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Useful Tropical Plants

Prunus africana

(Hook.f.) Kalkman

Rosaceae


The taxonomic history of Prunus is long and complicated, in part due to the economic value of its fruit crops and also the ease with which some species hybridize. Here, Prunus is circumscribed in its broad sense based on the argument that when viewed on a worldwide scale, the morphologic discontinuities among the segregate genera diminish and they overlap with one another. Included here are species that have at times been placed in the genera Amygdalus, Armeniaca, Cerasus, Laurocerasus, Padus, and Persica.
At the species level, Prunus has been the object of the usual combining and splitting common among taxonomists with different philosophies and opinions. In particular, over-reliance on the indument of various vegetative and floral parts has led to the naming of numerous species and infraspecific taxa. Similarly, too much has been made of fruit colour and palatability in naming taxa of Prunus. It is very likely that, as molecular and genetic data are analyzed and, more importantly, correlated with morphological data, circumscriptions will be redrawn and the number of Prunus species will be reduced[
270
Title
Flora of N. America
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/fna/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An on-line version of the flora with an excellent description of the plant including a brief mention of plant uses.
].

+ Synonyms

Prunus crassifolia (Hauman) Kalkman

Pygeum africanum Hook.f.

Pygeum crassifolium Hauman

Common Name: Pygeum

Prunus africana
Cultivated tree
Photograph by: Scamperdale
Creative Commons License
Prunus africana Prunus africana Prunus africana Prunus africana Prunus africana

General Information

Prunus africana is a fast-growing, much branched, evergreen tree with a spherical crown; usually growing 10 - 24 metres tall with some specimens reaching 36 metres[
332
Title
The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
Burkil. H. M.
Publisher
Royal Botanic Gardens; Kew.
Year
1985 - 2004
ISBN
 
Description
Brief descriptions and details of the uses of over 4,000 plants. A superb, if terse, resource, it is also available electronically on the Web - see http://www.aluka.org/
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Occasionally, as in the lava forest of Kenya, the plant is no more than a shrub 3 - 5 metres tall[
328
Title
African Flowering Plants Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/bd/cjb/africa/recherche.php
Publisher
Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques.
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Contains information on over 150,000 plant names (including synonyms) giving a description and habitat, plus a distribution map.
].The bole has a diameter of up to 1 metre and can be branchless for the first 10 metres[
328
Title
African Flowering Plants Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/bd/cjb/africa/recherche.php
Publisher
Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques.
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Contains information on over 150,000 plant names (including synonyms) giving a description and habitat, plus a distribution map.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The bark has a very high reputation as a treatment for enlarged prostate in older males. It is harvested in large quantities from the wild, mainly for export. The tree has various other local medicinal uses, and provides a good quality wood that is mainly used locally.
Although the tree can be very common in parts of its vast range, destructive harvesting of the bark for medicinal use has led to the deaths of a great many trees[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
]. Consequently, the tree has been classified as 'Vulnerable' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2010)[
338
Title
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A list of plants under threat and facing possible extinction, usually with brief details of the threats and information on habitat.
].

Known Hazards

The bark, bruised leaves and fruits smell strongly of bitter almonds, suggesting the presence of hydrogen cyanide. They are reputed to be poisonous and are used in witchcraft[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The plant (especially the seed and young shoots) contains cyanogenic glycosides, especially amygdalin and prunasin. When injested, these compounds break down in the digestive tract to release cyanide. Used in small quantities in both traditional and conventional medicine, this exceedingly poisonous compound has been shown to stimulate respiration, improve digestion, and promote a sense of well-being[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. It is also claimed by some to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer - though this claim has been largely refuted.
In larger concentrations, however, cyanide can cause gasping, weakness, excitement, pupil dilation, spasms, convulsions, coma and respiratory failure leading to death[
293
Title
Poisonous Plants of North Carolina
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/poison.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent concise but comprehensive guide to toxic plants that grow in N. Carolina. It lists even those plants that are of very low toxicity, including several well-known food plants such as carrots and potatoes.
].
The fruits and flowers of most members of this genus generally have low or very low concentrations of this toxin, though the seeds and young shoots can contain much higher levels.
The levels of toxin can be detected by the level of bitterness:- for example sweet tasting almond seeds are a major food crop and are often eaten in quantity, whilst bitter tasting almond seeds are used as a flavouring (in marzipan for example) but are not usually eaten on their own.
In general, it can be considered safe to eat any fruit or seed from species in this genus that either have a sweet flavour or are slightly bitter. Great caution should be taken, however, if the flavour is moderately to very bitter[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Botanical References


Range

E. Africa - Sudan, Ethiopia, south to Zambia, Zimbabwe and S. Africa. Also in Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Angola in West Africa.

Habitat

Upland rain-forest, montane and riverine forests; moist evergreen forest; on termitaria in Brachystegia woodland; edge of dry gallery forest; mixed Podocarpus latifolius forest with Olea capensis subsp. hochstetteri, Zyzygium, etc[
328
Title
African Flowering Plants Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/bd/cjb/africa/recherche.php
Publisher
Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques.
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Contains information on over 150,000 plant names (including synonyms) giving a description and habitat, plus a distribution map.
].

