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Useful Tropical Plants

Rauvolfia vomitoria

Afzel.

Apocynaceae


The generic name is often mis-spelt as Rauwolfia[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

+ Synonyms

Rauvolfia congolana De Wild. & T.Durand

Rauvolfia pleiosiadica K.Schum.

Rauvolfia senegambiae A.DC.

Rauvolfia stuhlmannii K.Schum.

Common Name:

Rauvolfia vomitoria
Fruiting branch
Photograph by: Ehoarn Bidault
Creative Commons License
Rauvolfia vomitoria Rauvolfia vomitoria Rauvolfia vomitoria

General Information

Rauvolfia vomitoria is a shrub or a tree that varies widely in height; it usually grows from 0.5 - 20 metres tall, though specimens up to 40 metres have been recorded. The bole is up to 80 cm in diameter[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
610
Title
Flora of Tropical East Africa
Publication
 
Author
Beentje H.J.
Website
http://plants.jstor.org/search?st=396814
Publisher
Royal Botanic Gardens; Kew.
Year
2002
ISBN
 
Description
Available on-line, a modern flora of East Africa.
].
The tree is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of materials. It is commonly harvested from the wild and exported to places such as Europe as a source of compounds, especially reserpine, for the pharmaceutical industry[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. The Indian species Rauvolfia serpentina was formerly the main source of reserpine, but has been replaced to a large extent by Rauvolfia vomitoria. The plant is often grown as a shade tree and hedge in plantations and is cultivated in many parts of the tropics and subtropics as an ornamental and avenue tree[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
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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.
].
This species has not yet been assessed in the IUCN List of Endangered Plant Species(2013). Although it has a wide distribution area and is often common, it is possibly endangered in several countries, such as Ghana, due to overharvesting[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Known Hazards

The roots, either alone or combined with the seeds of Strophanthus gratus, are pounded to a paste and used as an arrow poison[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
In DR Congo the roots are a common additive to Periploca nigrescens for use as a hunting poison[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
In Equatorial Guinea the root scrapings are mixed with cassava meal and put in bait for use as a rat poison[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
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ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Botanical References

610
Title
Flora of Tropical East Africa
Publication
 
Author
Beentje H.J.
Website
http://plants.jstor.org/search?st=396814
Publisher
Royal Botanic Gardens; Kew.
Year
2002
ISBN
 
Description
Available on-line, a modern flora of East Africa.

Range

Tropical Africa - widespread from Senegal through Cameroon, Central African Republic, Sudan to Uganda, south to Angola, DR Congo and Tanzania.

Habitat

Bush vegetation, gallery forest, secondary vegetation where fallow periods are long, and along roadsides, at elevations from sea-level up to 1,600 metres[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Properties

Medicinal Rating *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitTree
Height15.00 m
PollinatorsBees, Flies
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Ornamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

A plant of moist areas in the tropics, where it can be found at elevations up to 1,600 metres. It is found in areas where the mean annual temperature is around 26°c and the mean annual rainfall around 1,375mm[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
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0
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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 roots may be harvested annually in a non-destructive way by cutting them 10cm from the taproot. All plant parts are harvested whenever the need arises[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Dry season samples of the roots have been found to contain a higher content of alkaloids than wet season samples[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
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Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
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Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
The plant can flower and produce fruit all year round[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
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Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Trees can be coppiced or pollarded[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
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Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
In the 1970s the stem bark and root bark of Rauvolfia vomitoria were collected from West and Central Africa, and nearly 200 tonnes of reserpine were sold in total, mainly in tablet form for use in human medicines. Reserpine was also widely added as a sedative to animal feed. Nowadays, reserpine is still widely sold through the internet, mainly in India and the United States[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Rauvolfia vomitoria has flowers of two different shapes: slender, small flowers and robust flowers. The slender flowers occur, as far as verified, on diploid plants, while the robust flowers occur on hexaploid plants. Both flower types occur
throughout the area of distribution, although the large-flowered type is not known from East Africa. The root bark of diploid plants contains less reserpine than that of hexaploids[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
The tree is reported to form root nodules that fix atmospheric nitrogen in combination with vesicular arbiscular mycorrhiza[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
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http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
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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

