Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Bull. Inst. Franç. Afrique Noire 15: 1417 (1953).
Malacantha alnifolia (Baker) Pierre (1891), Malacantha heudelotiana Pierre (1891).
Origin and geographic distribution
Pouteria alnifolia is widespread from Senegal east to south-western Ethiopia and eastern Kenya, and south to Mozambique.
The wood is used locally for construction, implements, walking sticks and canoes, as firewood and for charcoal production. The sweet fruit pulp is eaten fresh. The leaves are sometimes used as fodder for livestock. They are also used as food wrappers. The leaves are applied externally in traditional medicine in West Africa to treat yaws, wounds and conjunctivitis, The pulped bark is administered in embrocations to treat rheumatism and as an enema to treat diarrhoea in children.
The heartwood is yellowish white and not clearly demarcated from the sapwood. The specific gravity of the wood is 0.45. The wood is fairly hard, durable and resistant to termites.
The leaves are well accepted as fodder by sheep, although they contain considerable amounts of tannin. The nutrient content per 100 g dry matter is: crude protein 13.3 g, crude fat 3.7 g, crude fibre 25.6 g and total ash 7.6 g. Per 100 g dry matter the total phenol content is 8.3 g of which tannin phenols 6.8 g and extractable condensed tannins 6.6 g.
Shrub or small to medium-sized deciduous tree up to 25 m tall; bole up to 70(–100) cm in diameter, often twisted and fluted and with small buttresses; bark surface greyish brown, fissured and scaly, inner bark fibrous, whitish yellow to orange-yellow, exuding latex; crown dense; young branches densely reddish brown hairy. Leaves arranged spirally, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 1–1.5 cm long, hairy; blade elliptical to obovate, 12–25(–38) cm × 7–16(–20) cm, cuneate to rounded at base, rounded to slightly notched at apex, densely to slightly pubescent below, with glandular translucent dots, pinnately veined with 15–20 pairs of lateral veins. Flowers in fascicles in the axils of current or fallen leaves, bisexual, regular, 5-merous, slightly fragrant, sessile; sepals free, broadly elliptical, up to 5.5 mm long, brownish pubescent outside; corolla with c. 4.5 mm long tube and rounded lobes c. 2.5 mm long, hairy at margins, yellowish or greenish white; stamens inserted in upper part of the corolla tube, opposite corolla lobes; ovary superior, globose, long-hairy, 5-celled, style cylindrical, about as long as corolla, stigma 5-lobed. Fruit a globose to ellipsoid berry 1.5–2.5 cm long, becoming red when ripe, with persistent style, finely hairy but glabrescent, 1-seeded. Seed ellipsoid, 1.5–2 cm long, dark brown, with rather narrow scar.
Pouteria is pantropical and comprises approximately 320 species, about 200 of them in tropical America, 120 in tropical Asia and only 6 in Africa. The African species were classified in the genera Aningeria and Malacantha, but both have been included in Pouteria. Pouteria has been subdivided into 9 sections. The African species belong to section Rivicoa, together with some American species including the well-known fruit tree Pouteria campechiana (Kunth) Baehni (canistel or yellow sapote). In the literature, Pouteria alnifolia has been much confused with other Pouteria spp., mainly Pouteria altissima (A.Chev.) Baehni and Pouteria aningeri Baehni. It is characterized by its sessile flowers and narrower seed scar. Pouteria alnifolia usually flowers at the beginning of the dry season.
Pouteria alnifolia occurs in dry forest and gallery forest, often in the transition zone between savanna and forest, and also in disturbed forest. It is often found on rocky sites. In south-western Burkina Faso Pouteria alnifolia is most common on moister soils. In East Africa it is often an understorey tree in lowland rainforest and deciduous forest. It is often common, especially in West and Central Africa. Pouteria alnifolia is a pioneer species that tolerates fire. It regenerates abundantly in regularly burned forest, where it is often more common than in unburned forest. In Benin vegetation communities in which Pouteria alnifolia plays an important role are considered an indicator of sites with great potential for growing teak.
Pouteria alnifolia can be managed by coppicing.
Genetic resources and breeding
Pouteria alnifolia is widespread and locally common, and not under threat of genetic erosion. However, in several regions it is considered rare, e.g. in Ethiopia, Kenya and Mozambique, and there local populations may be threatened. Var. sacleuxii (Lecomte) L.Gaut., restricted to Zanzibar (Tanzania), is classified as vulnerable in the 2006 IUCN Red list of threatened species.
Pouteria alnifolia is of limited value as a commercial timber tree because of its often poorly shaped and small-sized bole. However, it will remain of local importance in drier regions. It deserves more attention as a multipurpose tree, providing timber as well as edible fruits, forage and traditional medicine.
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Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2007. Pouteria alnifolia (Baker) Roberty. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
wood in transverse section
wood in tangential section
wood in radial section