This name is not universally accepted. The Flora of Tropical Africa used the name Cathormion altissimum (Hook.f.) Hutch. & Dandy for this species and treats Albizia altissima as a synonym[
Arthrosamanea altissima (Hook.f.) G.C.C.Gilbert & Boutique
Cathormion altissimum (Hook.f.) Hutch. & Dandy
Pithecellobium altissimum (Hook.f.) Oliv.
Albizia altissima is a deciduous shrub or tree with an open, spreading, flat-topped crown and branches that are often pendant. It grows from 5 - 35 metres tall with a bole up to 80cm in diameter that is often short and bent[
]. Juvenile and sucker shoots are often armed with spines[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of wood and materials. The wood is traded[
Saponins are present in different parts of the plant, especially the bark, which explains its use as a fish poison[
Tropical Africa - moister regions from Sierra Leone to Uganda, south to northern Angola, DR Congo and Zambia.
Usually found in riverine forest and freshwater swamp forest, but can also be found in secondary forest, at elevations up to 1,000 metres[
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This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
]. The pulp surrounding the seeds is eaten[
Seed - cooked[
]. The seeds are fermented to make a dish called 'oso', which is used as condiment in soups[
]. An analysis of the fermented seeds showed 25.3% protein, 16.9% lipid and 10.0% carbohydrate[
]. Several bacteria are responsible for the fermentation process[
The bark is a rich source of saponins and is often used in traditional medicine within its native range. A decoction is used as an anodyne to treat toothache and stomach-ache, and is also used in the treatment of pulmonary affections[
A decoction of the bark is applied externally to treat sores[
A leaf decoction is used in a vapour bath to treat colds[
]. Burned leaves are applied to snakebites[
The bark showed antifungal activity against pathogens affecting humans and plants[
Imidazole, a compound with antifungal and antibacterial activities, has been isolated from the seeds[
The fruits are a source of tannins[
]. They can be used for tanning and dyeing, and to prepare an ink[
Saponins are found in various parts of the plant, especially the bark, and can be used as a soap substitute[
]. The scraped inner bark is beaten up in water and used as a soap to wash clothes[
The heartwood is pale brown to yellowish brown, often with darker stripes; it is distinctly demarcated from the whitish sapwood. The grain is often wavy or interlocked; the texture moderately fine. The wood is moderately heavy, hard and durable. Reports on workability vary from easy to difficult; when finished it has an attractive polish[
]. The wood is used locally for furniture and implements such as tool handles[
Seed - when sown fresh, it usually germinates within 6 - 30 days from sowing[
]. Stored seed develops a hard seedcoat and may benefit from scarification before sowing to speed up germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing.
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