Rauvolfia vomitoria is widely used in traditional medicine in Africa and has also become a major source of a number of compounds used in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly reserpine, reserpinine, deserpidine, ajmalicine and ajmaline. It contains in total between 40 - 80 different indole alkaloids, most of which occur in very small amounts and several are disputed. Most alkaloids occur in an unstable complex, and seasonal variation is present as well. The leaves contain 0.03 - 0.8% total alkaloids; the stem bark about 0.6%; the roots 0.15 - 0.2%; and the root bark from 1.5 - 2%[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]
The alkaloids can be grouped into 5 main groups, plus some minor ones. These are:
1). Yohimbine and derivatives, including reserpine and deserpidine.
2). The heteroyohimbine type, including ajmalicine (raubasine), reserpinine (rescinnamine) and reserpiline.
3). Sarpagane derivatives, including sarpagine (raupine).
4). The dihydro-indole type, including ajmaline.
5). The anhydronium bases, including alstonine, serpentine and serpenticine.
6). Other groups include the oxindoles and pseudoindoxyls. Serpentinine is the only dimeric yohimbin-related alkaloid isolated so far.
Reserpiline is the major component in the root bark, followed by reserpine, reserpinine and ajmaline.
Reserpiline is also the major component of the stem bark, with small amounts of isoreserpiline and yohimbine.
The leaves contain a different range of alkaloids mainly geissoschizol, but no reserpine, reserpinine or ajmaline. The alkaloids in the leaves comprise about 41% heteroyohimbines and 52% oxindoles.
The unripe fruit contains several alkaloids, but they are absent in the ripe fruits[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
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ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Reserpine is a well-known antihypertensive, antipsychotic and sedative. It is a sympatholytic agent acting indirectly on the peripheral and central nerve terminals. It impairs the storage of biogenic amines resulting in depletion of
norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Depletion of norepinephrine induces a lasting drop in blood pressure. Contra-indications for using reserpine are depression, peptic ulcer, and hypersensitivity to the alkaloid. Side effects of the medication include drowsiness, nasal congestion, salivary and gastric hypersecretion, paradoxical anxiety, depression and retention of water and sodium. Overdose may cause respiratory depression, slowed heartbeat, hypotension, confusion, tremors, convulsions and gastro-intestinal distress. Reserpine has been shown to enhance the hypoglycaemic effect of insulin and the hyperglycaemic effect of adrenalin, and has inhibited the physiological
hyperglycaemic response in diabetic patients. Because of the necessary high doses and the resulting dangerous side effects, reserpine lost its importance as a medicine. It is only used in low doses for mild to moderately severe high blood pressure, often together with ajmalicine[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Reserpinine and deserpidine are reserpine analogues. Both alkaloids have the same effects as reserpine, and can be used to treat the same conditions, while their side effects are reported to be less pronounced[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Reserpiline is marked sympatholytic and hypotensive with no noticeable depressant effects on the central nervous system andno sedative properties. It also lacks most ofthe side effects of reserpine and its analogues[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Ajmalicine is an alpha-adrenergic blocking spasmolytic which, at high doses, moderates the activity of the vasomotor centres, especially in the brain stem causing an increase of the bloodflow to the brain. It is mainly used in products that treat the psychological and behavioural problems associated with senility, stroke and head injuries[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Ajmaline is an anti-arrhythmic, which substantially decreases the rate of depolarization of atrial and ventricular cells. Its toxicity has limited its uses and it is mainly prescribed against rapid irregular cardiac beat. Because of its toxicity it is no longer marketed in several countries[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Several other Rauvolfia alkaloids have hypotensive or sedative activities, but most are less effective[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
An ethanolic leaf extract has shown a reduction in blood sugar levels of normal and alloxan-induced diabetic rabbits, comparable to that of tolbutamide[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
A root bark extract showed antibacterial activity in vitro against several human pathogens[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

A root decoction, root macerate or powdered root in water is used throughout the range of the plant as a treatment for diarrhoea, rheumatism, jaundice, venereal diseases and snakebites. Root products are also widely taken to treat hypertension, and as a sedative to calm people with epilepsy, and those who are psychotic or mentally ill[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. The root, infused in palm wine is considered to be aphrodisiac and is also used to treat female sterility[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
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ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
The roots are often used externally. As a wash they are used to treat children with colic or fever[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. The macerated or powdered root, or sometimes the pulped fruit, is applied to a range of skin problems, such as rash, pimples, chicken pox, wounds, scabies, psoriasis, leprosy, haemorrhoids, head lice and parasitic skin diseases[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. The decoction is used in massages and baths to treat rheumatism, tiredness and rachitis; and is used as a mouth wash against gingivitis or thrush[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. The stem bark or leaves are also used for these purposes, but to a lesser extent[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]. In Guinea the root maceration is applied to tumours[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

The stem bark, leaf decoction and latex of young twigs are widely used as purgative or emetic.[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
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Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
]
A bark infusion is taken to cure fever[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
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Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

A mixture of the pulverized root or leaf sap, combined with plant oil or lemon juice, is applied to the hair to stop hair loss[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
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Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
A decoction of the root and leaves is taken to treat indigestion, as a tonic, and as an abortifacient[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
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ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

The latex is used for cicatrization of wounds[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
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Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

Rauvolfia vomitoria is a host of the pathogen causing collar crack of cacao. Even so, it is widely planted as a shade tree for cacao and coffee, and is also used as a support for vanilla[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
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 plant is grown as a live fence[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
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.
].

Other Uses

The young twigs with a whorl of branches at the end are used as mixing sticks for drinks. Larger branches are similarly used to stir the indigo mixture in dyeing pits[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
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.
].

A yellow dye is produced from the bark[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
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.
].

A good quality fibre is obtained from the bark[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
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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.
].

A latex exudes from the young stems[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
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http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
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An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. No uses are recorded.

The light yellowish to white wood reddens with age. It is fine-grained with a fairly hard heartwood. It is of little economic importance, although it is sometimes used to make small kitchen utensils and the heartwood is sometimes used as a substitute for boxwood (Buxus spp.)[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
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.
,
610
Title
Flora of Tropical East Africa
Publication
 
Author
Beentje H.J.
Website
http://plants.jstor.org/search?st=396814
Publisher
Royal Botanic Gardens; Kew.
Year
2002
ISBN
 
Description
Available on-line, a modern flora of East Africa.
].
The wood is used for fuel[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
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.
].

Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe because it has a viability of no more than 6 months[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
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Website
http://www.prota.org
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An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Wild seedlings can be successfully transplanted and cultivated[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
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Website
http://www.prota.org
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Year
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Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].
Tests with vegetative propagation of root and shoot cuttings in vitro have been moderately successful[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
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Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
].

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