Cussonia barteri Seem.
Cussonia delevoyi De Wild.
Cussonia djalonensis A.Chev.
Cussonia hamata Harms
Cussonia homblei De Wild.
Cussonia kirkii Seem.
Cussonia laciniata Harms
Cussonia longissima Hutch. & Dalziel
Cussonia nigerica Hutch.
Cussonia tisserantii Aubrév. & Pellegr.
Tree with a few new leaves forming and lots of inflorescences developing.
Photograph by: Marco Schmidt
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5
Cussonia arborea is a deciduous tree sometimes growing up to 13 metres tall. The bole is crooked and can be up to 100cm in diameter with a very thick, corky bark[
]. The tree becomes completely defoliated during the dry season, and the thick stumpy branches sticking up into the sky, which resemble amputated and deformed limbs, invoke various common names in Africa such as ‘stump of an amputated limb'; 'cut hand' and 'leper’s hand'[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use, mainly as a medicine but also as a source of gum, wood, potash and ink.
Tropical Africa - Sierra Leone to Sudan and Ethiopia, south to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Woodland, wooded grassland; rocks; on red acid clay, laterite; sometimes on termite mounds; forest gallery; tall grass savannah; rocky steep hillsides with Combretum; Erythrina abyssinica woodland; at elevations from 200 - 2,470 metres[
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]. Only eaten when better foods are not available[
Because of the likeness of the defoliated tree to deformed limbs, and based on the 'Theory of Signatures', the plant is often used in Africa in the treatment of leprosy. Most commonly, the stem is macerated and taken as a purgative and is also applied externally as a lotion; the leprous sores may also be dressed with the powdered stem-bark[
The leafy twigs are used with magical rites in the treatment of 'yellow fever', oedemas, paralysis and sleeping-sickness[
]. The water in which the leaves have been boiled is purgative and is taken as a remedy for constipation[
]. The pulped up young shoots are eaten as a remedy for diarrhoea[
A decoction of the leaves is used as an eye-wash for treating conjunctivitis, and as a massage in cases of epilepsy in both adults and children[
The plant is an emeto-purgative and diuretic, and these cleansing actions upon the body are used in the treatment of various complaints. The plant is also prescribed as a poison-antidote and is used in the treatment of fevers[
Root and stem-decoctions are given as a remedy for painful menstruation, and a root-decoction is used as an emetic for treating biliousness[
The root is prepared in vapour-baths in the treatment of gonorrhoea[
Unspecified parts of the plant are used in the treatment of urethral discharge in women, and are taken by men as an aphrodisiac[
The plant does not appear to have any marked physiological activity. It is more or less atoxic, and chemical analysis of material from Cote D'Ivoire has shown no alkaloid, glycoside or saponoside present[
A trace of alkaloid is reported in Nigerian material[
A black ink is prepared from a decoction of the wood[
The wood-ash is rich in potash and is used as a mordant with indigo dyes[
]. The ash is used to make soap with the oil of Carapa procera[
The bark, when slashed, exudes a gum which appears to be somewhat variable: from some trees it is said to form into 'pencils', whilst from others it is a sticky ropy juice[
]. The gum has a slightly irritant property[
The wood is dirty white, soft, brittle and rots easily. As timber it is of little value. Some tribes hollow it out to make quivers and trumpets[
The wood of this or another species is used to make cases in which to keep gunpowder and cartridges dry[
Seed - best sown as soon as possible because it loses much of its viability within 3 months. However, seed sown in summer months will germinate faster (in about 4 weeks) than seed sown in winter (7 weeks to germination). Sow the seed in seed trays in a semi-shaded position, ensuring at least 15cm depth of soil to allow the small tubers to form. Do not allow seed to become waterlogged or dry out. Seedlings can be transplanted at about 4 months, but be very careful not to damage the fleshy roots when transplanting[
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