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Lannea microcarpa Engl. & K.Krause

Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 46: 324 (1911).
Vernacular names
African grape (En). Vrai raisinier (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Lannea microcarpa is indigenous from Senegal to Cameroon.
In West Africa the bark of Lannea microcarpa is employed to dye cotton textiles a red-brown colour. It is one of the main plants used in the production of the cloths called ‘basilan fini’ (medicine applied on cloth), widely associated with the notion of healing, since the decoction of the plant is both medicinal and dyes the colour of blood. Garments made with plain ochre-red cloth or with black designs on an ochre-red ground obtained with this dye are mostly worn by men, originally in blood-shedding circumstances such as hunting and war. The red dye has protective symbolic power, hides bloodstains and is believed to heal the wounds. It is also used by both sexes for ritual clothes worn at crucial stages of life such as circumcision and excision, delivery and death. In Mali Bambara women use Lannea microcarpa to decorate textiles called ‘surusuru’ and ‘basiya’. These textiles belong to the bogolan group. Women’s wrappers dyed with Lannea bark are worn at the occasions of excision, delivery, menopause and lastly as a shroud. In Ghana among the Akan and the Ashanti people, the dye from the bark is traditionally used for mourning clothes although red synthetic dyestuffs may now be used instead.
The young leaves are eaten as a vegetable and cattle browse leaves as a forage. The fruits are eaten raw or dried and a fermented drink is prepared from the pulp. The wood is white, light, easy to work but deteriorates quickly; it is used in Senegal to make hoe handles and throughout West Africa as fuel and to make charcoal. Ropes are made from the very fibrous bark. The bark yields an edible gum which is soluble in water. In Benin dried pulverized aerial parts are rubbed into scarifications against pain between the ribs and are taken internally against colic. A leaf decoction is drunk to treat swellings; it is also added to a bath. In Ghana leaves are used as a dressing for wounds. In Senegal wood ash is applied to maturate abscesses. In Nigeria leaves, bark, roots and fruits are applied to treat mouth blisters, rheumatism, sore throat, dysentery, as a cathartic and as a dressing on boils.
Tannins (deriving from gallic acid) are present in the bark and react with the iron-rich mud used in the bogolan process to give the characteristic black ground or designs of ‘basiya’ and ‘surusuru’ textiles.
The fruits contain anthocyanins, about 1300 mg per 100 g dry pulp. The main anthocyanin glycosides present are two different galactopyranosides of cyanidin: cyanidin 3-O-(2-O-β-D-xylopyranosyl)-β-D-galactopyranoside (0.15%) and cyanidin 3-O-β-D-galactopyranoside (0.45%).
The antidiarrhoeic effect of the bark has been confirmed by tests.
Dioecious tree up to 15 m tall; bole up to 70 cm in diameter, rather short; bark grey, slightly sweet-scented, smooth or with small scales when older, often with a spiral twist, very fibrous, slash reddish with fine white markings. Leaves alternate, imparipinnate, up to 25 cm long with 2–3(–5) pairs of leaflets; stipules absent; leaflets ovate, 5–13 cm × 2.5–6 cm, base attenuate to rounded, apex more or less pointed, margin entire but often slightly undulate, upper surface with glandular resin dots, particularly in young leaves, pinnately veined. Inflorescence a terminal raceme up to 15 cm long (male ones longest), bearing glandular dots. Flowers unisexual, regular, 4-merous, c. 4 mm in diameter, green-yellow; male ones with 8 stamens; female ones with superior 4-celled ovary bearing 4 styles. Fruit an ellipsoid, glabrous drupe, c. 1.5 cm long, on top bearing up to 4 small teeth, purplish-black when mature, 1-seeded.
Other botanical information
