Cola quinqueloba Garcke
Sterculia livingstoneana Engl.
Sterculia zastrowiana Engl.
Tree growing in native habitat
Photograph by: Scamperdale
Sterculia quinqueloba is a deciduous shrub or, more commonly, a small tree growing from 2.7 - 25 metres tall with exceptional specimens to 40 metres. The bole, which is normally straight and cylindrical, is branchless for up to 4.5 metres and can be 60 - 100cm in diameter[
The tree is harvested from the wild for its gum, which can be used as a Gum Arabic substitute. The timber is often harvested commercially after more valuable trees have been removed. The wood is used locally and also as a fuel. The tree is sometimes grown as an ornamental and to provide shade[
Southern Africa - Angola, DR Congo and Tanzania south to Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
In dry woodland at low altitudes including the coastal plain of Mozambique, but also common on rocky outcrops and hills in Brachystegia woodland at elevations from sea level to 1,650 metres[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
A plant of the hotter and drier tropics, where it can be found at elevations up to 1,650 metres.
Trees respond well to coppicing[
]. They can be roasted and eaten whole like peanuts, or roasted, pounded and then cooked with vegetables such as peas or pumpkins[
A decoction of the bark from branches is recorded to be given as enema as remedy for diarrhoea[
], whereas the boiled bark is reportedly used as enema against constipation[
A decoction of the leaves and the bark of thin branches is drunk to cure stomach-ache[
A decoction of leaves and roots is drunk to cure malaria[
A clear, hard gum is obtained from the trunk[
]. The trees are tapped for their gum, which is traded as 'gum karaya' together with the gum of other Sterculia spp. and is used as thickener, emulsifier, laxative and denture adhesive[
Carefully harvested and graded gum meets the requirements of commercial 'gum karaya' (more commonly derived from the Indian species Sterculia urens). The high tannin content, however, limits its usefulness in foods and pharmaceuticals[
]. The gum possesses solubility and viscosity properties similar to commercial gum arabic from Acacia spp., especially in having a rather low viscosity which is similar in hot and cold water. However, the gum does not meet all specifications required of gum arabic and much higher amounts of the gum are needed to obtain similar results[
The bark is used to make floor mats and yields fibres that are used to make ropes, mats and sacks[
Larger trees have been described as providing very hard timber for planks and sleepers. However, this may well be a case of mistaken identity as other sources describe the wood as soft and easy to work[
The heartwood is pinkish red when freshly cut, darkening to mid-brown on exposure, and distinctly demarcated from the pale yellow, up to 6 cm wide sapwood[
]. The grain is straight, texture medium to coarse. The numerous very broad rays visible on tangential surfaces give a speckled effect[
]. The wood is moderately heavy; the strength rather low; it is moderately durable to durable, being moderately resistant to termites[
]. It saws easily and power demand is low; planing and moulding are easy; it finishes to a good polish; bores and drills fairly well; nailing properties are poor; the wood tends to split and pre-boring is recommended[
]. It is used for furniture, mine props, coffins and light construction[
]. It is also suitable for flooring, interior trim, joinery, turnery, poles, veneer, plywood and pulpwood[
The wood is used for fuel and making charcoal[
Seed - dried seed has a moderate storage life of a year or more. Dried seed germinates more freely than fresh or moist seed[
]. Germination typically takes between 2 - 3 weeks under optimal conditions of 25°c[
A physical dormancy caused by the hard seed coat of the mature seeds of many species in this genus can be overcome by scarifying the seed. This is carried out by cutting away or abrading some of the seed coat to allow the ingress of water, though great care must be taken not to damage the embryo[
]. The aril surrounding the seed should also be removed - this is easiest when it has been softened through soaking in water[
]. The seeds germinate optimally at temperatures between 20 - 30°c. They can be sown in a nursery seedbed or in containers. A germination rate of about 95%, occurring within about 2 weeks can be expected if the seed has been properly treated[
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