Prota 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins
Guill., Fl. Seneg. tent. 1(4): 154 (1831), 1(5): t. 42 (1832).
Raisinier velu, Lannéa velouté (Fr). Bembo (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Lannea velutina is found from Senegal to Chad and Central African Republic.
The bark of Lannea velutina yields a popular red-brown dye. It is one of the main plants used in the production of the cloths called ‘basilanfini’, widely associated with the notion of healing, since the decoction of the plant is both medicinal and dyes the colour of blood. The wood, although whitish and soft, is considered suitable for making planks, small stools and other utensils, and as it is flexible, it is also used for bows. It is a preferred source of firewood in Burkina Faso. In Chad the wood is popular for making beehives since it is easy to hollow out. In Senegal macerated bark and roots are used medicinally to prepare a bath for rachitic children and adults with muscle pains. A decoction of the powdered root is used against diarrhoea. In Côte d’Ivoire the bark is used to treat diarrhoea, oedema, paralysis, epilepsy and insanity. In Ghana the bark is applied externally to wounds, ulcers and leprosy, and a decoction is taken against gastric pains. In Burkina Faso a decoction of the bark and leaves is used as a tonic, both as a drink and bath, because it is thought to control arterial tension. In Senegal the foliage is browsed by cattle and the fruit is said to be edible. Fibre isolated from the bark is used in Senegal to make ropes to tether goats and sheep. Sap of the bark is said to provide a good varnish.
Tannins are present in the bark, together with reddish brown dyes that have not been characterized yet. Lannea velutina showed positive results in a test in Mali for antifungal, insecticidal (on larvae of mosquitoes), molluscicidal, antioxidant and radical scavenging activities.
Dioecious tree up to 15 m tall; bole up to 45 cm in diameter, bark smooth, grey. Leaves alternate, pinnately compound with 3–5 pairs of opposite leaflets and a terminal one; stipules absent; petiole 2–5 cm long; leaflets elliptical, 4–12 cm × 3–7 cm, rounded at apex, entire, velvety tomentose below, lateral veins 10–18 pairs. Inflorescence a spike-like raceme up to 15 cm long, usually terminal on old branches (rarely on young shoots), brown-hairy. Flowers unisexual, regular, c. 5 mm long, 4-merous, greenish yellow; pedicel 2–4 mm long, elongating to 7–10 mm in fruit; male flowers with 8 stamens and rudimentary ovary; female flowers with superior, 4-celled ovary and rudimentary stamens. Fruit an ovoid to cylindrical drupe 8–10 mm × 6–7 mm, with 4 teeth at apex, densely softly pubescent, yellow-red.
Lannea comprises about 40 species, most of which are restricted to Africa. Lannea velutina flowers at the end of the dry season, before the appearance of the leaves.
Lannea velutina occurs in wooded savanna.
The bark is cut into small pieces and cooked for a long time. The cooled decoction is filtered and the cloth to be coloured is kept for 24 hours in the filtrate. The cloth colours red, red-brown or orange-red without any mordant.
Genetic resources and breeding
Lannea velutina is rather widespread and does not seem to be in danger of genetic erosion.
Lannea velutina is an important source of red dye used in traditional dyeing in Africa. Interest in textiles coloured with natural dyes is growing and it is expected that the importance of Lannea velutina will increase. Its medicinal properties and possibilities for cultivation need further research.
• Arbonnier, M., 2004. Trees, shrubs and lianas of West African dry zones. CIRAD, Margraf Publishers, GMBH, MNHN. 573 pp.
• Berhaut, J., 1971. Flore illustrée du Sénégal. Dicotylédones. Volume 1. Acanthacées à Avicenniacées. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du Développement Rural et de l’Hydraulique, Direction des Eaux et Forêts, Dakar, Senegal. 626 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.
• 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.
• Geerling, C., 1982. Guide de terrain des ligneux Sahéliens et Soudano-Guinéens. Mededelingen Landbouwhogeschool Wageningen Nederland 82–3. 340 pp.
• Irvine, F.R., 1961. Woody plants of Ghana, with special reference to their uses. Oxford University Press, London, United Kingdom. 868 pp.
• 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.
• Taïta, P., 2000. La biodiversité des espèces spontanées utilisées dans l'alimentation et la pharmacopée dans la région de la réserve de biosphère de la Mare aux Hippopotames. In: Actes du Forum National de la Recherche Scientifique et des Innovations Technologiques (FRSIT), 3–8 avril 2000, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Tome 2. "Sécurité alimentaire". pp. 77–95.
Correct citation of this article:
Jansen, P.C.M., 2005. Lannea velutina A.Rich. In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA 3: Dyes and tannins/Colorants et tanins. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.