Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Fl. trop. Afr. 2: 324 (1871).
Mimosaceae (Leguminosae - Mimosoideae)
Mkunde, mlopa, mnienze, mnienzi, mnyeusi (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Parkia filicoidea is widespread from eastern Côte d’Ivoire east to southern Somalia and eastern Kenya, and south to Angola, Zambia and northern Mozambique.
In East and southern Africa the wood is used for poles, mortars, water containers, stools and beehives. It is suitable for light construction, interior trim, furniture, cabinet work, vehicle bodies, sporting goods, toys, novelties, handles, boxes, crates, matches, plywood, hardboard and particle board. It is also used as firewood and for charcoal production.
Young pods, cut into pieces, and seeds are occasionally cooked and eaten, especially in periods of food shortage. The fruit pulp is also eaten, e.g. in Zambia where fruits ripen from December to February, when rural food reserves are at their lowest. The pods serve as fodder for livestock. The bark is used in traditional medicine. A bark decoction is taken as a galactagogue, and for treatment of malaria, rheumatism and toothache. The tree with its open, widely spreading crown is used as shade tree for crops, and it is sometimes planted as an ornamental. It provides nectar for honey bees.
The heartwood is straw-coloured with a pink or green sheen, turning reddish brown on exposure, and often indistinctly demarcated from the sapwood. The grain is interlocked, texture coarse. Growth rings distinct. The fresh wood has an unpleasant odour.
The wood has a density of 450–580 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. The rates of shrinkage from green to 12% moisture content are 2.8% radial and 3.8% tangential. The wood air dries rapidly, but with a tendency to twist and cup. Quarter-sawing before drying is recommended. The wood is unstable in service.
The wood is soft. At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 115 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 10,200 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 48 N/mm², cleavage 16 N/mm and Chalais-Meudon hardness 2.9.
The wood is moderately easy to work with hand and machine tools, and a reduced cutting angle is necessary to avoid picking-up during planing. The nailing and gluing properties are satisfactory. The wood is not durable and is liable to termite, pinhole borer and marine borer attacks, but it is comparatively easy to treat with preservatives.
The seed of Parkia filiocoideae has a high protein content (32%) and low fat content (10%). The seed oil contains 54% unsaturated fatty acids; the main fatty acids are oleic acid (43%), stearic acid (17%) and linoleic acid (11%).
Medium-sized, briefly deciduous tree up to 30(–40) m tall; bole cylindrical, usually straight, up to 120 cm in diameter, with thin and fairly spreading buttresses up to 2(–4) m high; bark surface smooth to slightly fissured, pale grey to yellowish brown, inner bark pinkish red; crown widely spreading, umbrella-shaped; young branches short-hairy to glabrous. Leaves alternate, bipinnately compound, up to 40 cm long; stipules needle-shaped, c. 5 mm long, caducous; petiole 5–12.5 cm long, swollen at base, with a deeply lobed gland; rachis short-hairy, with 4–12 pairs of pinnae; leaflets in 12–28(–32) pairs per pinna, opposite to slightly alternate, oblong, 14–35 mm × 3.5–13 mm, unequal at base, notched or rounded to acute at apex, glabrous or finely hairy, midrib and 1–2 other basal veins prominent. Inflorescence a pendulous head arranged in a raceme; head 6–9 cm × 3.5–7.5 cm, bright red, occasionally white, consisting of 2 parts, basal part cylindrical to depressed globose, apical part globose; peduncle 8–34(–40) cm long. Flowers bisexual or sterile, regular, 5-merous, sessile; bisexual flowers in apical part of head, calyx 10–16 mm long with long tube, corolla lobes slightly longer, fused at base but free for more than half their length, stamens 10, fused at base, c. 3 mm exserted, ovary superior, shortly stiped, style slender, shorter than stamens; staminodial flowers at base of basal part of head, few, calyx c. 5 mm long, sterile stamens slightly exserted; nectar-secreting flowers between bisexual and staminodial flowers, calyx 5–9 mm long, stamens rudimentary, with nectar glands at base. Fruit a linear pod 25–45(–80) cm × 1.5–3.5 cm, with stipe of 2–10 cm long, usually glabrous, dark green, becoming black when old, with orange, mealy pulp, indehiscent, up to 21-seeded. Seeds ellipsoid, 16–25 mm × 10–13 mm, brown, with thin, membraneous seed coat. Seedling with epigeal germination.
Parkia comprises about 30 species and has a pantropical distribution. Only 3 species, all belonging to the section Parkia, occur in continental Africa, and a fourth in Madagascar. The Parkia species from continental Africa seem to be closely related, with Parkia bicolor A.Chev. being the closest relative of Parkia filicoidea. The name Parkia filicoidea has commonly been misapplied to Parkia biglobosa (Jacq.) R.Br. ex G.Don, the well-known African locust bean, famous for its fermented seeds serving as a condiment; therefore, interpretation of the literature should be done with care.
Parkia filicoidea trees are leafless for a brief period, often during the flowering period in the dry season. It has been reported that flowering trees can be found throughout the year in Kenya and Tanzania. At night, the sterile flowers near the base of the inflorescence produce abundant nectar, which attracts bats. The flowers are probably most commonly pollinated by these bats, but squirrels have also been recorded as feeding on the nectar. Fruits develop in 2–3 months. Monkeys, baboons, chimpanzees, gorillas and elephants feed on the fruit pulp, and may disperse the seeds. Birds such as parrots and hornbills eat the seeds.
Parkia filicoidea occurs in wet evergreen forest to semi-deciduous forest. In Central Africa it seems to occupy drier forest types than Parkia bicolor. In East and southern Africa it prefers swamp forest and riparian forest, up to 1300 m altitude, but it may be found in rainforest on well-drained localities. In West Africa Parkia filicoidea often occurs scattered in highland forest and in semi-evergreen rainforest along the northern fringe of the Guineo-Congolian region.
Parkia filicoidea can be propagated by seed. The seeds have no period of dormancy and deteriorate rapidly, so they should be sown quickly. Removal of the seedcoat, boiling for a short time or soaking in water overnight improve germination. Fresh seeds extracted from the fruit already started to germinate without any contact with external water. In Kenya seeds found in fresh elephant and baboon faeces germinated soon after collection. In tests in Malawi, however, seeds failed to germinate regardless of the pre-treatment. Pods and seeds are easily attacked by insects. After felling, the logs should be removed from the forest rapidly because they are liable to blue stain attack.
Genetic resources and breeding
Parkia filicoidea is widespread, but in general of scattered distribution. There are no indications that it is threatened by genetic erosion.
Parkia filicoidea is not likely to become of economic importance because it occurs in low densities and its timber is of rather poor quality. Research on its possibilities as a fruit tree appears to be desirable, particularly in combination with other applications, e.g. as shade tree, forage, and fruit and seed vegetable.
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Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2008. Parkia filicoidea Welw. ex Oliv. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.