Properties

Conservation StatusVulnerable
Medicinal Rating *  *  *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Tree
Height18.00 m
Growth RateFast
PollinatorsBees
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

A tree of higher elevations in the humid and semi-humid tropics, also of middle elevations in the humid tropics, it is found at elevations from 900 - 3,400 metres[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It grows best in areas where the mean annual temperature is within the range 14 - 18°c, but can tolerate 12 - 26°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It prefers a climate with a distinct dry season and a mean annual rainfall in the range 900 - 1,400mm, but can tolerate 700 - 2,000mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Requires a sunny position[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Prefers medium to light soils[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, but tolerates 5 - 7[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The tree is able to withstand severe bark removal so long as the cambium layer is not damaged, but poor harvesting of the bark may lead to tree death[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. The bark is only collected from two quarters of the circumference of the tree, each quarter on opposite sides of the tree. It is harvested from about 35cm above the ground level to the height of the first branch[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. In this way, it is thought that the bark can be harvested sustainably every 4 - 5 years, harvesting from alternate pairs of quarters each time[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
Mean bark yield per tree is 55 kg, ranging from a low of 34 kg up to 74 kg[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
Bark removal induces early flowering[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal

The bark is highly valued for its medicinal properties, particularly as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate gland hypertrophy, diseases that commonly affect older men in Europe and N. America[
402
Title
Contribution to an evaluation of tree species using the new CITES Listing Criteria
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://sea.unep-wcmc.org/species/tree_study/
Publisher
UNEP-WCMC; Cambridge.
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
A document produced by UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre in 1999. It contains fact sheets on more than 200 tree species from around the globe.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Modern research has shown that this can be a very effective treatment.
In addition, the bark is used in traditional medicine as a purgative and as a remedy for stomach ache[
402
Title
Contribution to an evaluation of tree species using the new CITES Listing Criteria
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://sea.unep-wcmc.org/species/tree_study/
Publisher
UNEP-WCMC; Cambridge.
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
A document produced by UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre in 1999. It contains fact sheets on more than 200 tree species from around the globe.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

The leaves are used as an inhalant for fever or are drunk as an infusion to improve appetite[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

The tree contains several medically active compounds including the cyanogenic glycoside amygdalin, which is found in the bark, leaf and fruit; phytosterols such as. β-sitosterol 15-18%, and its 3-O-glycoside, β-sitostenone, campesterol, and aucosterol; pentacyclic triterpenoids (mainly of the oleanolic and ursolic acid type)[
395
Title
Pharmaceutical monographs for 60 South African plant species
Publication
 
Author
Scott, G. and Springfield, E.P.
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com/medmonographs
Publisher
 
Year
2004
ISBN
 
Description
A series of 60 monographs of S. African medicinal plants. Well written, with information on traditional uses and modern research into the plants.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

The tree is used for erosion control, shade, shelter, windbreak and as an ornamental. Fallen leaves act as a green manure[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

Other Uses

The heartwood is pale red when freshly cut, turning a dark rich red colour upon exposure to air; the sapwood is pale pink and not clearly defined[
316
Title
Tropical Timbers of the World. Ag. Handbook No. 607.
Publication
 
Author
Chudnoff. Martin.
Publisher
USDA Forest Service. Wisconsin.
Year
1984
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details on the properties of the wood of almost 400 species of trees from the Tropics.
]. The texture medium to fine; the grain straight to interlocked[
316
Title
Tropical Timbers of the World. Ag. Handbook No. 607.
Publication
 
Author
Chudnoff. Martin.
Publisher
USDA Forest Service. Wisconsin.
Year
1984
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details on the properties of the wood of almost 400 species of trees from the Tropics.
]. The wood is strong but not durable[
316
Title
Tropical Timbers of the World. Ag. Handbook No. 607.
Publication
 
Author
Chudnoff. Martin.
Publisher
USDA Forest Service. Wisconsin.
Year
1984
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details on the properties of the wood of almost 400 species of trees from the Tropics.
,
466
Title
Useful Plants of Nyasaland
Publication
 
Author
Williamson J.
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
The Government Printer, Zomba, Nyasaland.
Year
1955
ISBN
 
Description
Brief details of the uses of almost 500 species of plants.
]. Seasoned wood saws easily and cleanly; works well with hand and machine tools; is difficult to nail; polishes and finishes well[
316
Title
Tropical Timbers of the World. Ag. Handbook No. 607.
Publication
 
Author
Chudnoff. Martin.
Publisher
USDA Forest Service. Wisconsin.
Year
1984
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details on the properties of the wood of almost 400 species of trees from the Tropics.
]. This species has excellent timber for flooring, heavy construction where durability is not required, furniture and household utensils[
316
Title
Tropical Timbers of the World. Ag. Handbook No. 607.
Publication
 
Author
Chudnoff. Martin.
Publisher
USDA Forest Service. Wisconsin.
Year
1984
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details on the properties of the wood of almost 400 species of trees from the Tropics.
,
402
Title
Contribution to an evaluation of tree species using the new CITES Listing Criteria
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://sea.unep-wcmc.org/species/tree_study/
Publisher
UNEP-WCMC; Cambridge.
Year
1999
ISBN
 
Description
A document produced by UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre in 1999. It contains fact sheets on more than 200 tree species from around the globe.
].
The tree yields a high quality fuel[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

Propagation

Seed - does not require pre-treatment[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. It has a fairly short period of viability and is best sown as soon as it is ripe. Under ideal conditions, germination takes place within 35 - 50 days; expected germination rate of a mature, healthy seed lot is 60 - 80%[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
Cite as: Tropical Plants Database, Ken Fern. tropical.theferns.info. 2019-12-06. <tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Prunus+africana>

Comments

Mwidu Joseph 27th October 2016 7:39
This tree was commonly used in making mortars and pestles in Uganda

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