Anogeissus leiocarpa (PROTA)
|Geographic coverage Africa|
|Geographic coverage World|
|Dye / tannin|
|Forage / feed|
Anogeissus leiocarpa (DC.) Guill. & Perr.
- Protologue: Fl. Seneg. tent.: 280, t. 65 (1832).
- Family: Combretaceae
- Chromosome number: 2n = 24
- Anogeissus schimperi Hochst. ex Hutch. & Dalz. (1927).
- N’galama, African birch (En).
- N’galama, bouleau d’Afrique (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Anogeissus leiocarpa occurs from Senegal to Eritrea and Ethiopia, south to DR Congo. In Benin the tree is occasionally planted near villages for its dye and in Burkina Faso and Mali plantations have been planned.
In West Africa, the leaves are used in the oldest African traditional dyeing process of cotton textiles known as ‘basilan’, a term particularly used by the Bambara and Malinké of the Mandé group of people. In general the Mandé people first weave cotton into rather narrow strips of cloth which are sewn together in larger units that are used to make clothes. Basilan, a Bambara word, means ‘serving to obtain a result’, referring in this case to a plant which serves for colouring. Cloth dyed with a decoction of the plant is called ‘basilanfini’, ‘fini’ meaning ‘cloth, textile’. The colouring agents of plant origin used in basilan dyeing impart a yellow, ochre or ochre-red colour to cotton and as the plants used are rich in tannins they also play a role as mordants. Dyers of the Sénoufo people of Mali and northern Côte d’Ivoire use decoctions of leaves of Anogeissus leiocarpa (n’galama), Terminalia macroptera Guill. & Perr. (wôlô, Combretaceae), Lannea microcarpa Engl. & K.Krause (n’peku, Anacardiaceae) or Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench (gajaba, a cultivar with red leaves, Poaceae), to which sometimes traditional potash or ash obtained from the leaves of Adansonia digitata L. (baobab, Bombacaceae) is added, as a dye bath for the traditional ‘red cloth of Korhogo’. The Hausa people of northern Nigeria use the leaves of Anogeissus leiocarpa similarly. In Mali cotton cloth dyed yellow or ochre-yellow with Anogeissus leiocarpa and Terminalia macroptera is used particularly to dress newly circumcised boys and excised girls because of its antimicrobial activity. The dress of ‘wisdom holders’ (hunters, seers, mask masters) is generally coloured ochre-red with Lannea microcarpa on a yellow background made with Anogeissus leiocarpa. Since 1990, the local and international success of basilan textiles has led to the development of a modern basilan industry thanks to the innovative efforts of the N’domo (‘Centre for the Conservation of Traditional Arts’, branch of the Kasobané Group in Ségou, Mali).
‘Bogolan’ is another traditional dyeing technique, developed from basilan, and deeply rooted in Mali. ‘Bogo’ means ‘earth, mud’, so bogolan means ‘obtaining a result with mud’ and ‘bogolanfini’ ‘cloth dyed with mud’. In this technique a pattern is drawn with iron-rich mud on a background dyed first using the basilan technique. The mud reacts with the basilan dye creating a black colour. Several bogolan styles exist. Bambara people draw the patterns with mud and these turn black when they react with the basilan-impregnated cloth. Sheyna people (Korhogo, Côte d’Ivoire) do it the other way round; they first draw the design with basilan, usually passing several layers of the decoction over the lines and surfaces of the pattern and then they either draw again on the designs with a last layer of liquid mud applied with a brush made of palm-tree stem or they plunge the whole cloth into a bath of diluted mud. Where the mud comes into contact with the design traced with basilan on the tissue, black patterns are formed and fixed into the cloth while the mud washes out from the rest of the surface, leaving a white ground in the natural colour of cotton. The designs obtained on bogolan bear special meanings or messages, and the most elaborate compositions are found in Mali in the regions Bélédougou (Kolokani), Fadougou (Banamba), Pondo (south of Djenné) and Bendougou (Bla). In these regions it is mostly the women who practise the bogolan technique, following the ancient procedures inherited from their ancestors. The themes of the designs, especially those of the loincloths from these districts, relate to local cultures and communities, their history, fashions, myths, family events, the hierarchy of social groups, and some are also endowed with protective powers. This dyeing technique, formerly only applied by women on special family occasions, has evolved during recent years to become an important branch of the craft economy in Mali. Dyeing with Anogeissus leiocarpa has even become a full-time occupation for many people.
