Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Hook., Niger Fl.: 307 (1849).
Papilionaceae (Leguminosae - Papilionoideae, Fabaceae)
2n = 42
Erythrina bancoensis Aubrév. & Pellegr. (1936).
Oussogpalié à fleurs rouges (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Erythrina vogelii occurs from Côte d’Ivoire to western Cameroon and south to north-eastern Gabon.
The wood is traditionally used as floats for fishing nets and to make brake blocks and shingles. It is mentioned as being suitable for poles and piles, interior trim, ship and boat building, sporting goods, hardboard, particle board, wood-wool and pulpwood, but in view of its low quality, its usefulness seems limited. The branches are often used as fence posts, e.g. in Ghana and western Cameroon. Unspecified plant parts, probably bark and/or roots, are used in traditional medicine in Côte d’Ivoire, to treat pains, rheumatism, bronchial complaints, gonorrhoea and haematuria, and as poison antidote.
The heartwood is whitish with a pink hue, and indistinctly demarcated from the sapwood. The texture is very coarse and spongy. The wood is very lightweight, with a density of about 280 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. The green wood has a high moisture content. The wood is soft and brittle. At 12% moisture content the modulus of rupture is 31 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 3600 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 16 N/mm², cleavage 13 N/mm and Chalais-Meudon side hardness 0.4. The wood is easy to saw and work. It does not plane well. It is non durable and liable to borer attack, but it is permeable to preservatives.
The root bark showed significant in-vitro activity against gram-positive bacteria (Enterococcus faecalis and Staphylococcus aureus) and the plant-pathogenic fungus Cladosporium cucumerinum. The isoflavonoids 1-methoxyphaseollidin and isowighteone were isolated as antifungal constituents amongst the many flavonoids present. Erythrina vogelii contains only traces of alkaloids and is less toxic than American Erythrina spp.
Deciduous small tree up to 15 m tall; bole straight, branchless for up to 12 m, up to 50 cm in diameter, armed with woody, conical spines; crown spreading; twigs armed with prickles, glabrous. Leaves alternate, 3-foliolate; stipules deciduous; rachis with some small prickles and large glands at base of petiolules, petiolules 2–4 mm long; leaflets elliptical to ovate, 6–16 cm × 3–9.5 cm, rounded to cuneate at base, asymmetrical in lateral leaflets, obtuse or shortly acuminate at apex, leathery, initially hairy especially below but glabrescent, pinnately veined with 5–9 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary or terminal, erect false raceme 20–35 cm long; bracts up to 9 mm long, early deciduous. Flowers bisexual, papilionaceous; pedicel 6–7 mm long; calyx tubular, split at one side, tube 1–2 cm long, glabrous or slightly hairy, with 3 teeth at apex; corolla scarlet red, standard 3.5–5 cm × 3–3.5 cm, reflexing with age, wings 15–18 mm long, keel c. 15 mm long; stamens 10, fused to halfway but 1 almost free; ovary superior, narrowly cylindrical-oblong, 1-celled, style glabrous. Fruit a linear-oblong spirally twisted pod, markedly constricted between the seeds, opening by 2 valves, several-seeded. Seeds 8–10 mm long, bright red. Seedling with epigeal germination; cotyledons fleshy, c. 1.5 cm long; first leaves simple, opposite.
In Ghana Erythrina vogelii trees are leafless for several months between July and January. In Côte d’Ivoire they flower from October to February.
Erythrina comprises approximately 120 species: about 30 in continental Africa, 6 in Madagascar, 70 in tropical America and 12 in tropical Asia and Australia. Erythrina vogelii is closely related to and probably often confused with Erythrina senegalensis A.DC., a savanna tree occurring from Senegal to Chad with similar wood, but more important as an ornamental, for living fences and as a medicinal plant. Erythrina senegalensis lacks the teeth at the calyx tip, but is otherwise very similar to Erythrina vogelii; the existence of populations of hybrid origin has been suggested, e.g. for Ghana and Benin. Studies on the exact status of the two taxa are recommended.
Erythrina addisoniae Hutch. & Dalziel is a small to medium-sized tree up to 20 m tall with a bole diameter up to 70 cm occurring from Sierra Leone to Congo. Its wood is used for house construction. The bark and roots have similar medicinal applications as those of Erythrina vogelii. An anti-inflammatory isoflavonoid (warangalone) has been isolated from the stem bark, as well as protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B inhibitors. Erythrina addisoniae is sometimes planted as an ornamental.
Erythrina tholloniana Hua, a small tree up to 12 m tall occurring from Nigeria to DR Congo, has been confused with Erythrina addisoniae and has similar uses in Nigeria.
Erythrina vogelii is a pioneer, usually occurring in secondary forest and abandoned agricultural fields, often in somewhat swampy areas, sometimes also in savanna.
The 1000-seed weight is about 400 g. Seeds germinate in 5–15 days. Cuttings are used for planting in living fences.
Genetic resources and breeding
Erythrina vogelii is fairly widespread, but seems to be uncommon in many parts of its distribution area. It is even considered rare in several countries, e.g. in Ghana, Benin and Gabon. However, there is no reason to consider it threatened as it is a pioneer species of disturbed forest and abandoned fields.
Erythrina vogelii seems to have poor prospects as a commercial timber tree because it is too small and its wood is of poor quality, although it is easily treatable with chemical preservatives. It deserves more attention as a multipurpose tree of ornamental, auxiliary and medicinal value, like Erythrina senegalensis with which it should be compared in botanical studies to clarify species boundaries, if any.
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Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2008. Erythrina vogelii Hook.f. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.