Oncoba brevipes (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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Oncoba brevipes Stapf

Protologue: Journ. Linn. Soc., Bot. 37: 84 (1905).
Family: Flacourtiaceae (APG: Achariaceae)
Chromosome number: 2n = 24


Caloncoba brevipes (Stapf) Gilg (1908).

Origin and geographic distribution

Oncoba brevipes occurs from Guinea east to western Côte d’Ivoire.


The wood of Oncoba brevipes is used for poles in house building, fence posts, tool handles and sticks. The seed arils are edible. The inner bark and the leaves are used medicinally in Liberia against headache, either in a poultice or in decoction by draught. The seed oil or a paste from pulverized seeds is used for treating skin diseases, river blindness and scrofula. The bark yields a fish poison.


The sapwood is greyish, the heartwood pale brown to reddish brown. The wood is medium-weight and moderately hard and strong. The grain is generally straight, texture fine. The wood is easy to work and finishes fairly smoothly. There is no information on its durability.


Deciduous small tree up to 15 m tall; bole up to 25 cm in diameter; bark surface smooth, brown to blackish, inner bark thin, red; twigs covered with scales or resinous glands. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 1.5–3(–4) cm long; blade obovate-oblong to oblanceolate, 12–20(–26) cm × 4.5–7(–10) cm, base cuneate, apex abruptly short-acuminate, papery to thin-leathery, glabrous, pinnately veined with 7–9 pairs of lateral veins. Flowers solitary or sometimes 2–3 together in axils of leaves on young twigs, bisexual or male, regular; pedicel 3.5–4 cm long, up to 8 cm in fruit; sepals 3, obovate-oblong, c. 3 cm × 2 cm, greenish with white margins, with glandular dots outside; petals 9–12, oblanceolate, c. 6 cm × 3 cm, tapering towards the base, white; stamens numerous, yellow, but anthers becoming brown; ovary superior, oblong-ovoid, 1-celled, style c. 1 cm long, at apex divided into 5–6 stigmatic lobes. Fruit an ellipsoid to ovoid capsule 6–8 cm × 3–5 cm, with faint ridges, many-seeded. Seeds angular, c. 5 mm long, enveloped by an aril. Seedling with epigeal germination; hypocotyl 2–3 cm long, epicotyl c. 1.5 cm long; cotyledons leafy, oblong-elliptical, c. 1.5 cm long; first leaves alternate.

Other botanical information

In Côte d’Ivoire, trees flower in September–October, and young fruits have been collected in May.

Oncoba comprises about 35 species, most of them in tropical Africa and 6 in tropical America. Several genera, including Caloncoba, have been merged into Oncoba in 1997. However, in 2002 a phylogenetic analysis based on DNA sequences resulted in a position of Caloncoba in the family Achariaceae, whereas Oncoba spinosa Forssk., the type of Oncoba, was placed in Salicaceae. Currently research is done to elucidate the status of the species within Oncoba sensu lato.

Oncoba gilgiana

Oncoba gilgiana Sprague (synonym: Caloncoba gilgiana (Sprague) Gilg) is a shrub or small tree up to 15 m tall, occurring from Guinea eastward to Cameroon. Its pale brown and hard wood is used in house construction and for inlay and cabinet work, and also as firewood. The seed arils are edible. It has showy flowers and may have prospects as ornamental.


Oncoba brevipes occurs in the understorey of evergreen rainforest, also in brushwood and forest regrowth, often in swampy and occasionally flooded localities, up to 700 m altitude.


There are about 4000 seeds per kg. The germination rate of seeds is high, within 8–12 days after sowing.

Genetic resources

Oncoba brevipes does not seem to be selectively harvested for timber or other products and has not been classified as endangered or threatened. However, it has a limited area of distribution and its habitat is shrinking.


The wood is likely to remain of local importance for posts and poles, and bark, leaves and seeds for medicinal purposes. The ornamental value of Oncoba brevipes with its showy flowers deserves attention.

Major references

  • Aubréville, A., 1959. La flore forestière de la Côte d’Ivoire. Deuxième édition révisée. Tome troisième. Publication No 15. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 334 pp.
  • Cooper, G.P. & Record, S.J., 1931. The evergreen forests of Liberia. School of Forestry, Yale University, Bulletin 31, New Haven, United States. 153 pp.
  • Hul, S. & Breteler, F.J., 1997. Réductions génériques dans les Oncobeae (Flacourtiaceae). Adansonia 19(2): 253–262.
  • Kryn, J.M. & Fobes, E.W., 1959. The woods of Liberia. Report 2159. USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin, United States. 147 pp.
  • Sleumer, H., 1974. Revision der Gattung Caloncoba Gilg (Flacourtiaceae). Botanische Jahrbücher für Systematik, Pflanzengeschichte und Pflanzengeographie 94(1): 120–138.

Other references

  • Bärner, J. & Müller, J.F., 1943. Die Nutzhölzer der Welt. Volume 3. Neumann, Neudamm, Germany. 804 pp.
  • Chase, M.W., Zmarzty, S., Lledo, M.D., Wurdack, K.J., Swensen, S.M. & Fay, M.F., 2002. When in doubt, put it in Flacourtiaceae: a molecular phylogenetic analysis based on plastid rbcL DNA sequences. Kew Bulletin 57(1): 141–181.
  • de la Mensbruge, G., 1966. La germination et les plantules des essences arborées de la forêt dense humide de la Côte d’Ivoire. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 389 pp.
  • Hawthorne, W. & Jongkind, C., 2006. Woody plants of western African forests: a guide to the forest trees, shrubs and lianes from Senegal to Ghana. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. 1023 pp.
  • Keay, R.W.J., 1954. Flacourtiaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 1. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 185–190.
  • Kew Science Directory, undated. Systematics of tribe Oncobeae (Salicaceae/ Achariaceae/ Flacourtiaceae). [Internet] http://www.kew.org/ science/directory/projects/ SystTribeOncobeae.html. October 2010.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Normand, D., 1960. Atlas des bois de la Côte d’Ivoire. Tome 3. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Nogent-sur-Marne, France. 182 pp.
  • Téré, H.G., 2004. Signification des noms vernaculaires des plantes chez les Guérés (Côte d’Ivoire). [Internet] Sempervira 7: 1–96. http://www.csrs.ch/ fichiers/Sempervira/ Sempervira7.pdf. October 2010.


  • 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., 2012. Oncoba brevipes Stapf. In: 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 1 June 2020.