Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Gen. Sapotaceae: 248 (1991).
2n = 28
Pachystela micrantha (A.Chev.) Hutch. & Dalziel (1931), Sersalisia micrantha (A.Chev.) Aubrév. & Pellegr. (1935), Afrosersalisia afzelii (Engl.) A.Chev. (1943).
Origin and geographic distribution
Synsepalum afzelii occurs from Sierra Leone east to Cameroon and Gabon.
In Ghana the wood is used for poles. It is suitable for heavy construction, heavy flooring, mine props, vehicle bodies, sporting goods, railway sleepers and implements. It can be made into good-quality charcoal. The sweetly sour fruit pulp is edible.
The heartwood is reddish brown, the sapwood reddish yellow. The grain is usually straight, texture fine. The wood is heavy, with a density of about 990 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content, and hard. It is difficult to dry, with high shrinkage rates. Once dry, the wood is stable. At 12% moisture content the modulus of rupture is 238 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 20,100 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 83 N/mm², cleavage 38 N/mm and Chalais-Meudon side hardness 5.7. The wood saws slowly, with occasional charring and a strong dulling effect on sawteeth; it is recommended that logs be quartersawn to reduce warping. The wood can be finished to a smooth surface. The gluing properties are moderate. The wood is durable, but occasionally attacked by termites. The heartwood is very resistant to impregnation with preservatives. Both the leaves and bark contain tannins and sterols.
Evergreen medium-sized tree up to 30 m tall; bole often fluted at base and sinuous, up to 170(–200) cm in diameter, often with broad buttresses at base; bark surface shallowly fissured and finely scaly, inner bark orange brown to pinkish, soft-fibrous, exuding latex; young branches initially shortly hairy, but soon glabrous. Leaves arranged spirally, clustered at ends of branches, simple and entire; stipules small, early caducous; petiole c. 1 cm long; blade elliptical to obovate, 6–13 cm × 2.5–4 cm, cuneate at base, rounded to shortly acuminate at apex, glabrous, pinnately veined with c. 10 pairs of indistinct lateral veins. Flowers in fascicles on branches below the leaves. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, small, with short pedicels; sepals fused at base, broadly ovate, shortly reddish hairy; corolla c. 3.5 mm long, with short tube and longer, oblong lobes; stamens inserted at apex of corolla tube opposite the corolla lobes, alternating with short staminodes toothed at margins; ovary superior, globose, hairy, 5-celled, gradually narrowing into the cylindrical style. Fruit an ellipsoid berry c. 2.5 cm long, red when ripe, 1-seeded. Seed ellipsoid, c. 2 cm long, brown, with very large scar. Seedling with epigeal germination; hypocotyl 2–3 cm long, epicotyl 5–6 cm long; cotyledons fleshy, c. 2 cm × 1 cm.
Synsepalum afzelii flowers in Côte d’Ivoire from December to May and fruits from June to November.
Synsepalum comprises about 20 species and is confined to tropical Africa. It is most closely related to Englerophytum, which might be better included in Synsepalum. The greyish wood of Synsepalum stipulatum (Radlk.) Engl., a small tree occurring from southern Nigeria to the Central African Republic, Gabon and DR Congo, is used for planks and axe handles. It can also be made into good-quality charcoal. The sweetish fruit pulp is edible and used in jams and jellies. A water infusion from the bark is applied as eardrops to treat earache and a bark decoction is drunk as a galactagogue. In Nigeria Synsepalum stipulatum and Synsepalum afzelii have the same name in some local languages.
Synsepalum afzelii occurs in lowland evergreen forest, most commonly in humid localities, where it is often found in small groups.
Natural regeneration is often abundant, with many seedlings below parent trees. The seedlings are shade tolerant. The bole of Synsepalum afzelii may split during or soon after felling.
Genetic resources and breeding
Synsepalum afzelii is fairly widely distributed and locally fairly common, and there are no indications that it is threatened by genetic erosion.
There is very little information on many aspects of Synsepalum afzelii, and evaluation of its potential as a timber tree in managed natural forest is recommended.
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Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2007. Synsepalum afzelii (Engl.) T.D.Penn. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
various parts of the tree
obtained from The Virtual Field Herbarium
wood in transverse section
wood in tangential section
wood in radial section