Lannea comprises about 40 species, most of them restricted to Africa, and the bark of many of them is or has been used as a source of a red-brown dye. Although most species can easily be distinguished botanically, in several areas different species bear similar vernacular names. Therefore, the exact identity of the species used in a particular dyeing process is not always certain, except from field observations complemented by botanical identification of the collected dye material. It is also possible that bark mixtures are used sometimes.
Lannea acida A.Rich. is used for dyeing in the same way as Lannea microcarpa in Mali where it bears the same vernacular name ‘npeku’ in the Bamanan language. In Côte d’Ivoire a red dye is made from a bark decoction with the addition of wood ash. It turns yellow if acids are added to the bath. In this process a mordant has to be used. However, Lannea acida is more important medicinally.
The bark of Lannea schweinfurthii (Engl.) Engl. is used by the Tsonga people of Gazankulu of north-eastern South Africa to dye basket material a purplish-brown colour, but this species is more important for its edible fruits.
The bark of Lannea welwitschii (Hiern) Engl. is used in the same way as that of Lannea acida in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to dye wrappers reddish brown.
Growth and development
Leaves fall off at the beginning of the dry season; flowering is at the end of the dry season, before the appearance of the new leaves.
Lannea microcarpa occurs in savanna vegetation. It prefers deep friable soil and is often found on cultivated land, where it is not cut down but preserved for its edible fruits. It also occurs on rocky soil in Sahel savanna.
Propagation and planting
Lannea species are not cultivated for dyeing purposes. They can be propagated by seed. Ambient temperatures of 25–30°C much reduce the longevity of the seeds. At a moisture content of about 6% the seeds keep their viability longer when kept at lower temperatures, and long storage is possible in a freezer at –18°C.
Handling after harvest
The bark is pounded and boiled for 2–3 hours in water. Towards the end of this period a small ladleful of wood ash is added as mordant, resulting in a darker coloured liquid that is kept boiling strongly for about half an hour. After it has cooled down, the decoction is filtered and is then ready for use as a dye bath. To obtain a faster colour, bogolan dyers associate this dye with a decoction of the bark of Anogeissus leiocarpa (DC.) Guill. & Perr. The cotton cloth is plunged once into the Lannea dye-bath, then 3 times in the Anogeissus bath and finally once again in the Lannea bath. Between each dyeing, the cloth is dried in the sun. Subsequently the cloth is dyed using iron-rich mud of the bogolan technique. The dye is not very fast, except in the black parts of the design.
Genetic resources
Lannea microcarpa is widespread and is not in danger of genetic erosion. In the northern parts of Burkina Faso it is considered vulnerable.
The use of Lannea bark for red dyeing is still important and widespread in West Africa. As the dye is becoming more and more popular in the modern forms of the bogolan textile production, cultivation of the main local species, Lannea microcarpa and Lannea acida, is to be recommended, especially since they also produce edible young leaves and fruits, and are used medicinally, particularly to cure skin affections.
Major references
• Arbonnier, M., 2004. Trees, shrubs and lianas of West African dry zones. CIRAD, Margraf Publishers, GMBH, MNHN. 573 pp.
• Aubréville, A., 1950. Flore forestière soudano-guinéenne. Société d’Editions Géographiques, Maritimes et Coloniales, Paris, France. 533 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.
• Burkill, H.M., 2000. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 5, Families S–Z, Addenda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 686 pp.
• Cardon, D., 2003. Le monde des teintures naturelles. Belin, Paris, France. 586 pp.
• Duponchel, P., 2004. Textiles bògòlan du Mali. Collections du Mali No 8. Musée d’Ethnographie, Neuchâtel, Switzerland. 334 pp.
• Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
