Prota 7(2): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 2
Pflanzenw. Ost-Afrikas C: 423 (1895).
Leaf-berry tree (En). Mtama mwitu (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Tapura fischeri is distributed from Côte d’Ivoire eastwards to Sudan and Ethiopia and from there south to South Africa.
The wood is used for building poles, tools and wooden spoons, and as firewood. In Tanzania the leaves are used for fodder and as a medicine for stomach-ache.
The wood of Tapura fischeri is tough and hard. Extracts of the leaves were found to contain 4 pheophytins, as well as pheophorbide, a methyl ester.
Shrub or small to medium-sized tree up to 25 m tall; bole straight, up to 45 cm in diameter; bark surface rather smooth, thinly scaly, grey-brown; branches often horizontal, sometimes drooping. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules triangular, 1–5 mm long, caducous; petiole 2–10 mm long; blade elliptical to obovate, (2–)4–10(–16) cm × (1–)2–5(–7) cm, cuneate to rounded and often unequal-sided at base, usually short-acuminate at apex, glabrous above, densely hairy below especially on midrib and veins, pinnately veined with 4–7(–8) pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary umbel-like cyme, c. 35-flowered; peduncle usually fused with petiole. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, (4–)5-merous, white, fragrant; pedicel up to 3(–6) mm long; sepals unequal, erect, c. 1 mm × 1 mm; petals united with stamens into a tube, unequal, up to 2.5 mm long; fertile stamens 2(–3), sterile stamens 1–3; ovary superior, (2–) 3-celled, style slender, up to 3 mm long, (2–)3-lobed at apex. Fruit an ovoid to ellipsoid drupe c. 5 mm long, dehiscent, 1–3-seeded. Seeds ellipsoid, 3–4 mm long.
Tapura is restricted to tropical America and Africa, and comprises nearly 30 species of which 7 are found in Africa.
Tapura fischeri occurs in the understorey of lowland forest, up to 1300 m altitude. In West Africa it is found in drier types of semi-deciduous forest, but it is also common in riverine forest.
Genetic resources and breeding
Tapura fischeri is widespread in most of mainland tropical Africa and as it is not heavily exploited it is not threatened by genetic erosion. However, the other African Tapura spp. have comparatively small areas of distribution in either West or Central Africa.
The wood of Tapura fischeri will remain important for local use, but it does not seem to have prospects for commercial exploitation because the logs are usually too small and the trees occur too scattered in the forest.
• Breteler, F.J., 1991. Dichapetalaceae. Flore du Gabon. Volume 32. Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France. 221 pp.
• Burkill, H.M., 1985. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Families A–D. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 960 pp.
• Breteler, F.J., 1988. Dichapetalaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. 18 pp.
• Lovett, J.C., Ruffo, C.K., Gereau, R.E. & Taplin, J.R.D., 2007. Field guide to the moist forest trees of Tanzania. [Internet] Centre for Ecology Law and Policy, Environment Department, University of York, York, United Kingdom. http://celp.org.uk/ projects/ tzforeco/. Accessed December 2008.
• Schwikkard, S.L., Mulholland, D.A. & Hutchings, A., 1998. Phaeophytins from Tapura fischeri. Phytochemistry 49(8): 2391–2394.
Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2009. Tapura fischeri Engl. 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.