Cordyla africana (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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List of species


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Cordyla africana Lour.


distribution in Africa (wild)
1, tree habit; 2, part of flowering branch; 3, fruit. Redrawn and adapted by Iskak Syamsudin
tree
tree
flowering twig (Flora of Mozambique)
inflorescences (PlantsZAfrica)
wood in transverse section
wood in tangential section
wood in radial section
Protologue: Fl. cochinch. 2: 412 (1790).
Family: Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae)
Chromosome number: 2n = 20

Vernacular names

  • Cordyla, wild mango, bush mango, sunbird tree (En).
  • Tondo, rondo (Po).
  • Mumbwe, mgwata, mroma, mvoo, mtigonzi (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Cordyla africana occurs from the coast of Kenya south to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, north-eastern South Africa and Swaziland.

Uses

The wood is used for heavy construction, bridge decking, furniture, tool handles, household utensils, beehives and carvings. It is suitable for medium-heavy flooring, joinery, interior trim, mine props, ship building, vehicle bodies, railway sleepers, toys and novelties. It is not recommended for uses where it may be subject to shocks. In Malawi it is one of the favourite woods for making canoes. The bole is often hollowed out to make drums, which are said to be sonorous and can be heard at great distance. The wood is also used as firewood.

The fruit pulp is edible, but mainly eaten in periods of food shortage. It has an unpleasant turpentine or bean-like smell and is said to cause vertigo. The fruits are sometimes eaten after removal of the fruit wall and cooking. Seeds are occasionally eaten after drying over a fire.

Production and international trade

The wood is not traded internationally, but is commonly used locally.

Properties

The heartwood is yellowish brown to brown, with darker bands, and fairly distinctly demarcated from the paler, up to 7.5 cm wide sapwood. The grain is wavy or interlocked, texture coarse. It has a nice figure due to wavy stripes.

The wood is medium-weight to heavy, with a density of 750–910 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. It air dries fairly rapidly with some tendency to splitting and checking but with little distortion; backsawn boards may be subject to some cupping. Boards of 2.5 cm thick take about 6 weeks to air dry from green to 12% moisture content. The rates of shrinkage are fairly high, from green to 12% moisture content 3.8% radial and 5.3% tangential. After drying, the wood is moderately stable in service, but sometimes quite unstable. At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 67–85 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 8625–12,000 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 38–60 N/mm², shear 12 N/mm² and Janka side hardness 6225–7025 N.

The green wood is easy to saw. Dried wood is easy to saw and work with machine tools, but more difficult with hand tools. It may give a rough finish in planing operations due to the presence of interlocked grain. It is recommended to reduce the cutting angle to 15° to avoid rough surfaces. The wood moulds, drills and mortises cleanly, but turning often gives a coarse finish. Pre-boring is needed to prevent splitting upon nailing. The wood is durable, being resistant to termite attack and moderately resistant to Lyctus, but it is liable to marine borer attack. It is resistant to impregnation with preservatives.

The fruits are astringent. The pulp represents about 48% of the fruit weight. It has a high content of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), about 75 mg per 100 g fresh pulp.

Description

  • Deciduous small to medium-sized tree up to 25(–40) m tall; bole branchless for up to 15 m, straight or curved, up to 100(–120) cm in diameter, without buttresses; bark surface fissured, greyish brown, inner bark fibrous, yellowish with reddish bands; crown rounded, with spreading branches; twigs glabrous or minutely hairy.
  • Leaves arranged spirally, imparipinnately compound with 11–30 leaflets; stipules small, caducous; petiole and rachis together up to 25 cm long; petiolules up to 4 mm long; leaflets usually alternate, oblong to oblong-elliptical or oblong-ovate, (1–)2–5 cm × (0.5–)1–2.5 cm, rounded to slightly notched at apex, minutely hairy beneath, with minute pellucid dots. Inflorescence an axillary raceme up to 11 cm long, short-hairy.
  • Flowers bisexual or male, regular; pedicel 0.5–1 cm long; hypanthium bell-shaped, c. 0.5 cm long, greenish; calyx initially entire but splitting into (3–)5 reflexed lobes, greenish with yellowish hairs at apex; petals absent; stamens numerous, inserted at rim of hypanthium, 1.5–2 cm long, orange-yellow; ovary superior, ellipsoid, 1-celled, on a long stipe, style short.
  • Fruit an ellipsoid to nearly globose, indehiscent, berry-like pod 4.5–8 cm × 3–6 cm, yellow when ripe, with stipe of c. 2 cm long, with 1–3(–4) seeds embedded in yellowish, sticky pulp.
  • Seeds oblong, c. 3 cm long, without seed coat and endosperm.

