Prota 7(2): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 2
Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 56: 255 (1920).
2n = 24
Origin and geographic distribution
Majidea fosteri is distributed from Côte d’Ivoire east to Sudan and Uganda, and south to DR Congo and north-western Tanzania.
Although Majidea fosteri produces a fairly large bole it is not highly valued in West Africa as a timber tree. However, in DR Congo its timber is recorded to be of good quality. The wood is suitable for light construction, flooring, joinery, interior trim, mine props, ship building, furniture, toys, novelties, veneer and plywood.
The heartwood is yellowish brown or pinkish brown to greyish brown, becoming paler upon drying, and not distinctly demarcated from the 3–5 cm wide sapwood. The grain is straight to shallowly interlocked, texture fine to medium. Radial surfaces show fine and regular veins.
The wood is medium-weight to fairly heavy, with a density of 720–855 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content, and moderately hard. It shows considerable shrinkage in air drying; it is recommended to quarter-cut logs before sawing. At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 110–145 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 10,780 N/mm² and compression parallel to grain 47–61 N/mm².
The wood saws easily but quite slowly; ordinary equipment can be used. Planing and machining is easy, but surfaces may be woolly when the grain is irregular. The nailing, painting and varnishing properties are all good. The wood is moderately durable, being moderately susceptible to fungal and insect attacks. It is not durable in contact with the ground. The sawdust may be irritant to the respiratory tracts.
The leaves, bark and roots of Majidea fosteri contain moderate amounts of saponins, which showed a significant inhibitory effect in vitro against the dermatophytic fungus Microsporum gypseum. Bark and roots contain small amounts of tannin.
Monoecious, medium-sized tree up to 30(–35) m tall; bole often straight and cylindrical, branchless for up to 18 m, up to 100(–120) cm in diameter, usually without buttresses; bark surface smooth, slightly flaking, greyish or yellowish, with lenticels, inner bark pale with orange grit, slowly darkening to pale brown, strongly camphor-like scented; twigs slightly flattened, dark brown, initially hairy. Leaves alternate, paripinnately compound with 5–9 pairs of leaflets; stipules absent; petiole 4–5 cm long, rachis 15–35 cm long; leaflets opposite or alternate, nearly sessile, lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, 5–10 cm × 1.5–3 cm, base asymetrical, obtuse on one side, cuneate on the other, acuminate at apex, margin entire, nearly glabrous, pinnately veined. Inflorescence a terminal panicle up to 13 cm long, densely hairy, with leaf-like bracts c. 8 mm long. Flowers unisexual, regular, greenish, tinged pink; pedicel up to 6 mm long; sepals 5, free, 8–12 mm long, hairy; petals 4, smaller than sepals, caducous; male flowers with conspicuous red disk, stamens 7–8, c. 8 mm long, ovary absent; female flowers with fleshy disk, stamens rudimentary, ovary superior, c. 3 mm long, 3-lobed, with thick style. Fruit a 3-lobed capsule c. 4 cm × 5 cm, reddish outside, pink or scarlet inside, dehiscent with 3 valves, 3–6-seeded. Seeds ovoid, c. 1.5 cm long, velvety hairy, bluish black. Seedling with hypogeal germination; epicotyl c. 4 cm long, soft, short-hairy; first 2 leaves opposite, with 4–5 pairs of leaflets up to 3 cm × 1.5 cm.
In Côte d’Ivoire and Benin Majidea fosteri flowers in August and fruits ripen about 3 months after flowering. In Côte d’Ivoire ripe fruits have also been recorded in March–May. The bluish black seeds, that have a slightly fleshy seed coat and contrast with the pinkish or red inner wall of the fruit valves, are probably dispersed by birds.
Majidea comprises only 2 species. Majidea zanguebarica Oliv., called ‘velvet seed tree’, ‘pearl of Zanzibar’ or ‘black pearl tree’ in English and ‘mgambo’, ‘mlanyuni’ or ‘kmonga’ in Swahili, is usually a medium-sized tree up to 25 m tall. It occurs in coastal Kenya and Tanzania, and in Madagascar, but is widely grown elsewhere in the tropics as an ornamental tree. It produces whitish wood that is useful for construction, furniture and utensils. In Kenya communities are involved in sustainable collection of seeds and dried fruits. Seeds are used as beads, and exported to be grown as ornamental tree in tropical and subtropical gardens. The dried fruits are very decorative and exported, especially to the United States, to be used in flower arrangements. Two subspecies are distinguished: subsp. zanguebarica found in both mainland Africa and in Madagascar, and subsp. madagascariensis (Baill.) Capuron (synonym: Majidea madagascariensis (Baill.) Radlk.) which is endemic to Madagascar, where it grows in drier conditions than subsp. zanguebarica.
In West Africa and Central Africa, Majidea fosteri mainly occurs in semi-deciduous forest. In East Africa it is confined to rainforest at 1000–1200 m altitude.
There are about 1000 seeds per kg. The seeds germinate 8–15 days after sowing, with a high germination rate. In Ghana it has been reported that seedlings are often abundant in the forest understorey around mature trees. Logs have to be processed quickly after felling to prevent splitting and checking. The wood is prone to blue stain and insect attacks, and treatment with insecticide and fungicide is recommended. In Congo a bole of 15.5 m long and 90 cm in diameter yielded nearly 6.5 m³ of wood.
Genetic resources and breeding
Although Majidea fosteri is widespread, it usually does not occur abundantly. In Cameroon and Gabon it is quite rare. However, as it is not heavily exploited there seems to be no reason for concern.
At present, there are no reasons to promote Majidea fosteri for production of timber. Very little is known about growth rates, regeneration and ecological requirements, and therefore possibilities for sustainable exploitation are obscure. The interesting antifungal activity of compounds found in leaves, bark and roots warrants more research.
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Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2011. Majidea fosteri (Sprague) Radlk. 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.
wood in transverse section