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(Afrikaans) : grootblaarpieringbessie
(Amharic) : wanza
(Arabic) : gambil
(English) : East African cordia, large-leafed cordia, Sudan teak
(Luganda) : mukebu
(Swahili) : makobokobo, mringamringa, mringaringa, mukumari
(Tigrigna) : auhi, awhi, ekhi
(Trade name) : mukebu, mukumari
Cordia africana is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree, 4-15 (30) m high, heavily branched with a spreading, umbrella-shaped or rounded crown. Bole typically curved or crooked. Bark greyish-brown to dark brown, smooth in young trees, but soon becoming rough and longitudinally fissured with age; young branchlets with sparse long hairs. Leaves alternate, simple, ovate to subcircular, 7.5-17.5 (max. 30) cm long, 3.5-10.2 (max. 30) cm broad; thinly leathery; dark green above, paler green and velvety below; with prominent parallel tertiary net-nerves (about 7 pairs of lateral nerves); apex broadly tapering or rounded; base rounded to shallowly lobed; margin entire; petiole slender, 2.5-7.6 cm long. Buds oval, stalkless, pleated open into flowers that are bisexual, white, sweet scented, shortly pedicelate or subsessile, massed in compact panicles covering the crown, with a white mass of attractive flowers; calyx less than 1 cm long, strongly ribbed, back of lobes covered with short, soft, brown hairs; corolla lobes crinkled, white, long-exerted, funnel-shaped, about 2.5 cm long; cymes many flowered. Fruit a drupe, smooth, spherical, oval tipped, fleshy, 1.3-1.5 cm long; green when young, yellow to orange when mature; with a sweet, mucilaginous pulp and short remains of the calyx at the base; contains 2-4 seeds, which lack endosperm. The generic name honours a 16th century German botanist, Valerius Cordus, and ‘africana’ simply means ‘from Africa’. The specific epithet of the synonym, ‘abyssinica’, implies that the plant was described from Ethiopia.
Ecology and distributionNatural Habitat
The species occurs at medium to low altitudes, in woodland, savannah and bush, in warm and moist areas, often along riverbanks. It is frost tender. It will grow in drier conditions but thrives in good rainfall areas and is scattered in occurrence. It occurs in afro-montane rainforest and undifferentiated afro-montane forest (mixed Podocarpus forest), usually along margins and in clearings. It is an early colonizer in forest regrowth. It is often left when forests are cleared for cultivation, as the tree is an excellent shade tree for crops. Also found in riverine forest and secondary bushland, transgressing into humid types of woodland. In West Africa, this species seems to be restricted to montane and submontane habitats; it has limited distribution in the lowland habitats of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Native : Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Republic of, Zimbabwe
Biophysical limitsAltitude: 550-2 600 m, Mean annual rainfall: 700-2 000 mm Soil type: Large leafed cordia thrives in forest soil.
Flowering starts when trees are 3-5 years old. In Sudan, flowering occurs in October to December and fruiting from January to April; in Kenya, flowering is from April to June. It is repeated at intervals over several weeks and is evidently triggered off by rain showers. After pollination by insects, fruit development takes a period of almost 6 months. Fruit is eaten and probably dispersed by birds.
Propagation and managementPropagation methodsGermination from seed appears to be erratic, but after it starts, trees grow well. Seeds are soaked in cold water for 6 hours and germinate within 40-60 days under ideal conditions; expected germination rate of mature healthy seed lots is 50-80%. Seedlings require 4-6 months in a nursery before planting out.
The species grows fairly fast, reaching 7-8 m in 7 years; management practices include pollarding, lopping and coppicing.
After extraction, seeds are dried in the sun to 6-8% mc; can be stored for at least 1 year in hermetic storage at 3 deg. C with no loss in viability. There are about 18 000 seeds/kg.
Functional usesProductsFood: Mature fruits have a sweet, mucilaginous, edible pulp. Fodder: Leaves provide fodder for the dry season. Apiculture: C. africana provides good bee forage, as the flowers yield plenty of nectar. Beehives are often placed in the trees. Fuel: Trees are a good source of firewood. Timber: The heartwood is pinkish-brown, reasonably durable, relatively termite resistant; it works easily and polishes well but is often twisted and difficult to saw. It is used for high-quality furniture, doors, windows, cabinet making, drums, beehives, joinery, interior construction, mortars, paneling and veneering. Medicine: The fresh, juicy bark is used to tie a broken bone; this splint is changed occasionally with a fresh one until the bone is healed.
Shade or shelter: C. africana is planted as a shade tree in coffee plantations; it is usually left in the fields, as it provides excellent shade for crops. Soil improver: Leaf fall in the dry season is heavy, and the leaves make good mulch. Ornamental: Trees are planted in amenity areas.
BibliographyAlbrecht J. ed. 1993. Tree seed hand book of Kenya. GTZ Forestry Seed Center Muguga, Nairobi, Kenya.
Beentje HJ. 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya.
Bein E. 1996. Useful trees and shrubs in Eritrea. Regional Soil Conservation Unit (RSCU), Nairobi, Kenya.
Bekele-Tesemma A, Birnie A, Tengnas B. 1993. Useful trees and shrubs for Ethiopia. Regional Soil Conservation Unit (RSCU), Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA).
Birnie A. 1997. What tree is that? A beginner's guide to 40 trees in Kenya. Jacaranda designs Ltd.
Coates-Palgrave K. 1988. Trees of southern Africa. C.S. Struik Publishers Cape Town.
Drummond BR. 1981. Common trees of the Central Watershed Woodlands of Zimbabwe. National Resources Board.
Friis I. 1992. Forests and forest trees of northeast tropical Africa. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London.
Hamilton A.C. 1981. A field guide to Uganda forest trees.
Hines DA, Eckman K. 1993. Indigenous multipurpose trees for Tanzania: uses and economic benefits to the people. Cultural survival Canada and Development Services Foundation of Tanzania.
Hong TD, Linington S, Ellis RH. 1996. Seed storage behaviour: a compendium. Handbooks for Genebanks: No. 4. IPGRI.
ICRAF. 1992. A selection of useful trees and shrubs for Kenya: Notes on their identification, propagation and management for use by farming and pastoral communities. ICRAF.
Katende AB et al. 1995. Useful trees and shrubs for Uganda. Identification, Propagation and Management for Agricultural and Pastoral Communities. Regional Soil Conservation Unit (RSCU), Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA).
Mbuya LP et al. 1994. Useful trees and shrubs for Tanzania: Identification, Propagation and Management for Agricultural and Pastoral Communities. Regional Soil Conservation Unit (RSCU), Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA).
Noad T, Birnie A. 1989. Trees of Kenya. General Printers, Nairobi.
Sahni KC. 1968. Important trees of the northern Sudan. United Nations and FAO.
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