Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Gen. Sapotaceae: 248 (1991).
2n = 26, 28
Pachystela brevipes (Baker) Engl. (1904).
Musaka (Po). Msamvia, mchocho jike, mchocha mke (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Synsepalum brevipes is widespread from Senegal east to Kenya and south to Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The wood is used for poles, stakes, seats, mortars and pestles, tool handles and canoes. It is also used as firewood and for charcoal production. The sweetly sour fruit pulp is edible. It is also used with sugar to prepare fruit juice. In traditional medicine a root decoction is taken to treat malaria and as an aphrodisiac. Sap from the roots and bark is drunk to treat coughs, colds, hernia and stomach complaints. The leaves are used against hookworm infection of the small intestine. A bark decoction is drunk to treat swellings. The fruit pulp is used to treat jaundice and nausea, and the latex from the fruit is applied as a galactagogue. Synsepalum brevipes is occasionally planted as a roadside tree or ornamental shade tree.
The heartwood is reddish brown, the sapwood pale brown to reddish yellow. The wood is heavy, with a density of about 960 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content, and hard. It planes easily and smoothly. It splits easily and does not take nails. It is not well suited for turning. The wood is durable.
Evergreen medium-sized tree up to 25 m tall, but usually smaller; bole straight, strongly fluted, up to 100 cm in diameter, slightly buttressed at base; bark surface brown to grey, scaly, inner bark pink-red, exuding latex; crown with spreading branches, terminal parts drooping; young branches shortly brown hairy. Leaves arranged spirally, clustered at ends of branches, simple and entire; stipules filiform, 0.5–2 cm long, persistent; petiole up to 1 cm long; blade obovate to oblanceolate, 8–25 cm × 4–9 cm, cuneate at base, rounded to shortly acuminate at apex, leathery, initially silvery hairy below but glabrescent, pinnately veined with 5–11 pairs of distinct lateral veins. Flowers in fascicles on branches below the leaves. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, greenish to creamy white, fragrant, with short pedicels; sepals free, ovate, appressed hairy; corolla 5–6 mm long, with short tube and longer, oblong lobes; stamens inserted at apex of corolla tube opposite the corolla lobes, staminodes minute or absent; ovary superior, globose, hairy, 5-celled, gradually narrowing into the long cylindrical style. Fruit an ellipsoid or ovoid berry 2–2.5 cm long, yellow to orange when ripe, with persistent style on top, 1-seeded. Seed ellipsoid, c. 2 cm long, brown, with very large scar. Seedling with epigeal germination; hypocotyl 0.5–2.5 cm long, epicotyl 7–11 cm long; cotyledons elliptical, plano-convex, 1–1.5 cm long, fleshy; first two leaves opposite, with linear stipules up to 3 mm long.
Synsepalum brevipes flowers in Côte d’Ivoire from September to February and fruits from December to March.
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. Synsepalum pobeguinianum (Pierre ex Lecomte) Aké Assi & L.Gaut. from gallery forest in West Africa is closely related to or possibly conspecific with Synsepalum brevipes. It is used for similar purposes.
Synsepalum brevipes occurs in forest as well as savanna regions, often in humid localities along rivers and lakes, in East Africa up to 1500 m altitude. It prefers deep, well-drained sandy loams rich in organic matter, but is often found in localities with a high permanent water table.
Synsepalum brevipes is only occasionally planted. The 1000-seed weight is 1.1–1.4 kg. Seeds can be stored for some time in sealed containers in a cool place. Before sowing, seeds should be soaked in water for 12 hours or scarified. In tests in Côte d’Ivoire, germination started after 8–25 days, and the germination percentage was high. Wildlings are occasionally collected from the forest for planting. The tree can be managed by coppicing and pollarding. In Tanzania ripe fruits are collected from wild trees from October to February.
Genetic resources and breeding
Synsepalum brevipes occurs widespread and is common in many regions, which means it is not easily liable to genetic erosion.
It is unlikely that Synsepalum brevipes will gain importance as a timber tree because it is often too small and has a fluted bole. However, it is of interest as a multipurpose tree providing not only wood but also good-quality charcoal, edible fruits and traditional medicines, and it can also serve as an ornamental tree.
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Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2007. Synsepalum brevipes (Baker) 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.
wood in transverse and tangential section