Toona ciliata (PROTA)
|Geographic coverage Africa|
|Geographic coverage World|
|Carbohydrate / starch|
|Dye / tannin|
|Essential oil / exudate|
|Forage / feed|
Toona ciliata M.Roem.
- Protologue: Fam. nat. syn. monogr. 1: 139 (1846).
- Family: Meliaceae
- Chromosome number: 2n = 52, 56, 78
- Cedrela toona Roxb. ex Rottler & Willd. (1803).
- Toon, Indian mahogany, Australian red cedar (En).
- Cèdre rouge, cèdre rouge d’Australie (Fr).
- Cedro australiano (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Toona ciliata originates from tropical Asia and tropical Australia, but is now much cultivated throughout the tropics for its timber and as an ornamental or wayside tree. It is extensively planted in tropical Africa, particularly in East and southern Africa, but also locally in West Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius. It was recorded from Zambia and Zimbabwe as early as the beginning of the 20th century. It has locally become naturalized in southern Africa.
In South-East Asia the wood is considered of high value and used in house and ship building, for joinery, high-grade furniture, tea chests and boxes, musical instruments, toys and novelties, carvings, veneer, plywood and pencils. Elsewhere the wood of planted Toona ciliata trees is occasionally used, also in tropical Africa.
The flowers yield a reddish or yellowish dye, which has been used in tropical Asia to colour silk. The bark may be used for tanning leather, and has been traditionally used to make twine and string bags. Various parts of the plant, but especially the bark, are used in traditional medicine in the original distribution area of Toona ciliata, e.g. as an astringent and tonic, to treat dysentery and to heal wounds. In Zimbabwe a leaf infusion is taken to treat venereal diseases. Toona ciliata is commonly planted as an ornamental tree, and particularly as a roadside tree. This is the most common use in Africa. It is also planted as a firebreak and for reforestation. In Burundi it is planted as a shade tree in banana plantations and for erosion control, and the sale of its timber is an important source of income for farmers. The foliage can serve as fodder, and has been used in tropical Asia as a vegetable. An aromatic oil can be extracted from the wood and fruits. Flowering trees are a good source of nectar for honey bees.
Production and international trade
In many regions within the natural area of distribution of Toona ciliata, the timber is highly prized and has been much overexploited, particularly in Australia where it once was the most important native timber. Nowadays it is exploited in many areas in South-East Asia, e.g. in Myanmar. It is exported in small amounts to China and Japan, but trade statistics are not available.
The heartwood is pale red to reddish brown, darkening to dark red-brown on exposure, usually distinctly demarcated from the greyish white to pink sapwood. The grain is usually straight, sometimes interlocked, texture rather coarse and uneven. The wood has a cedar-like odour.
The wood is lightweight to medium-weight, with a density of 330–600 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content. The rates of shrinkage are usually moderate. The wood may be liable to warping and cupping during drying, particularly in thin planks. Close spacing of stickers and weighting of stacks is recommended. Boards 25 mm thick take 1–3.5 months to air dry. Once dry, the wood is moderately stable in service.
For wood of South African origin at 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 76 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 8900 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 42 N/mm², shear 7 N/mm², Janka side hardness 3650 N and Janka end hardness 5330 N.
The wood is easy to saw, cross-cut and plane, and the planed surface is smooth; it takes a good polish. Some material tends to produce a woolly finish and the use of sharp tools is therefore recommended. Mortising, turning and sanding give moderate results, boring sometimes poor results. Nailing is easy, but the nail-holding capacity is moderate. The gluing properties are rated as good. The wood peels well and the veneer is of good quality and has a nice figure. The veneer can be glued to produce good-quality plywood.
The wood is non-durable to moderately durable. It is usually susceptible to termite and dry-wood borer attacks. The heartwood is usually resistant to impregnation with preservatives, but the sapwood is permeable. Wood dust may irritate the respiratory organs and skin.
An ethanol extract of the heartwood showed anti-ulcer, gastro-protective and analgesic activities in tests with rats. Stem bark extracts exhibited in-vitro antibacterial activity. Several limonoids have been isolated from Toona ciliata. The tetranortriterpenoid cedrelone showed antifungal activity.
The foliage contains 13–14% crude protein and 14–22% crude fibre, and is reported to have good nutritive value, but poor palatability. Tests in Malawi showed that Toona ciliata leaves were fairly palatable to sheep. Bark extracts have insect-repellent activity.
- Deciduous or nearly evergreen, monoecious, medium-sized tree up to 25(–35) m tall; bole branchless for up to 22 m, up to 50(–100) cm in diameter, with or without buttresses at base; bark surface greyish white to brown, usually fissured and flaking, inner bark brown to reddish, fibrous; crown rounded, spreading.
- Leaves alternate, paripinnately compound with (5–)9–15 pairs of leaflets; stipules absent; petiole 6–11 cm long, rachis slightly hairy or glabrous; petiolules 2–10(–14) mm long; leaflets lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, (7–)9–13(–16) cm × (2–) 3–5(–6) cm, asymmetric at base, acute or acuminate at apex, entire, glabrous, pinnately veined.
- Inflorescence an axillary or terminal, much-branched, pendent panicle up to 55 cm long, hairy.
