Kiggelaria africana (PROTA)
|Geographic coverage Africa|
|Geographic coverage World|
|Dye / tannin|
- Protologue: Sp. pl. 2: 1037 (1753).
- Family: Flacourtiaceae (APG: Achariaceae)
Wild peach (En).
Origin and geographic distribution
Kiggelaria africana occurs from Tanzania through Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to Swaziland, Lesotho and southern South Africa.
The wood is used for flooring, beams, furniture and fairly durable fence posts, and formerly for spokes of wagon wheels. It is suitable for construction, joinery, interior trim, ship building, sporting goods, toys, novelties, boxes, crates, agricultural implements, handles, turnery, veneer and plywood.
Formerly a pink dye was extracted from the wood; it has been used to colour textiles. In South Africa Kiggelaria africana is grown as ornamental and shade tree and as windbreak. The tree plays in role in rituals.
Production and international trade
The wood of Kiggelaria africana is only used and traded locally.
The heartwood is pinkish grey-brown and indistinctly demarcated from the narrow sapwood. The grain is variable, texture moderately fine and even.
The wood is medium-weight to fairly heavy, with a density of 670–845 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content, and fairly hard and strong. It air dries rather rapidly, but is susceptible to splitting and warping. The shrinkage rates are moderate, from green to oven dry 3.6% radial and 7.9% tangential. Once dry, the wood is stable in service. At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 94 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 11,170 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 53 N/mm², shear 12 N/mm², Janka side hardness 7200 N and Janka end hardness 8975 N.
The wood planes to a nice surface and can be polished satisfactorily. The nailing, screwing and boring properties are good. The wood produces a good-quality veneer, that is particularly attractive when quarter-cut. It is moderately durable.
Several glycosides have been isolated from Kiggelaria africana including gynocardin.
Dioecious, evergreen or semi-deciduous shrub or small tree up to 13(–17) m; bole branchless for up to 9 m, up to 90 cm in diameter but usually much less; bark pale grey, smooth, becoming darker and flaky in older trees; twigs yellowish brown, densely covered with very short stellate hairs. Leaves arranged spirally, simple, without stipules; petiole 0.5–2.5 cm long; blade ovate-oblong to elliptical or lanceolate, 3.5–9 cm × 2–5 cm, base cuneate to rounded, apex acute to obtuse, margin entire, slightly wavy or shallowly toothed, papery to slightly leathery, yellowish hairy, sometimes becoming glabrous, pinnately veined with 6–9 pairs of lateral veins, sometimes with small hairy pockets in the axils of the lateral veins below. Inflorescence a short axillary cyme of 3–7 male flowers but female flowers solitary, hairy; peduncle c. 5 mm long. Flowers unisexual, regular, 5-merous, greenish white to pale yellow; sepals nearly free, narrowly ovate, 4–7 mm long, hairy; petals free, narrowly ovate, 5–8 mm long, hairy, with fleshy scale inside at base; male flowers with pedicel up to 7 mm long, stamens 8–12, anthers longer than filaments, opening at apex; female flowers slightly larger than male ones, with pedicel up to 1.5 cm long, ovary superior, ovoid, c. 2 mm long, hairy, 1-celled, styles 2–5, short. Fruit a leathery to slightly woody, globose capsule up to 2 cm in diameter, yellowish green, short-hairy and warty, splitting from the apex with (2–)4–5 valves, up to 10-seeded. Seeds nearly globose, c. 7 mm in diameter, with a fleshy bright orange-red seed coat.
Other botanical information
Kiggelaria comprises a single species, and has been placed in the family Kiggelariaceae. However, embryological and molecular studies showed a close relationship of Kiggelaria with Acharia and Guthriea, both small genera from southern Africa.
Kiggelaria africana is extremely variable in shape, size, texture and degree of hairiness of the leaves. In forest it may be a tree with large, papery, nearly glabrous leaves, while in the open it may be a shrub with small, leathery leaves which are densely hairy. In Mozambique and South Africa flowering is in August–January and fruits mature in February–July. The fruits split open to show the seeds with their fleshy orange-red seed coats, which are eaten by numerous bird species serving as seed dispersers.
Kiggelaria africana is found in coastal and inland forest, woodland and mountain grassland, along streams and on rocky hillsides and rock outcrops, up to 2550 m altitude. In East Africa it occurs in mountain forest from 1350 m altitude, but in South Africa it can also be found at sea-level. It tolerates temperatures from –2°C to 36°C.
Propagation is by seed or cuttings. Young plants can be kept in pots until they are about 30 cm tall. Under good conditions, young plants grow fast and may start flowering when 2 years old. Kiggelaria africana makes an excellent screen, forms an effective windbreak, or develops into a wide-spreading shade tree with a non-aggressive root system. It has a tendency to branch low-down and early pruning of lower branches is necessary to obtain a proper tree shape. It likes a moderate supply of water, and a place in the sun. It is recommended to add ample compost to the soil when planting. Boles of old trees are often hollow. In South Africa trees are attacked by caterpillars of the butterfly Acraea horta, which occasionally cause complete defoliation.
Kiggelaria africana is widespread and locally common in a variety of habitats. There are no indications that it is under threat of genetic erosion.
Kiggelaria africana may gain importance in landscaping because it is easy to grow and its roots exert only limited competition; moreover, it attracts large numbers of birds. The wood is likely to remain of local importance.
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- L.P.A. Oyen, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Correct citation of this article
Oyen, L.P.A., 2011. Kiggelaria africana L. [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 10 July 2021.
- See the Prota4U database.