.
• Mapongmetsem, P.M., Nkongmeneck, B.A. & Duguma, B., 2002. Patterns of flowering in some indigenous tree species in the humid lowlands of Cameroon. Ghana Journal of Sciences 42: 19–27.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Oteng-Amoako, A.A. (Editor), 2006. 100 tropical African timber trees from Ghana: tree description and wood identification with notes on distribution, ecology, silviculture, ethnobotany and wood uses. 304 pp.
• Sommerlatte, H. & Sommerlatte, M., 1990. A field guide to the trees and shrubs of the Imatong Mountains, southern Sudan. Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammmenarbeit (GTZ), Nairobi, Kenya. 372 pp.
• Tailfer, Y., 1989. La forêt dense d’Afrique centrale. Identification pratique des principaux arbres. Tome 2. CTA, Wageningen, Pays Bas. pp. 465–1271.
• Widodo, S.H., 2001. Crescentia L. In: van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 191–194.
• Tapondjou, L.A., Mitaine-Offer, A.-C., Sautour, M., Miyamoto, T. & Lacaille-Dubois, M .-A., 2005. Sphingolipids and other constituents from Cordia platythyrsa. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 33(12): 1293–1297.
• Taton, A., 1971. Boraginaceae. In: Flore du Congo, du Ruanda et du Burundi. Spermatophytes. Jardin botanique national de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium. 82 pp.
• Taylor, C.J., 1960. Synecology and silviculture in Ghana. Thomas Nelson and Sons, Edinburgh, United Kingdom. 418 pp.
• Wilks, C. & Issembé, Y., 2000. Les arbres de la Guinée Equatoriale: Guide pratique d’identification: région continentale. Projet CUREF, Bata, Guinée Equatoriale. 546 pp.
Sources of illustration
• Taton, A., 1971. Boraginaceae. In: Flore du Congo, du Ruanda et du Burundi. Spermatophytes. Jardin botanique national de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium. 82 pp.
• Wilks, C. & Issembé, Y., 2000. Les arbres de la Guinée Equatoriale: Guide pratique d’identification: région continentale. Projet CUREF, Bata, Guinée Equatoriale. 546 pp.
R.B. Jiofack Tafokou
Ecologic Museum of Cameroon, P.O. Box 8038, Yaoundé, Cameroon

R.H.M.J. Lemmens
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
Associate editors
E.A. Obeng
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:
Jiofack Tafokou, R.B., 2010. Cordia millenii Baker. 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.
Distribution Map wild and planted

1, base of bole; 2, flowering twig; 3, male flower; 4, female flower; 5, infructescence.
Redrawn and adapted by Achmad Satiri Nurhaman

Cordia millenii

Cordia millenii