Other botanical information

Cordyla comprises 5 species and is restricted to mainland tropical Africa. The two species described from Madagascar have recently been transferred to a separate genus Dupuya, based on the presence of staminodes and on differences in seed morphology. Cordyla is also closely related to Mildbraediodendron. Traditionally, Cordyla is placed in Caesalpiniaceae (Leguminosae - Caesalpinioideae), but chemistry, cytology, palynology and wood anatomy support the inclusion in Papilionaceae (Leguminosae- Papilionoideae), and this is also supported by molecular studies.

The name Cordyla africana has commonly been used incorrectly for Cordyla pinnata (Lepr. ex A.Rich.) Milne-Redh., which occurs in the Sahel region from Senegal to Cameroon and differs in its inflorescences that usually appear before the leaves on older shoots, more hairy flowers and more numerous, slender, whitish stamens. Literature should therefore be interpreted with care.

Cordyla densiflora

Cordyla densiflora Milne-Redh. is a small deciduous tree up to 10 m tall, endemic to Tanzania, where it occurs in deciduous woodland and bushland at 800–1200 m altitude. The wood is used for poles, stools, drums, beehives and implements such as mortars and pestles. The fruit pulp is eaten fresh or after cooking. Leaf decoctions are administered as an enema to treat constipation, and charcoal made from the wood is applied to burns. The tree is planted as a life fence.

Cordyla richardii

Cordyla richardii Milne-Redh. is a small to medium-sized tree up to 20 m tall, occurring in Sudan and northern Uganda in deciduous woodland on rocky hillsides. The wood is used for similar purposes as that of Cordyla densiflora, whereas the fruits are eaten fresh.

Cordyla somaliensis

Cordyla somaliensis J.B.Gillett is a shrub or small tree up to 5 m tall, occurring in eastern Ethiopia and Somalia. Its wood is probably used for similar purposes as that of Cordyla densiflora, and the fruits are eaten.

Anatomy

Wood-anatomical description (IAWA hardwood codes):

  • Growth rings: 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; 26: intervessel pits medium (7–10 μm); (27: intervessel pits large ( 10 μm)); 29: vestured pits; 30: vessel-ray pits with distinct borders; similar to intervessel pits in size and shape throughout the ray cell; 42: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 100–200 μm; 46: 5 vessels per square millimetre; 58: gums and other deposits in heartwood vessels.
  • Tracheids and fibres: 61: fibres with simple to minutely bordered pits; 66: non-septate fibres present; 70: fibres very thick-walled.
  • Axial parenchyma: (76: axial parenchyma diffuse); 80: axial parenchyma aliform; (81: axial parenchyma lozenge-aliform); (82: axial parenchyma winged-aliform); 83: axial parenchyma confluent; 85: axial parenchyma bands more than three cells wide; 91: two cells per parenchyma strand; 92: four (3–4) cells per parenchyma strand.
  • Rays: 97: ray width 1–3 cells; 104: all ray cells procumbent; (106: body ray cells procumbent with one row of upright and/or square marginal cells); 115: 4–12 rays per mm.
  • Storied structure: (118: all rays storied); (120: axial parenchyma and/or vessel elements storied); 122: rays and/or axial elements irregularly storied.
  • Mineral inclusions: 136: prismatic crystals present; 142: prismatic crystals in chambered axial parenchyma cells; (154: more than one crystal of about the same size per cell or chamber).
(P. Mugabi, P. Baas & H. Beeckman)

Growth and development

The rate of growth of young seedlings is high, but growth slows down later. In Tanzania trees of 14 years old showed a mean annual bole diameter growth of 8.5 mm and had an average height of 8.8 m. In southern Africa trees flower in July–October, when also new leaves develop. The flowers are rich in nectar and pollinated by sunbirds. Fruits are ripe in November–January. They are eaten by animals such as elephants and monkeys, which serve as seed dispersers.

Ecology

Cordyla africana occurs in evergreen forest and woodland, often along rivers, also in swamp forest, up to 1000 m altitude. It is mainly found in hot areas.

Propagation and planting

Fresh seed germinates easily, but the viability of seed is short. Seeds often start germinating while still in the fruit. Pre-treatment is unnecessary. The tree produces suckers that can be used for propagation.

Management

Trees can be managed by pollarding, lopping and coppicing.

Genetic resources

In general Cordyla africana is considered not liable to genetic erosion because it is widespread and locally common. In Malawi it is regarded as endangered and it is prohibited from fuelwood collection.

