Botanical Name: Bauhinia petersiana
Species: B. petersiana
*Bauhinia macrantha Oliv.
*Bauhinia serpae Ficalho & Hiern Perlebia macrantha (Oliv.)A.Schmitz *Perlebia petersiana (Bolle) A.Schmitz
Common Names: Kalahari White Bauhinia,White bauhinia, Zambezi coffee
Bauhinia petersiana is native to Africa – southern DR Congo, Tanzania, southern Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, S. Africa.
It grows in open grassland, wooded grassland and woodland, at elevations from 150 – 1,850 metres in east Afric.
Bauhinia petersiana is an evergreen or semi-deciduous scrambler or more usually a shrub or small tree, growing to 7 m (23ft) by 7 m (23ft) at a fast rate with hooked woody tendrils. The leaves are thin, leathery and blue-green, divided into two lobes, like a heart. They are 3-6cm across. The flowers showy, open and coloured white or pink with a slight fragrance. Most appear between September and January but they can sometimes be seen at other times. The smooth chocolate-brown pods mature in the dry season and sometimes explode to distribute the seeds which are flat, brown and glossy.It fixes nitrogen. It is a photoautotroph. (means organisms that can make their own energy using light and carbon dioxide via the process of photosynthesis.)
Bauhinia petersiana is a plant of moist to arid areas in the tropics, where it can be found at elevations up to 1,850 metres. The plant can tolerate some frost and can be found in areas experiencing as little as 350mm of rain in a year. Requires a sunny position in a well-drained, preferably light, soil. 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.
Seed – cooked. Roasted and eaten like nuts, when they are considered a delicacy. The seeds can be harvested whilst immature – the whole green pod is briefly roasted and then the seeds removed and eaten. A meal made from the pounded seeds is eaten. The seeds can be eaten green, but ripe seeds are usually roasted, peeled, and pounded into a pleasant-tasting, coarse meal. The mature seeds are roasted and ground into a powder then used as a substitute for coffee. Immature seedpods – cooked. They can be roasted or boiled. Root – roasted. The core of the root is rejected and only the outer portion eaten. Mainly a famine food, it is seldom eaten at other times. An oil is obtained from the seed. The principal fatty acids in the seed oil are linoleic acid (45%), oleic acid (26%), palmitic acid (16%) and stearic acid (7%).
The leaves are boiled, the steam inhaled and the cooled-down liquid drunk to cure common cough. The pounded leaves, mixed with salt, are boiled and the warm liquid is sprinkled on wounds to promote healing. An infusion of the roots is used to treat dysmenorrhoea and female infertility. A decoction of the macerated roots is drunk as a remedy for diarrhoea. The roots and leaves contain tannins.
The bark fibres are used to make rope. A dye is obtained from the roots.
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