Zanthoxylum tsihanimposa (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Zanthoxylum tsihanimposa H.Perrier

Protologue: Mém. Acad. Sci. (Paris) 67: 2 (1948).
Family: Rutaceae

Origin and geographic distribution

Zanthoxylum tsihanimposa is endemic to western Madagascar, where it occurs from Antsiranana to Morondava.


The wood, often traded as ‘fahavalonkazo’, is used locally for house building, especially for window frames and doors, and also in shipbuilding and for boxes and crates. It is suitable for veneer and plywood production. A bark decoction is used to treat malaria.


The heartwood is yellowish brown, sometimes with a greenish or golden shine, and distinctly demarcated from the greyish white sapwood. The grain is straight, texture coarse.

The wood is medium-weight, with a density of 520–680 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. It seasons rapidly with little or no degrade. The rates of shrinkage are moderately high, from green to oven dry 4.3–5.5% radial and 7.9–8.9% tangential. Once dry, the wood is moderately stable in service. At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 120–161 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 12,100–16,800 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 46–59 N/mm², shear 5 N/mm², cleavage 12–13 N/mm and Chalais-Meudon side hardness 1.9–3.6.

The wood is fairly easy to saw and work. It holds nails moderately well. The gluing and painting properties are satisfactory. The durability is poor to moderate, the wood being susceptible to attacks by termites, Lyctus borers and fungi. The heartwood is moderately resistant to impregnation with preservatives.

Several alkaloids have been isolated from the stem bark: skimmianine, γ-fagarine, dictamnine, N-benzoyltyramine-methylether and 4-methoxy-1-methyl-2-quinolinone. The quinoline alkaloid γ-fagarine exhibited the strongest in-vitro antiplasmodial activity. Decarine, an alkaloid isolated from two other Zanthoxylum species of Madagascar, i.e. Zanthoxylum madagascariense Baker and Zanthoxylum thouvenotii H.Perrier, showed molluscicidal activity against Biomphalaria pfeifferi, which is an intermediate host for bilharzia parasites.


  • Deciduous medium-sized tree up to 30 m tall; bole usually straight and cylindrical, up to 100 cm in diameter, with woody, prickle-bearing protuberances up to 2 cm long but old trees sometimes lacking these, often with large and thick, yellowish, corky flakes at base; bark thick, outer bark greyish white to pale brown; twigs thick, armed with conical prickles.
  • Leaves alternate, clustered at ends of branches, imparipinnately compound with 19–33 leaflets, up to 80 cm long; stipules absent; rachis glabrous, sometimes with small prickles; leaflets nearly opposite, almost sessile, oblong-ovate to ovate-lanceolate, 5–20 cm × 2.5–7 cm, rounded and asymmetrical at base, long-acuminate at apex, margin slightly toothed with rounded teeth, glabrous, with scattered minute glandular dots, pinnately veined with c. 12 pairs of lateral veins.
  • Inflorescence a panicle up to 15 cm long, clustered at ends of twigs, short-hairy, many-flowered with flowers in clusters.
  • Flowers unisexual, regular, 4-merous, small; pedicel 0.5–2 mm long; sepals nearly free, c. 1 mm long; petals ovate, c. 2.5 mm long, greenish; male flowers with 4 stamens, disk thick, irregularly toothed, ovary rudimentary; female flowers with superior, globose ovary and short style.
  • Fruit a globose follicle c. 8 mm in diameter, glandular pitted, dehiscent, 1-seeded.
  • Seed globose, c. 5 mm in diameter, black and shiny.

Other botanical information

Zanthoxylum tsihanimposa is deciduous and bears leaves from November to May. It flowers near the end of the dry season, from September to November, shortly before new leaves develop. Fruits are ripe in December.

Zanthoxylum is pantropical and comprises about 200 species, with tropical America being richest in species. Mainland Africa harbours about 35 species, whereas about 5 species are endemic to Madagascar.

Zanthoxylum thouvenotii

The wood of Zanthoxylum thouvenotii H.Perrier from eastern Madagascar is used for the same purposes as that of Zanthoxylum tsihanimposa. The leaves are used in the treatment of malaria. Zanthoxylum thouvenotii is also used in traditional medicine as an antitussive, but it is unclear which part of the plant.


Zanthoxylum tsihanimposa occurs in dry deciduous forest, up to 400 m altitude.

Genetic resources

Although much of the natural forest in the area of distribution of Zanthoxylum tsihanimposa has disappeared or is heavily degraded, the species is apparently still common locally, at least trees of smaller sizes. There does not seem to be immediate danger of genetic erosion, also because Zanthoxylum tsihanimposa has a fairly wide distribution area.


There is too little information on Zanthoxylum tsihanimposa to judge its prospects as a commercial timber tree under sustainable exploitation management. However, stands of large trees are probably too scarce and inaccessible. An inventory is needed to establish the status of the remaining populations.

Major references

  • Guéneau, P., Bedel, J. & Thiel, J., 1970–1975. Bois et essences malgaches. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 150 pp.
  • Parant, B., Chichignoud, M. & Rakotovao, G., 1985. Présentation graphique des caractères des principaux bois tropicaux. Tome 5. Bois de Madagascar. CIRAD, Montpellier, France. 161 pp.
  • Perrier de la Bâthie, H., 1950. Rutacées (Rutaceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), familles 104–105. Firmin-Didot et cie., Paris, France. 89 pp.
  • Randrianarivelojosia, M., Rasidimanana, V.T., Rabarison, H., Cheplogoi, P.K., Ratsimbason, M., Mulholland, D.A. & Mauclère, P., 2003. Plants traditionally prescribed to treat tazo (malaria) in the eastern region of Madagascar. Malaria Journal 2: 25. [Internet] Open Access article. September 2007.
  • Sallenave, P., 1971. Propriétés physiques et mecaniques des bois tropicaux. Deuxième supplément. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 128 pp.

Other references

  • Boiteau, P., Boiteau, M. & Allorge-Boiteau, L., 1999. Dictionnaire des noms malgaches de végétaux. 4 Volumes + Index des noms scientifiques avec leurs équivalents malgaches. Editions Alzieu, Grenoble, France.
  • Debray, M., Jacquemin, H. & Razafindrambao, R., 1971. Contribution à l’inventaire des plantes médicinales de Madagascar. Travaux et Documents No 8. ORSTOM, Paris, France. 150 pp.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Rasoanaivo, H.L., 2006. Contribution à l’étude chimique de Zanthoxylum madagascariensis Baker et Zanthoxylum thouvenotii H. Perr., Rutaceae: mise en evidence de l’activité molluscicide de décarine, alcaloïde caractéristique des Zanthoxylum de Madagascar. Thèse de Doctorat en Chimie, Spécialité produits naturels, Département de Chimie Physique, Faculté des Sciences, Université d’Antananarivo, Antananarivo, Madagascar. 109 pp.
  • Rasoanaivo, P., Ratsimamanga-Urverg, S., Ramanitrahasimbolo, D., Rafatro, H. & Rakoto-Ratsimamanga, A., 1999. Criblage d’extraits de plantes de Madagascar pour recherche d’activité antipaludique et d’effet potentialisateur de la chloroquine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 64: 117–126.
  • Schatz, G.E., 2001. Generic tree flora of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 477 pp.
  • Takahashi, A., 1978. Compilation of data on the mechanical properties of foreign woods (part 3) Africa. Shimane University, Matsue, Japan, 248 pp.


  • R.H.M.J. Lemmens, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2008. Zanthoxylum tsihanimposa H.Perrier. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 13 August 2022.