The bark, leaves and roots of Anogeissus leiocarpa also serve for traditional tanning of hides to leather, particularly those of goats in parts of northern Niger. The leaves colour the leather yellow. The bark yields a gum used in leather-working because of its adhesive properties. The ash of the leaves and the bark are used as mordants to improve the fastness of many other dyes and in the indigo dyeing process to maintain the necessary alkaline pH. The leaves are sometimes used as fodder for small ruminants.
The wood of Anogeissus leiocarpa is an excellent fuel and yields good charcoal. In the whole Sahel region fuel has become so scarce that even these useful trees are being sacrificed. The wood, called ‘kane’ in trade, is hard and much used for piles and rafters in house construction, for agricultural implements, tool handles and occasionally in cabinet making. In 2002 the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Mali encouraged wood carvers to use local instead of imported wood, which further increased the use of Anogeissus leiocarpa wood. Woodash from this tree is used in northern Nigeria to dehair skins in preparation for their tanning.
The bark, leaves and roots are used in traditional medicine for humans and animals. They have antimicrobial and anthelmintic activity and are usually taken as decoctions. A decoction of the leaves or leafy twigs is used against yellow fever, jaundice, different kinds of hepatitis, common cold and headache. In Burkina Faso powdered bark and a bark decoction are used to treat wounds, eczema, psoriasis, anthrax, carbuncles, boils and several kinds of ulcers. The bark decoction is also known as a muscular tonic. In Niger a leaf decoction is applied against haemorrhoids and skin diseases. The bark and the exuding gum prevent and cure dental caries and toothache and are commonly used in Africa. The gum, fairly soluble in water, is chewed and in northern Niger it is considered the best chewing gum substitute for gum arabic. In Ghana and Nigeria the roots are used and traded as chewing sticks. In Côte d’Ivoire the fleshy roots are used against labour pains and in Burkina Faso to accelerate wound healing. The seeds have a wide bactericidal and fungicidal activity in humans and animals. Anogeissus leiocarpa is a graceful ornamental avenue and shade tree of the drier regions and could also be used for reforestation. In Eritrea it is planted to stabilize river banks. In Burkina Faso Anogeissus leiocarpa is a highly esteemed and respected holy tree, named ‘siiga’, meaning ‘the soul’.
Production and international trade
Traditional bogolan cloth started being commercialised on a fairly small scale in Mali in the 1970s, mostly by women from the districts Kolokani, Banamba, San, Djenné and Ségou who were seeking to increase the family income. This commercial development really started to become more important in the 1980s, and since then several centres of big scale bogolan cloth production have emerged, e.g. the town of San. Between 1980 and 2004, trade in clothes and hangings decorated in the bogolan technique has boomed and these textiles are now exported in large quantities all over the world. The craft is most thriving in Mali, where Bamako and Mopti have become commercial centres for the export of bogolan cloth to Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium), Asia (Japan) and America (United States, Canada). The bogolan industry has spread to neighbouring countries; after Mali, Burkina Faso and more recently Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Niger have also started producing bogolan cloth on a large scale.
In the early 1990s it became fashionable in Mali to wear cotton clothes decorated using the bogolan technique. So production for local use was added to export production and at present in the town centres many women’s associations practise bogolan dyeing as a source of professional income, which is also attracting more and more male craftsmen.
Bogolan cloth production and trade requires the harvesting and processing of huge quantities of leaves of Anogeissus leiocarpa. In Ségou, an important workshop where 15 artists work used about 1500 kg of dry leaves in 2004, allowing more than 5000 m2 (or 1800 kg) cloth to be dyed. The total demand for leaves in Ségou is estimated at 6000 kg, corresponding to more than 20,000 m2 dyed cloth. During recent years Bamako exported about 520 t of dyed cloth annually. This corresponds with 430 t dried leaves, estimated to be about 20% of the total quantity used in Mali.
Bark of Anogeissus leiocarpa has been exploited for cosmetic purposes in Burkina Faso since 2000, initiated by the French cosmetic industry in collaboration with the population of Koro village. A plantation of 1800 trees (5 ha) is being planned for the production of bark to supplement production from wild trees.
