Botanical Name: Baikiaea plurijuga
Species: B. plurijuga
Common Names: African teak, Mukusi, Rhodesian teak, Zambian teak or Zambesi redwood.
Habitat: Baikiaea plurijuga is native to southern Angola, northern Botswana, northern Namibia, southern Zambia and northern Zimbabwe. It is confined to Kalahari sands, where it is often abundant and dominant in lowland tropical forests, often associated with Guibourtia coleosperma and Schinziophyton rautanenii, at elevations around 900 – 1,200 metres.
Baikiaea plurijuga is a tropical, slow-growing, semi-deciduous tree with a rounded crown and rough and cracked bark. It can reach up to 20 m high with a trunk diameter of up to 120 cm when fully matured. It has pinnate leaves each with 4-5 pairs of opposed leaflets. They show pink to deep mauve flowers have yellow stamens and are clustered in large axillary racemes; it flowers from November to April. The flowers are pollinated by Insects. The fruit are flattened, woody pods with a hooked tip which splits explosively sending the seeds out over some distance.
A plant of moderate elevations in the drier regions of the tropics, where it is mainly found at elevations between 900 – 1,200 metres. Mature trees can withstand extreme temperatures of over 40°c and have been known to survive severe frost down to -15°c. Plants are frost sensitive. It is found in areas with a mean annual rainfall of 600 – 1,000mm and a dry season of 6 – 8 months. Prefers a sunny position. Grows in the wild in deep, infertile, sandy soils. Grows best in a well-drained, light to medium soil. Established plants have a deep tap root and are very drought resistant. Prefers a pH in the range 5 – 5.5, tolerating 4.5 – 6.5. Coppices well. The plant suffers adversely from fires in the dry season, and cannot afterwards compete with fast-growing, thorny, colonizer bushes. Although many species within the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, this species is said to be devoid of such a relationship and therefore does not fix atmospheric nitrogen.
Edible Uses: Flowers are edible.
Locally, the bark is used in medicine. Decoctions of the bark are used to treat syphilis and to make a fortifying tonic. An infusion of the bark is gargled to relieve toothache.
The bark is a source of tannins. The large, shiny, brown seeds are strikingly flat. They are used in various crafts and are often combined with other seeds and beads to make necklaces and other adornments. The heartwood is an attractive reddish-brown with irregular black lines or flecks; it is sharply demarcated from the pale pinkish-brown sapwood. The texture is fine and even; the grain straight or slightly inter-locked; lustre is low; there is no characteristic odor or taste. Moist wood in contact with iron may stain because of the tannin content. The wood is heavy, fine-grained, strong and very durable, with a moderate resistance to termites. A slow-drying wood with little or no degrade. It is rather difficult to saw and machine, with severe blunting of cutters and a gumming of teeth if sawn green; it is excellent for turnery and has good gluing properties. Rated as one of the worlds finest commercial timbers, it is used as a general timber for bridge construction, flooring, railway sleepers, furniture, and is used in certain areas as fencing posts. The wood is little used locally because it is too hard for native tools to cut. The wood makes a good fuel, producing very hot coals. It is also used to make charcoal
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