• Kerharo, J. & Adam, J.G., 1974. La pharmacopée sénégalaise traditionnelle. Plantes médicinales et toxiques. Vigot & Frères, Paris, France. 1011 pp.
• Miège, J., 1992. Couleurs, teintures et plantes tinctoriales en Afrique occidentale. Bulletin du Centre Genevois d’Anthropologie 3: 115–131.
Other references
• Adjanohoun, E.J., Adjakidjè, V., Ahyi, M.R.A., Aké Assi, L., Akoègninou, A., d’Almeida, J., Apovo, F., Boukef, K., Chadare, M., Cusset, G., Dramane, K., Eyme, J., Gassita, J.N., Gbaguidi, N., Goudote, E., Guinko, S., Houngnon, P., Lo, I., Keita, A., Kiniffo, H.V., Kone-Bamba, D., Musampa Nseyya, A., Saadou, M., Sodogandji, T., De Souza, S., Tchabi, A., Zinsou Dossa, C. & Zouhon, T., 1989. Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques en République Populaire du Bénin. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 895 pp.
• Bensaï, S., 1994. Plantes tinctoriales et teinture indigène au Soudan. Notes Africaines 23: 17–19.
• Bensaï, S., 1994. Plantes à tanins: tannage et teintures des cuirs au Soudan. Notes Africaines 24: 20–22.
• Buckingham, J., Macdonald, F.M., Bradley, H.M., Cai, Y., Munasinghe, V.R.N. & Pattenden, C.F., 1994–1995. Dictionary of natural products. Chapman and Hall, London, United Kingdom. 9 volumes. (2nd edition 2002, including chemical database, Cambridge University Press).
• Coquet, M., 2001. Textiles Africains. Adam Biro Editions, Paris, France. 160 pp.
• Diallo, D., Marston, A., Terreaux, C., Toure, Y., Paulsen, B.S. & Hostettmann, K., 2001. Screening of Malian medicinal plants for antifungal, larvicidal, molluscicidal, antioxidant and radical scavenging activities. Phytotherapy Research 15(5): 401–406.
• Duponchel, P., 1997. Textile de coton, bogolan: teinture à la terre. Thèse de Doctorat École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, France. 632 pp.
• Galvez, J., Jimenez, E., Crespo, E. & Zarzuelo, A., 1990. Antidiarrhoeic activity of Lannea microcarpa bark. In: Fleurentin, J., Cabalion, P., Mazars, G., Dos Santos, J. & Younos, C. (Editors). Ethnopharmacologie: sources, méthodes, objectif. ORSTOM et SFE, Paris-Metz, France. pp. 379–382.
• Keay, R.W.J., 1958. Anacardiaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 726–739.
• Kerharo, J. & Bouquet, A., 1950. Plantes médicinales et toxiques de la Côte d’Ivoire - Haute-Volta. Vigot Frères, Paris, France. 291 pp.
• Kokwaro, J.O., 1986. Anacardiaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor), 1986. Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 59 pp.
• Liengme, C.A., 1981. Plants used by the Tsonga people of Gazankulu. Bothalia 13 (3–4): 501–518.
• Muteba Luntumbue, T., 1998. Bogolan, un art textile du Mali. Les Alizés ASBL, Bruxelles, Belgium. 58 pp.
• Nacro, M., & Millogo-Rasolodimbi, J., 1993. Plantes tinctoriales et plantes à tanins du Burkina Faso. Editions ScientifikA, Amiens, France. 152 pp.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Palé, E., Nacro, M. & Kouda-Bonafas, M., 1998. Anthocyanins from fruits of Lannea microcarpa. Tropical Science 38(1): 20–24.
• Zahan, D., 1951. Les couleurs chez les Bambaras du Soudan français. Notes Africaines 50: 52–56.
Sources of illustration
• Aubréville, A., 1950. Flore forestière soudano-guinéenne. Société d’Editions Géographiques, Maritimes et Coloniales, Paris, France. 533 pp.
M. Marquet
CIHAM/UMR 5648 /Archéologie et Histoire médiévale, Université Louis Lumière - Lyon II, 18, quai Claude Bernard, F-69365 Lyon Cedex 07, France
P.C.M. Jansen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

P.C.M. Jansen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
D. Cardon
CNRS, CIHAM-UMR 5648, 18, quai Claude-Bernard, 69365 Lyon, Cedex 07, France
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
Iskak Syamsudin
PROSEA Network Office, P.O. Box 332, Bogor 16122, Indonesia
Photo editor
E. Boer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Marquet, M. & Jansen, P.C.M., 2005. Lannea microcarpa Engl. & K.Krause In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Distribution Map wild

1, leaf; 2, part of branch with young leaves and fruits
Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin

tree habit



ripe fruits