The leaves of Anogeissus leiocarpa contain ellagic, gallic and gentisic acids, derivatives of gallic and ellagic acid and several flavonoids (derivatives of quercetin and kaempferol). The high concentration (up to 17%, based on dry matter) of hydrolysable tannins (gallic and ellagic acid derivatives) explains the usefulness of Anogeissus leiocarpa in the bogolan technique. Cloth impregnated with the leaf extract helps to fix other colours (e.g. the brown-red obtained by the bark of Lannea microcarpa), Anogeissus leiocarpa acting as a very efficient mordant on cotton for other natural dyes.
The majority of the medicinal uses of Anogeissus leiocarpa are likely to be based on its tannin content. No experimental data on their non-toxicity appears to have been published but the popular use of giving the bark decoction to drink to new-born infants is of interest in this connection.
The bark contains nearly no flavonoids but is rich in derivatives of ellagic acid (2.5–5% of the dry matter) and contains the polyalcohol sorbitol, terpenoids (α-amyrin, β-amyrin and β-sitosterol) and traces of alkaloids. Six molecules of ellagic acid derivatives were observed and four of them were isolated and characterized. These molecules are 3,3’,4’-tri-O-methylflavellagic acid, 3,3’-di-O-methylellagic acid, tri-O-methylellagic acid and 3, 3’-di-O-methyl-4-β-O-xylopyranosyl-ellagic acid. These derivatives are good antioxidants acting as scavengers of free radical oxygen and as protectors of DNA from injury by alkylating agents. They are anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic agents and have anticarcinogenic and antimutagenic activities. Research has shown that the ellagic acid derivatives show an inhibition of certain enzymes of the metalloproteinase type in several types of cellular skin cultures and retard the degradation of collagen. This research resulted in the elaboration of a substance named ‘anogelline’ which is now used in some cosmetic skin creams made in France.
Extracts of stem and root bark and of the leaves showed antifungal activity against a number of pathogenic fungi. Moderate antibacterial activity of the bark was also demonstrated. Chewing sticks made of Anogeissus leiocarpa showed strong activity against a wide spectrum of bacteria, including some contributing to tooth-deterioration. Anogeissus leiocarpa extracts exhibited in-vitro activity against chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum strains.
The gum of Anogeissus leiocarpa contains amino acids (glutamic acid, aspartic acid, alanine, glycine) as well as 20% of a polysaccharide. On hydrolysis the polysaccharide gives 12% D-xylose, 32% L-arabinose, 5% D-galactose, 2% D-mannose and 20% oligosaccharides (with traces of rhamnose, ribose and fucose).
The wood is heavy and hard. The heartwood is dark brown to black and distinctly demarcated from the whitish yellow sapwood. The density is 720–1200 kg/m3 at 15% moisture content. The grain is wavy or interlocked, texture fine. The shrinkage rates are small. The wood air-dries slowly but easily, and kiln drying is rapid. Slight checking and end splitting may occur, as well as moderate bending and twisting. The wood is moderately easy to saw, but difficult to plane, mortise and bore. It finishes and polishes well and is easy to turn and glue, but nailing is difficult. It is rather resistant to powder-post beetles and termites, but not to marine borers. It is extremely resistant to preservatives.
Adulterations and substitutes
In regions where Anogeissus leiocarpa is rare or absent, two other plant species can be used as a substitute for the bogolan technique. The leaves of Combretum glutinosum Perr. ex DC. (tyangara, cangara, Combretaceae) can be used or, when these are not available, the twigs of Hexalobus monopetalus (A.Rich.) Engl. & Diels (fuganyé, Annonaceae). Although these two species are less appreciated than Anogeissus leiocarpa, they can be used in a similar way for dyeing. The leaves of Combretum glutinosum contain ellagic and gallic acid derivatives and flavonoids like Anogeissus leiocarpa while the chemical components of Hexalobus monopetalus are different.
- Evergreen shrub or small to medium-sized tree up to 15(–30) m tall, with straight, slightly grooved bole up to 1 m in diameter and open crown with gracefully drooping, pubescent branches; bark grey to mottled pale and dark brown, scaly, flaking off in rectangular patches, fibrous, exuding a dark gum.
- Leaves alternate to nearly opposite, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 1–6 mm long; blade ovate to elliptical or ovate-lanceolate, 2–10 cm × 1–4 cm, base cuneate or obtuse, apex obtuse or acute, densely silky hairy when young, lateral veins in 4–8 pairs, prominent beneath.