Prospects

The wood of Cordyla africana will remain important for local applications. The fruits are considered valuable for human consumption, but research is needed on the phytochemistry and nutritional value. Cordyla africana is worth of being planted as ornamental tree; flowering trees are spectacular. Studies on growth rates and propagation are recommended to give directives for sustainable exploitation and domestication of this multipurpose tree, which has potential for use in agroforestry systems.

Major references

  • Bolza, E. & Keating, W.G., 1972. African timbers: the properties, uses and characteristics of 700 species. Division of Building Research, CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia. 710 pp.
  • Brummitt, R.K., Harder, D.K., Lewis, G.P., Lock, J.M. & Polhill, R.M. & Verdcourt, B., 2007. Leguminosae, subfamily Papilionoideae. In: Timberlake, J.R., Polhill, R.M., Pope, G.V., & Martins, E.S. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 3, part 3. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 258 pp.
  • Chikamai, B.N., Githiomi, J.K., Gachathi, F.N. & Njenga, M.G., undated. Commercial timber resources of Kenya. Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), Nairobi, Kenya. 164 pp.
  • Huxham, S.K., Schrire, B.D., Davis, S.D, & Prendergast, H.D.V., 1998. Dryland legumes in Africa: food for thought. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 84 pp.
  • Maundu, P. & Tengnäs, B. (Editors), 2005. Useful trees and shrubs for Kenya. World Agroforestry Centre - East and Central Africa Regional Programme (ICRAF-ECA), Technical Handbook 35, Nairobi, Kenya. 484 pp.
  • Meyer, J., 2006. Cordyla africana. [Internet] South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, South Africa. http://www.plantzafrica.com/ plantcd/ cordyafric.htm. February 2011.
  • Palmer, E. & Pitman, N., 1972–1974. Trees of southern Africa, covering all known indigenous species in the Republic of South Africa, South-West Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. 3 volumes. Balkema, Cape Town, South Africa. 2235 pp.
  • Ruffo, C.K., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 2002. Edible wild plants of Tanzania. Technical Handbook No 27. Regional Land Management Unit/ SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 766 pp.
  • SEPASAL, 2011. Cordyla africana. [Internet] Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) database. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. http://www.kew.org/ ceb/sepasal/. February 2011.
  • Takahashi, A., 1978. Compilation of data on the mechanical properties of foreign woods (part 3) Africa. Shimane University, Matsue, Japan. 248 pp.

Other references

  • Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
  • Brenan, J.P.M., 1967. Leguminosae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae. In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 230 pp.
  • Bryce, J.M., 1967. The commercial timbers of Tanzania. Tanzania Forest Division, Utilisation Section, Moshi, Tanzania. 139 pp.
  • Chudnoff, M., 1980. Tropical timbers of the world. USDA Forest Service, Agricultural Handbook No 607, Washington D.C., United States. 826 pp.
  • Coates Palgrave, K., 1983. Trees of southern Africa. 2nd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 959 pp.
  • Kirkbride, J.H., 2005. Dupuya, a new genus of Malagasy Legumes (Fabaceae). Novon 15(2): 305–314.
  • Mbuya, L.P., Msanga, H.P., Ruffo, C.K., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 1994. Useful trees and shrubs for Tanzania: identification, propagation and management for agricultural and pastoral communities. Technical Handbook 6. Regional Soil Conservation Unit/SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 542 pp.
  • Thulin, M., 1989. Fabaceae (Leguminosae). In: Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia. Volume 3. Pittosporaceae to Araliaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 49–251.
  • van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.
  • Watt, J.M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G., 1962. The medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. 2nd Edition. E. and S. Livingstone, London, United Kingdom. 1457 pp.
  • Westphal, E., 1975. Agricultural systems in Ethiopia. Agricultural Research Reports 826. Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands. 278 pp.
  • Wimbush, S.H., 1957. Catalogue of Kenya timbers. 2nd reprint. Government Printer, Nairobi, Kenya. 74 pp.

Sources of illustration

  • Brenan, J.P.M., 1967. Leguminosae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae. In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 230 pp.
  • Coates Palgrave, K., 1983. Trees of southern Africa. 2nd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 959 pp.

Author(s)

  • R.H.M.J. Lemmens, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
  • N. Nyunaï, Institut de Recherches Médicales et d’Etudes des Plantes Médicinales, B.P. 3805, Yaoundé, Cameroon

Correct citation of this article

Lemmens, R.H.M.J. & Nyunaï, N., 2011. Cordyla africana Lour. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Louppe, D. & Oteng-Amoako, A.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands.

Accessed 7 July 2021.