Herbs & Plants

Afzelia africana

Botanical Name: Afzelia africana
Family: Fabaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales
Genus: Afzelia
Species: A. africana

Intsia africana (Sm. ex Pers.) Kuntze Pahudia africana (Sm. ex Pers.) Prain

Common Names: African mahogany, Afzelia, Lenke, Lengue, Apa, or Doussi

Habitat:Afzelia africana is native to Western Tropical Africa – Senegal to Sudan, south to the Congo. It occurs in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the RCongo, DRCongo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo, and Uganda. It grows in humid and dry forests, tree savannahs, forest galleries. Semi-deciduous forest and savannahs to the southern border of the Sahel. Found in the drier parts of the tropical forests region in valleys, on the savannah and in areas fringing forests.

Afzelia africana is a deciduous tree, growing up to 10 – 25 meters tall and up to 40cm in diameter, with flat or rounded spreading crown; bark grey to dark brown, scaly; branchlets glabrous. Leaves: rhachis with petiole 4–32 cm. long or more; leaflets (mature) 2–5(–6) pairs, petiolulate, elliptic to ovate-elliptic, mostly 5–15 cm. long, 2.8–6.9(–8.5) cm. wide, obtusely pointed to ± acuminate at apex. Inflorescences paniculate, with racemose branches 3–13 cm. long, rarely (? casually and by reduction) inflorescence simply racemose. Flowers sweetly scented, with hypanthium 0.3–0.6 cm. long. Sepals shortly and densely velvety-pubescent or -puberulous outside, broadly obovate-elliptic to rotund, 2 outer 6–9 mm. long, 5–7 mm. wide, 2 inner 7–11 mm. long, 6–10 mm. wide. Large petal 1.1–2 cm. long, white or greenish-white, with pinkish-crimson streak down centre, with a rather long claw suddenly widened into a bilobed lamina 0.7–1.1 cm. wide. Stamens 7 fertile, with ± pubescent filaments. Style ± pubescent below. Pods straight, 10.5–20.5 cm. long, 5.5–8.5 cm. wide. Seeds black, ellipsoid or oblong-ellipsoid, 1.6–3 cm. long, 1.1–2.1 cm. wide, with an orange cup-shaped basal aril.


A plant of the lowland moist tropics where it can be found at elevations up to 900 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 – 32°c, but can tolerate 10 – 40°c. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,200 – 1,800mm, but tolerates 1,000 – 2,500mm. Requires a sunny position, though young plants can tolerate light shade. Found in the wild in well watered sites with a deep sandy soil, though it can adapt to lateritic soils. Grows best in a fertile soil. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 – 6.5, tolerating 5 – 7. Plants can tolerate occasional inundation of the soil. The tree will resprout if cut back to the old wood. The tree is not tolerant of fires. The tree can resist fires. Although most species in the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria on their roots that can fix atmospheric nitrogen, there is a report that this species does not have this relationship.

Edible Uses:
Fruit – raw. The fleshy pulp in the seedpod, surrounding the seeds, has a sweet flavour. Some caution is advised because the seed is poisonous. Pods flattened 12-17 x 5-8 x 3.5 cm, glabrous, black, woody, persistent bursts open at maturity spreading the seeds. Seeds poisonous, with a sweet edible aril. The seeds are being investigated for their usefulness in providing seed flour and seed oil. They contain about 27% crude proteins, 33% crude carbohydrates and 18% of the seed dry weight is oil. Tender young leaves – occasionally cooked and eaten as a vegetable.

Medicinal Uses:
The plant is used in traditional medicine, where it is considered to be analgesic, antihaemorrhagic, aphrodisiac, emetic, emmenagogue, febrifuge and laxative. The plant is used in local medicine for general pain relief; treating digestive problems such as constipation and vomiting; and for internal bleedings (haemorrhagic). A decoction of the stem bark is used in the treatment of malaria and rheumatism. An infusion of the bark is used as a treatment against paralysis, and a decoction against constipation. The pulp is combined with Pericopsis and Tamarindus and used as a diuretic and febrifuge. The maceration is used as a remedy for leprosy. The ash of the bark, prepared with Shea butter as a soap, is used as a treatment against lumbago. In a decoction or prepared with food, it is a treatment for back-ache. The roots are pulverised with millet-beer and used to treat hernias and, in a decoction with pimento, as a remedy against gonorrhoea and stomach-ache. A leaf decoction, combined with Syzygium guineensis leaves and Xylopia fruit, forms a drink that is used to treat oedema.

Other Uses:
Agroforestry Uses: As the leaves are rich in nitrogen they are used to enrich the soil. Other Uses The burnt pods are rich in potash. They are used locally for manufacturing a soap. The dried seedpods are used as musical instruments. A dark yellow, highly aromatic resin exudes from injuries in the bark. The seeds contain 31% oil and have potential for industrial use. The heartwood is golden-brown to light red-brown, sometimes with darker veins; it is clearly demarcated from the 2 – 8cm wide band of yellow-white sapwood. The texture is coarse; the grain straight or interlocked. The white or yellow substance, afzelin, which is present in the vessels of the wood, can cause it to stain textiles and other materials that come into contact with it when damp. The wood is light in weight and soft according to some reports, whilst others say that it is hard and heavy. The wood is durable to very durable, being resistant to termites and dry wood borers and very resistant to fungi. It seasons slowly, with a slight risk of checking or distortion; once dried it is stable in service. The wood is hard to cut, stellite-tipped and tungsten carbide tools are recommended; nailing and screwing are good, but pre-boring is recommended; gluing is correct for internal use; filling is recommended to obtain a good finish. An excellent timber, it is considered to be a good substitute for mahogany (Swietenia spp.), though it is difficult to work. The wood has a wide range of uses, including for ship building, construction, interior and exterior joinery and panelling, cabinetwork, cooperage, shingles etc. The wood is used for fuel and for making charcoal.The seed is poisonous but contains 31% oil and have potential for industrial use. Its bark is used as a fish poison. Further, the leaves are used to enrich the soil as it is rich in nitrogen.

Known Hazards:
The seeds are poisonous. The sawdust can be irritating, producing sneezing. The bark is used as a fish poison.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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