- Inflorescence an axillary or terminal, usually solitary globose head 0.5–2 cm in diameter; peduncle up to 2.5 cm long, bearing 2 pairs of deciduous bracts.
- Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, pale yellow, fragrant; receptacle stalk-like, 3–4 mm long; sepals connate into a lobed campanulate cup c. 1 mm high; petals absent; stamens 10, filaments filiform, c. 3 mm long, anthers cordate; ovary inferior, 1-celled, rusty hairy above the middle, style simple, filiform.
- Fruit a rounded samara 4–10 mm × 6–11 mm × 2–2.5 mm, with 2 wings, yellowish to reddish brown, shortly beaked, 1-seeded, packed horizontally into dense cone-like infructescences 1–2 cm in diameter.
- Seed ovoid-fusiform, c. 3 mm × 2 mm.
Other botanical information
Anogeissus comprises 8 species, 5 of which occur in tropical Asia, 2 in Arabia and 1 in tropical Africa. The genus seems most closely related to Conocarpus, which differs by its flower heads arranged in panicles, usually 5 functional stamens and fruits without beak.
Indian sumach (Anogeissus latifolia (Roxb. ex DC.) Wall. ex Guill. & Perr.) contains tannins and flavonoids similar to those of Anogeissus leiocarpa and is similarly used for tanning hides and dyeing textiles in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Wood-anatomical description (IAWA hardwood codes):
- Growth rings: (1: growth ring boundaries distinct); (2: growth ring boundaries indistinct or absent).
- Vessels: 5: wood diffuse-porous; 13: simple perforation plates; 22: intervessel pits alternate; (23: shape of alternate pits polygonal); 25: intervessel pits small (4–7 μm); 29: vestured pits; 30: vessel-ray pits with distinct borders; similar to intervessel pits in size and shape throughout the ray cell; 41: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 50–100 μm; (42: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 100–200 μm); (47: 5–20 vessels per square millimetre); 48: 20–40 vessels per square millimetre.
- Tracheids and fibres: 61: fibres with simple to minutely bordered pits; 66: non-septate fibres present; 69: fibres thin- to thick-walled; 70: fibres very thick-walled.
- Axial parenchyma: (76: axial parenchyma diffuse); 78: axial parenchyma scanty paratracheal; 79: axial parenchyma vasicentric; 93: eight (5–8) cells per parenchyma strand.
- Rays: 97: ray width 1–3 cells; 109: rays with procumbent, square and upright cells mixed throughout the ray; 115: 4–12 rays per mm; 116: ≥ 12 rays per mm.
- Mineral inclusions: 136: prismatic crystals present; 137: prismatic crystals in upright and/or square ray cells; 139: prismatic crystals in radial alignment in procumbent ray cells.
Growth and development
The germination of Anogeissus leiocarpa seeds takes a long time and seedlings are not easy to obtain. Once established the plant is slow growing. Normally the tree is evergreen, but due to bush fires (October–November) it can stay without leaves for several weeks. Flowering is year-round but most abundant at the beginning of the rainy season between January and April. The flowers have a strong sweet smell. Fruiting is most abundant between March and May. The infructescences disarticulate when they become dry and the winged fruits are easily dispersed by wind.
Anogeissus leiocarpa is found from the driest savanna to the wetter forest borders, in wooded grassland and bushland and on riverbanks where annual rainfall is 200–1200 mm. It often grows gregariously on fertile soil in moist situations, from sea-level up to 1900 m altitude.
Propagation and planting
Propagation is by seed, which is light with 140,000–150,000 seeds/kg. Seeds soon lose their viability (within 6 months) and their germinating capacity is rather low. Up to now Anogeissus leiocarpa is mainly harvested from the wild, but in Mali and Burkina Faso commercial cultivation has started (e.g. a plantation of 5 ha is present in Koro, Houet Province, Burkina Faso).
Anogeissus leiocarpa can be pollarded and the tree has some ability to coppice. It is very sensitive to fire.
Diseases and pests
Anogeissus leiocarpa is a hardy tree species and no serious diseases or pests are known.
