Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Bull. Sci. Nat. Géol. 23: 238 (1830).
2n = 50
Monkey apple (En). Mtimaji (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Trichilia prieureana is widespread from Senegal east to south-western Ethiopia, Uganda and western Tanzania, and south to northern Angola (Cabinda) and Zambia.
The wood is used in Ethiopia for the construction of local houses. In Tanzania it is used for tool handles and spoons. The wood is suitable for heavy and light construction, railway sleepers, heavy and light flooring, joinery, interior trim, furniture, cabinet work, sporting goods, toys, novelties, veneer, plywood, hardboard and particle board. It is used as firewood and for charcoal production; it burns slowly with great heat.
In West Africa the bark is used to treat venereal diseases, fever, cough, constipation, poisoning and ascites, and as an aphrodisiac. In the Central African Republic a bark decoction is applied to treat pain caused by lumbago and rheumatism. Powder made from burned bark is applied to scarification wounds. Leaves, bark and roots are applied against arthritis. A leaf decoction is drunk against anaemia and is applied as a bath against syphilis, whereas pulverized leaves are taken to treat stomach spasms. A decoction of various plant parts is applied as a wash to treat leprosy and wounds. A decoction of leafy twigs is taken to treat bronchitis and oedema. Twigs are used as chew-sticks. The root and pounded leaves are used in preparations to treat gonorrhoea, root and bark are administered as an enema to treat piles, and pulverized roots are taken against ascariasis and as a purgative. The seed is one of the ingredients of a preparation to treat goitre. The fleshy seed coat is edible. In Gabon Trichilia prieureana has been used as a shade tree and support for vanilla plants.
The heartwood is pale pinkish brown to reddish brown and distinctly demarcated from the creamy white to pale yellow sapwood. The grain is wavy or straight, texture fine.
The wood is moderately heavy, with a density of about 750 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. It air dries moderately well to with difficulty; the rates of shrinkage are moderately high. The wood is difficult to saw because of the presence of silica, which causes blunting of saw teeth and cutting edges. It planes satisfactorily, giving nice quarter-sawn surfaces. It polishes well. The nailing properties are good. The wood is moderately durable; it is susceptible to Lyctus attack. The heartwood is resistant to impregnation by preservatives, but the sapwood is moderately permeable. The wood dust may cause irritation to the respiratory tracts in wood workers.
Evergreen shrub or small to medium-sized tree up to 30(–40) m tall; bole branchless for up to 21 m but usually much shorter, often crooked or sinuous, usually conspicuously fluted, up to 100 cm in diameter; bark surface shallowly fissured, greyish brown, peeling off in thin flakes or rectangular strips, inner bark pale yellow or pink; crown hemispherical, dense; young branches glabrous. Leaves alternate, imparipinnately compound with (1–)2–4(–5) pairs of leaflets; stipules absent; petiole (1.5–)3–10 cm long, rachis (1–)4–15(–20) cm long; petiolules 2–10(–20) mm long; leaflets opposite, elliptical to ovate or obovate, 5–25 cm × 2–10 cm, cuneate at base, acuminate at apex, glabrous, pinnately veined. Inflorescence an axillary panicle up to 10(–13) cm long, short-hairy; bracts ovate to triangular, up to 2.5 mm long, caducous. Flowers unisexual, male and female flowers very similar in appearance, regular, 5-merous, greenish white, fragrant; pedicel up to 2 mm long; receptacle cylindrical, up to 1.5 mm long; calyx cup-shaped, 1–2.5 mm long, lobes 0.5–2 mm long; petals free, narrowly obovate to narrowly oblong, 4.5–8 mm long; stamens 3–6 mm long, fused completely into a tube, hairy inside; ovary superior, ovoid to globose, 1–2 mm in diameter, glabrous or slightly hairy, 2–3-celled, style 1–4 mm long, glabrous or slightly hairy, stigma head-shaped or distinctly lobed; male flowers with rudimentary ovary, female flowers with non-dehiscing anthers. Fruit an ovoid to globose capsule 1.5–2.5 cm in diameter, often pink when ripe, dehiscent, up to 6-seeded. Seeds 10–17 mm × 7–12 mm, on a long funicle, seed coat partly fleshy and orange-red, remaining part glossy dark brown. Seedling with epigeal germination; hypocotyl c. 4 cm long, epicotyl 2.5–3 cm long; cotyledons sessile, thick and fleshy, green.
In Sierra Leone Trichilia prieureana flowers in January–March, and fruiting is from March onwards. The flowers are pollinated by insects such as bees. The fleshy seed coat has been recorded in Gabon as an important food for monkeys and birds such as hornbills and turacos early in the dry season.
Trichilia comprises about 90 species, most of them in tropical America. In continental Africa 18 species occur, in Madagascar 6.
Trichilia prieureana has an isolated position within the genus in Africa and has been placed in the section Moschoxylum. It is variable and 3 subspecies have been distinguished: subsp. prieureana (synonym: Trichilia senegalensis C.DC.) occurring from Senegal to Nigeria, and characterized by usually 3-celled ovary, glabrous style and lobed stigma; subsp. vermoesenii J.J.de Wilde occurring from Côte d’Ivoire to Uganda and Angola, and characterized by usually incompletely 2-celled ovary, slightly hairy style but glabrous ovary, and head-shaped stigma; and subsp. orientalis J.J.de Wilde occurring in southern DR Congo, Uganda, western Tanzania and northern Zambia, and characterized by usually incompletely 2-celled ovary, slightly hairy style and ovary, and head-shaped stigma.
Trichilia prieureana occurs in lowland forest and riverine forest up to 1300 m altitude, up to 1500 m in Zambia, often as an understorey tree. In West Africa it prefers drier forest types, with subsp. prieureana usually found in savanna woodland and forest-savanna mosaic, and subsp. vermoesenii in the rainforest region. In Uganda subsp. vermoesenii occurs in rainforest in higher-rainfall areas in the western part of the country, subsp. orientalis in savanna woodland and forest-savanna mosaic in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
The 1000-seed weight is about 330 g. Seeds germinate 8–15 days after sowing. Logs split easily and therefore some care is needed during felling operations.
Genetic resources and breeding
Trichilia prieureana does not suffer from genetic erosion because it is widespread and locally common, also in secondary forest.
The often sinuous and fluted boles of Trichilia prieureana hamper its applicability in the peeling industry, and the presence of silica, which makes sawing difficult, and easy splitting of the wood are other drawbacks. Therefore, the prospects as a commercial timber tree seem to be poor, and Trichilia prieureana may remain an undesirable tree in exploited forest, as it has often been, like other Trichilia species.
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Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2008. Trichilia prieureana A.Juss. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
bark and slash
leaves, fruits and seeds