- Flowers unisexual, male and female flowers very similar in appearance, regular, 5-merous, fragrant; pedicel 0.5–1 mm long; calyx c. 1 mm long; petals free, 3.5–6 mm long, creamy white; stamens free, 1–2.5 mm long; disk 1.5–2.5 mm in diameter, reddish orange; ovary superior, 1–2 mm in diameter, 5-celled, style 0.5–3 mm long, stigma head-shaped; male flowers with rudimentary ovary, female flowers with non-dehiscing anthers.
- Fruit an ellipsoid to obovoid capsule 1.5–2.5 cm long, pendulous, smooth or with lenticels, reddish brown, dehiscing with 5 slightly woody valves, many-seeded.
- Seeds 1–2 cm long, winged at both ends with unequal wings.
- Seedling with epigeal germination; cotyledons leaf-like; first leaves opposite, 3-foliolate with lobed or toothed leaflets.
Other botanical information
Toona ciliata grows rapidly. In Hawaii an average tree height of 10 m and an average bole diameter of 9.6 cm had been reached after 8.7 years. Mean annual diameter increment is 0.8–1.8(–2.5) cm. Trees may reach 35 m tall with a bole diameter of 70 cm when 40 years old. In plantations in tropical Africa, growth declines seriously after 40 years. Trees planted in open localities may already flower and produce seed after 6 years. The flowers are pollinated by insects such as bees and moths. Fruits ripen about 3 months after flowering. The seeds are dispersed by wind.
Toona comprises 4 or 5 species and occurs in tropical Asia and eastern Australia. It is closely related to Cedrela from tropical America. Cedrela odorata L. is planted as a roadside tree and shade tree in tropical Africa, also in timber plantations, and has often been confused with Toona ciliata. It differs in its flowers having a longer column (androgynophore) on which the stamens and pistil are borne and in its entire seedling leaflets.
Toona sinensis (A.Juss.) M.Roem. is planted in some African countries, e.g. Uganda and Tanzania, mainly as a roadside tree. It differs from Toona ciliata in its toothed leaflets and seeds winged at only one end. The wood properties are comparable to those of Toona ciliata.
In its natural area of distribution Toona ciliata occurs in primary as well as secondary forest, often along rivers and in valleys, up to 1500 m altitude, in areas with 800–1800 mm annual rainfall. It is capable of regeneration in full sunlight. It prefers well-drained sites on deep, fertile soils, and does not grow well in sandy localities. It tolerates some drought if the tree is well established. It is frost hardy. In Malawi it grows well in areas at 450–1500 m altitude with 900–1500 mm annual rainfall.
Trial timber plantations have been established in Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It has been reported from East Africa that Toona ciliata can be aggressive. It spreads easily by seed and cut roots produce suckers. The root system spreads widely and develops close to the soil surface, and the use of the tree in gardens or crop plantations is dissuaded. Seeds are often produced in great number, and can be collected from the soil. The 1000-seed weight is 2.5–5 g. Seeds can be stored for only a few months at room temperature, but for seed stored at –4°C a viability of 97% has been recorded after 5 years and of 38% after 12.5 years. The seeds are best placed in the ground with a wing pointing upward. The germination rate is 30–80%, and seeds germinate 7–28 days after sowing. In Malawi best germination results were obtained when fully mature seeds were sown in the nursery on soil collected in Brachystegia woodland. In India 1-year-old seedlings are preferred for field planting. In Australia placing plastic tubes around seedlings has been recommended. Root suckers and wildlings are sometimes also used for propagation. Small leafy cuttings treated with growth hormone root fairly easily, especially when taken from 2-year-old plants.
In plantations close spacing of young trees is recommended to prevent early branching. The most commonly reported spacing is 2 m × 2 m, but in Africa 4–6 m × 4–6 m is commonly used. Regular weeding is necessary during the first 2 years because the seedlings are very sensitive to competition from herbs.
Thinning operations should be done from the 4th year, and then every 5 years. Trees can be managed by coppicing and pollarding.
Leaf blight caused by Phytophthora has been reported from forest nurseries in India. In many regions Toona ciliata plantations are severely damaged by attacks of tip moth (Hypsipyla robusta), which may attack young shoots, flowers, fruits and seeds. Tip moth and some other pests may cause seed losses of up to 97%. Toona ciliata has been used successfully in South-East Asia for enrichment planting, and was then much less severely attacked by tip moth than when seedlings were planted in the open. The shoot borer Hypsipyla grandella attacks Toona ciliata worldwide. In the 1970s in several areas of Malawi many Toona ciliata trees showed die-back of the branches, locally resulting in 80% mortality. It has been suggested that Fusarium sp. was the causal organism.
Toona ciliata is much sought after for its timber in its natural distribution area, and has become scarce in many regions. It has been suggested that there is much genetic variation in Toona ciliata over its large natural distribution area.
Toona ciliata is useful for many purposes. It has been recommended in Australia for planting because of its high-value timber, in Mexico as a shade tree in coffee plantations and in India as a multipurpose tree in agroforestry systems. In tropical Africa the results of plantation establishment were in general favourable, although plantations in Sudan showed poor bole shapes and plantations in some localities in Malawi suffered from serious die-back. The attractive multipurpose wood and the fast growth make Toona ciliata attractive for planting. On the other hand, the superficial root system is a drawback for planting in agroforestry systems, and its susceptibility to diseases and pests should be considered when using this species in timber plantations. The planting of indigenous African timber trees with similar wood, e.g. Entandrophragma and Khaya species, may be a better option in many regions.
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- R.H.M.J. Lemmens, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Correct citation of this article
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2008. Toona ciliata M.Roem. 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 24 July 2021.
- See the Prota4U database.