Herbs & Plants

Dalbergia melanoxylon

Botanical Name: Dalbergia melanoxylon
Family: Fabaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales
Genus: Dalbergia
Species: D. melanoxylon

*Amerimnon melanoxylon (Guill. & Perr.) Kuntze
*Amerimnon stocksii (Benth.) Kuntze
*Dalbergia stocksii Benth.

Common Names: African Blackwood, Grenadilla, Mpingo
Vernacular names:
*African blackwood, African ebony, African grenadillo, African ironwood, Senegal ebony, zebra wood (En).
*Grenadille d’Afrique, ébénier du Sénégal (Fr).
*Grenadilha, pau preto (Po).
*Mpingo, kikwaju (Sw).

It has many local names :

Habitat: Dalbergia melanoxylon is native to Africa – drier areas from Senegal to Ethiopia, south to S. Africa. It grows under a wide range of conditions including semi-arid, subhumid and tropical lowland areas. It is often found on dry, rocky sites but is most frequent in the mixed deciduous forests and savannahs of the coastal region.

Dalbergia melanoxylon is a deciduous spiny shrub or small tree up to 12(–20) m tall, often several-stemmed and much-branched; bole usually short, branchless for up to 2(–3.5) m, often gnarled and fluted, up to 50(–100) cm in diameter; bark surface whitish to pale grey or greyish brown, thin, smooth but becoming rough and fissured or flaking, inner bark orange-pink; crown irregular, open; young branches clustered at the nodes, some growing out and others remaining short and spine-tipped, initially short-hairy but soon glabrescent, whitish grey.

Leaves arranged spirally, imparipinnately compound with 7–13(–17) leaflets; stipules 2–6 mm long, caducous; petiole and rachis almost glabrous; petiolules 1–2 mm long; leaflets alternate to opposite, obovate to elliptical, 1–5(–5.5) cm × (0.5–)1–3(–5) cm, leathery, short-hairy below but glabrescent.
Inflorescence a terminal or axillary panicle 2–12 cm long, laxly branched, short-hairy to almost glabrous, many-flowered.
Flowers bisexual, papilionaceous, 4–6 mm long, almost sessile; calyx campanulate, 2–3(–4) mm long, lobes shorter than tube, lower lobe longest, upper lobes fused; corolla whitish, with obovate standard and clawed wings and keel; stamens usually 9, fused into a tube, but free in upper part; ovary superior, with distinct stipe at base, style short.
Fruit a flat, elliptical to oblong, papery pod 3–7 cm × 1–1.5(–2) cm, with stipe 3–7 mm long, glabrous, greyish brown, laxly veined, indehiscent, 1–2(–4)-seeded.
Seeds kidney-shaped.

A plant of low to moderate elevations in the tropics, being found at elevations from sea level to 1,200 metres. It grows in areas where the mean annual temperature is in the range 18 – 35°c and the mean annual rainfall is 700 – 1,200 mm. Succeeds in a variety of soils, from loamy sands to clayey Vertisols (black cotton soils). This species demands water and light and therefore is common near water and will not regenerate under heavy cover. When introduced into India and Australia, the plant became naturalized. In western Australia it behaved as a very aggressive weed and was quickly eradicated. The species is extremely slow growing. Seven year old trees are only up to 4 metres tall and it takes 70 – 100 years for trees to attain timber size. Trees coppice successfully and also produce root suckers. Trees generally exhibit heavy annual seed production[. Mature trees are fire tolerant. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby. Small growers in Naples, Florida have been successful in growing African blackwood there. Growth habit in Florida yields taller, larger trees, and the rich soil combined with ample nutrients and long growing season yields timber of superior quality at more sustainable rates.

Seed extracted from pods germinate readily without pre-treatment. They should be kept in the shade for 2 weeks after sowing, but can then be placed in full sun. They germinate 8 – 20 days after sowing, with a germination rate of 50 – 60%. Although pre-treatment of seeds is not necessary, soaking the seeds in water accelerates germination. Experimental work in Tanzania suggests that survival and growth are improved by planting 2-year-old stumps that are 14 cm long, comprising 12 cm of root and 2 cm of shoot. These should be planted in the early or middle part of the rainy season, followed by intensive weeding. Potted seedlings may also be used, but they tend to grow more slowly. When seedlings are raised in pots, frequent root pruning is mandatory. Delayed pruning leads to seedling shock. Like many species within the family Fabaceae, once they have been dried for storage the seeds of this species may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 – 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen – if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing. Seed storage behaviour is orthodox; viability can be maintained for several years in hermetic storage at 3?c with 9 – 12% mc

Medicinal Uses:
The roots are said to be anthelmintic and aphrodisiac. A decoction is used to prevent miscarriage, to treat abdominal pain, diarrhoea, gonorrhoea and syphilis. The wood smoke is inhaled to treat headaches, colds and bronchitis. The stem and root bark is used in traditional medicine to treat diarrhoea in combination with baobab or tamarind fruits. A bark decoction or bark powder is used to clean wounds. A leaf decoction is used to relieve pain in the joints. The leaf sap is taken to treat inflammations in mouth and throat. Bark extracts have shown antibacterial and antifungal activities, thus supporting the traditional application for cleansing wounds.

Other Uses:
Agroforestry Uses: The tree provides good mulch and may improve the soil by nitrogen fixation. It can be used to avoid soil erosion because of its extensive root system. It is also useful in windbreaks and live fences. Other Uses The heartwood is purplish black, sometimes darker towards the outside, with light streaks and not always uniform in colour; it is sharply differentiated from the up to 12cm wide band of white or yellowish-white sapwood. The timber is slightly oily, exceptionally hard and very heavy, brittle and somewhat fissile. The heartwood is extremely durable and resistant to all forms of biological deterioration. The sapwood, however, is susceptible to fungal or insect attack. The dry wood is difficult to saw or plane; it blunts saws and cutters and cannot be nailed or screwed without drilling; it is, however, among the finest of all turnery timbers, cutting exactly and finishing to a brilliantly polished, lustrous surface, dry and cold to the touch. Other products made from the timber include carvings, turnery and marquetry to produce sculptures, musical instruments, ornaments, inlays, chess pieces, walking sticks, bearings and many other products. The main industrial use, long supporting an export trade from East Africa and Mozambique, is the manufacture of musical instruments, especially woodwinds. With its high density and fine texture, the wood produces a beautiful musical tone. It is stable, stands up to metalwork processes, and takes an excellent finish. The wood is used as a fuel and to make charcoal. Its calorific value is more than 49,000 kcal/kg. Heat generation is so high that fires of D. Melanoxylon have been reported to melt cooking utensils.

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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