Commiphora pterocarpa (PROTA)
Commiphora pterocarpa H.Perrier
- Protologue: Mém. Mus. natl. Hist. nat., Paris n.s. 18: 282–283 (1944).
- Family: Burseraceae
Origin and geographic distribution
Commiphora pterocarpa is endemic to Madagascar, where it occurs in the south-western part of the country.
The wood of Commiphora pterocarpa and that of various other Commiphora species is known as ‘arofy’ in Madagascar. It is locally much used for construction, joinery, shuttering and vehicle bodies. A decoction of the bark of Commiphora pterocarpa is used for treating of ulcerated wounds.
The pale brown heartwood is not distinctly demarcated from the sapwood, but on exposure the sapwood becomes more greyish. The grain is usually straight. The wood is lightweight, with a density of about 410 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. It dries easily and rapidly, without risk of distortion. Shrinkage rates from green to oven dry are low: 1.6% radial and 5.1% tangential. At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is about 64 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 6300 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 26 N/mm², shear 3.7 N/mm², cleavage 18 N/mm and Chalais-Meudon side hardness 0.9. The wood saws and works easily. It holds nails well, and gluing and painting properties are good. The wood is not durable; it is liable to attack by termites, Lyctus borers and fungi. It is permeable to preservatives.
The approximate chemical composition of the wood is: cellulose 33.2%, pentosans 13.8%, lignin 24.6%, ash 2.1% and silica 0.02%. The solubility in water is 2.3% and in alcohol-benzene 19.2%. Wood fibres are c. 1 mm long, with a diameter of 36 μm and a lumen diameter of 30 μm. The inflammability of the wood is high.
The plant is recorded to contain flavonoids, leucoanthocyanins and tannins.
- Dioecious shrub or small tree up to 15 m tall; bark with annular appearance.
- Leaves alternate, often clustered at tips of branches, up to 30 cm long, imparipinnately compound, with (7–)9 leaflets, glabrous; rachis finely grooved, whitish; petiolules thin, lateral ones 15–25 mm long; leaflets orbicular or broadly ovate, 3–4.5 cm × 2.5–3.5 cm, base rounded, apex acuminate with acumen c. 1.5 cm long, pinnately veined with 5–7 pairs of lateral veins.
- Inflorescence an axillary spike with flowers in fascicles.
- Flowers unisexual, regular, small. Infructescences a few together on twigs below the leaves.
- Fruit a compressed ovoid drupe 1.5–2 cm long, winged, dehiscent with 2 valves, with stone c. 12 mm long, covered by false aril at base.
Other botanical information
Fruiting of Commiphora pterocarpa is in December.
Commiphora comprises about 200 species and occurs in tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and South America. It is most abundant in the drier parts of eastern and southern Africa and in Madagascar. In Madagascar the number of species is estimated at 50. Several species of Commiphora are important for their gum resins, the best known being myrrh from Commiphora myrrha (Nees) Engl. from Somalia and Yemen.
Commiphora angolensis Engl. (‘sand corkwood’) is a shrub or small tree up to 5 m tall, distributed in Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Its wood is used for carving household utensils. The root is an important source of water in the Kalahari desert. In Zimbabwe the root is used in the treatment of diarrhoea.
Commiphora fulvotomentosa Engl. is a small tree up to 12 m tall, distributed in southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique. Its soft wood is used for carvings, spoons, water pots and beehives. The tree is also used for live fences and for marking boundaries.
Commiphora glandulosa Schinz (‘tall common corkwood’; synonym: Commiphora pyracanthoides Engl. subsp. glandulosa (Schinz) Wild) is a shrub or small tree up to 10 m tall, distributed from Angola, DR Congo and Tanzania south to South Africa. Its wood is used for household utensils, and stems are often planted to develop into live fences.
Commiphora glaucescens Engl. (‘blue-leaved corkwood’) is a shrub or small tree up to 8 m tall, occurring in southern Angola and Namibia. Its wood is made into household utensils and the tree is browsed by livestock.
Commiphora hildebrandtii (Engl.) Engl. is a small tree up to 10 m tall, occurring in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. Its wood is used for making small milk vessels; the stem yields a gum.
Commiphora woodii Engl. (‘forest corkwood’; synonym: Commiphora caryaefolia Oliv.) is a small tree up to 15 m tall distributed in Mozambique and South Africa. Its wood is lightweight and is used for fishing floats. Gum is obtained from the bark. Stem cuttings are often planted to develop into live fences.
Commiphora pterocarpa occurs in drier forest and thicket, at 100–900 m altitude.
Commiphora pterocarpa is not considered threatened by genetic erosion.
The wood of Commiphora pterocarpa is soft and not durable. Nevertheless, it is locally much used in Madagascar, due to its abundance and its well-shaped bole, and it is likely to remain a useful local source of wood.
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- M. Brink, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Correct citation of this article
Brink, M., 2008. Commiphora pterocarpa 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 19 September 2021.
- See the Prota4U database.