Harvesting of the leaves at the beginning of the flowering period ( January–February) is preferred, but because the tree is evergreen, they can be harvested any time of the year. The best period to harvest the bark is at the end of the dry season, from the end of March until the beginning of June, both because of the availability of manpower and of the optimum concentration and condition for exploitation of the active principle anogelline present in the bark. In Burkina Faso ‘good harvesting practices’ for harvesting bark as issued by the National Forestry Department should be followed to limit the damage to the trees; they include instructions for the use of adapted utensils and rules for the maximum quantity of bark that can be harvested (1–1.5 kg fresh bark per tree, corresponding to 0.5–1 kg dry bark). For every harvest a ‘harvest authorisation’, issued by the Regional Environment Direction, is needed, for which tax has to be paid. Material for export is strictly controlled and needs a phytosanitary certificate.
The annual yield of dry leaves is estimated to be 20–25 kg/tree and of dry bark 0.5–1 kg/tree. Total annual yield of dry leaves in Mali for bogolan utilisation is estimated to be about 2000 t from 100,000 trees.
Handling after harvest
The production of a bogolan cloth is a 4-step process. First comes the preparation of the iron-rich mud. This is done about 2–4 weeks before use. The mud is collected from the banks of certain rivers, lakes or ponds and kept in a container. It is stirred from time to time, adding a bark decoction of Terminalia macroptera or Piliostigma reticulatum (DC.) Hochst. (nyama, Caesalpiniaceae). Then the cloth is dyed using the basilan technique, using the leaves of Anogeissus leiocarpa and sometimes Lannea microcarpa bark. To prepare the dye bath the leaves are either put in water in a large cooking pot with a small amount of baobab ash-lye added and boiled, or the leaves are just soaked in water without heating for 2 days. The latter way is preferred in Ségou (Mali) because the result is as good and no fuel is needed. The cloth to be dyed is soaked in the bath and subsequently dried in the sun. Soaking and drying is repeated several times to obtain a deeper colour, taking care that the same side of the cloth is always exposed to the sun. The third step consists of drawing the design on the cloth with the prepared mud, using an iron tool (‘binyéni’) or a pen made out of a Borassus leaf stalk (‘kala’). The black designs on the cloth are created by the iron salts present in the mud that react with the yellow or ochre-red basilan dyes rich in hydrolysable tannins. The mud can be applied several times to obtain a very deep black. Eventually the cloth is dried, cleaned and washed. The dry mud sticking to the cloth is removed by washing in a river; when water is scarce the mud is first removed by rubbing and shaking and then the cloth is washed with clean water. After drying again, the bogolan cloth is ready.
In the bogolan technique the bark of Lannea microcarpa is sometimes used to obtain different colours. If a uniform orange to red-brown colour is required for the background, the whole textile can be soaked in the Lannea bark decoction. Mud is then applied to the cloth to decorate it with black designs. This can also be repeated several times to obtain a true black. Dyeing with Lannea gives reddish colours and Anogeissus gives yellow colours.
No germplasm collections of Anogeissus leiocarpa are known. In regions where Anogeissus leiocarpa is collected, the harvesting contributes to the growing scarcity of the tree populations, also because little rejuvenation appears to be taking place. Formerly Anogeissus leiocarpa occupied whole forests on fertile soils. At present, Anogeissus leiocarpa is becoming rarer because land is being cleared for agriculture, wood is collected for timber and fuel and the seeds are difficult to germinate.
At present, dyeing with vegetable dyes, mainly based on the use of Anogeissus leiocarpa leaves, meets the international demand for natural products, allowing whole families, among which many young people, to earn a living. Taking into account the importance of Anogeissus leiocarpa in the success of this type of textile production and trade (the whole cotton industry benefits from the export of bogolan cloth), and because most workshop owners have transmitted their know-how and trained a generation of young people, it is urgent to ensure a continuing supply of this tree for the coming years. This can be done in two ways. First, through careful management of wild populations of Anogeissus leiocarpa: a similar protection policy as the one applied in Mali for some other useful tree species (e.g. baobab, shea butter tree) could be extended to this species. A second possibility is cultivation of Anogeissus leiocarpa. In addition to the plantations that have been established in Burkina Faso, propagation trials to renew old populations are being carried out and paid for by some dyer artists in Ségou (Mali). Such initiatives deserve support and should be undertaken on a much larger scale. However, long-term investments are difficult to plan, owing to the fluctuating nature of international fashion trends.
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Correct citation of this article
Andary, C., Doumbia, B., Sauvan, N., Olivier, M. & Garcia, M., 2005. Anogeissus leiocarpa (DC.) Guill. & Perr. In: Jansen, P.C.M. & Cardon, D. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 11 April 2019.
- See the Prota4U database.