Botanical Name: Alstonia boonei
Species: A. boonei
Common Names: Emien(derived from the vernacular of the Ivory Coast).Cheese wood, Pattern wood or Stool wood.
Habitat:Alstonia boonei is native to tropical West Africa, with a range extending into Ethiopia and Tanzania.
It grows in the evergreen and deciduous forest in damp situations. Primary, as well as secondary, moist evergreen to dry semi-deciduous forest at elevations up to 1,200 metres. It is sometimes found in swampy locations and by the sides of streams.
Alstonia boonei is a very large, deciduous, tropical-forest tree, which can reach 45 metres (148 ft) in height and 3 m (9.8 ft) in girth, the bole being cylindrical and up to 27 m (89 ft) in height with high, narrow, deep-fluted buttresses. The leaves are borne in whorls at the nodes, the leaf shape is oblanceolate, with the apex rounded to acuminate and the lateral veins prominent and almost at right angles to the midrib. The flowers are yellowish-white and borne in lax terminal cymes. The fruits are pendulous, paired, slender follicles up to 16 centimetres (6.3 in) long, containing seeds bearing a tuft of silky, brown floss at either end to allow dispersal by the wind. The latex is white and abundant.
A plant of the moist tropics, where it can be found at elevations up to 1,200 metres. It is found in areas where the mean annual rainfall is within the range 1,500 – 2,000mm.
Mature trees require a sunny position, but younger trees are more shade tolerant. Grows best in a moist but well-drained soil. Plants are often found growing in areas where the soil is inundated for part of the year. The branches are somewhat brittle, so the plant requires a position sheltered from strong winds.
A fairly fast-growing tree, it can reach a height of 2 metres within its first year of growth and 10 year old trees can be 15 metres tall with a bole 25cm in diameter. The tree coppices readily.
Through Seeds – it has a hard seedcoat and scarification before sowing can speed up germination and increase the germination rate from 30% to 85%. Scarification can usually be done by pouring a small amount of warm water on the seeds 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.
Alstonia boonei is a popular medicine in west Africa, where it is widely used as a febrifuge, to treat malaria and skin problems.
In tests the stem bark has shown anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and analgesic properties, but it is not efficient in treating malaria.
Several alkaloids have been isolated from the bark. One of these is the indole alkaloid echitamine, which showed several pharmacological activities including hypotensive activity and relaxing activity of the smooth muscles. However, this compound showed only very limited antiplasmodial effect. Echitamine has a paralysing effect upon the motor nerves, similar to the action of curare.
The triterpenoids lupeol and alpha-amyrin, as well as esters of these compounds, have been isolated from the stem and root bark. These have shown anti-inflammatory properties.
Alcohol extracts of the bark (and to a lesser degree of the leaf) showed a broad-spectrum activity against both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, as well as fungi.
The bark, and the root are febrifuge and galactagogue. Taken in decoction, they are said to be very effective in cases of ordinary malaria. The decoction is said to be inferior to cinchona bark but leaves no after-effects, such as buzzing in the ears. The decoction is also used to treat conditions such as typhoid fever, gonorrhoea, yaws, asthma and dysentery.
Used externally, the decoction is used to cleanse suppurating sores, ulcers, exposed fractures, snakebites and arrow-poisoning.
The bark, leaves and roots are all used to relieve rheumatic pain and other pains.
The bark is anthelmintic, being used especially for children. It is boiled and the liquor strained and taken.
The bark has a widespread use to assuage toothache. The bark is taken in macerate to treat jaundice, and the sap is used to treat cough and sore throat.
The bark sap is used externally to treat some skin-complaints. In Ghana a decoction is given after childbirth to promote expulsion of the afterbirth.
The latex is febrifuge, galactagogue and antidote to poisoning by Strophanthus. It is boiled and the concoction taken in the treatment of fevers, especially in children. It is also given to mothers who have just given birth.
The latex is applied topically to refractory skin-troubles in children. It is also smeared onto ‘Calabar Swellings’ caused by Filaria infection, then the area is bandaged with latex and the crushed bark of Erythrophleum guineense.
The latex is applied externally to snake-bite after lancing, or it may be taken by draught.
The leaves, pulped to a mash, are applied topically to reduce oedemas.
The leaf-sap is used to cleanse sores.
Known Hazards: The latex is dangerous to the eyes and can cause blindness.
Alstonia boonei is a useful shade tree for coffee, tea and banana plantations.
A comparatively high density of Alstonia boonei trees indicates former disturbance of the forest cover by humans.
The tree naturally regenerates in open, sunny positions, and seedlings cannot survive in deep shade. It has potential for use as a pioneer species when re-establishing native woodland.
A latex obtained from the tree gives an inferior resinous coagulate which has been used to adulterate better rubbers.
The heartwood is yellowish white, though darkening upon exposure to light; it is not distinctly demarcated from the sapwood. The grain is straight, occasionally wavy; the texture moderately coarse; lustre low; there is no distinctive odour or taste. The wood is soft, light in weight, interspersed with latex vessels and inclined to be gummy. It is perishable in the ground, and is susceptible to termites, borers, and to blue stain unless treated with preservative. It seasons rapidly with little or no degrade due to warping and checking; once dry it is fairly stable in service. It works well with ordinary tools, though the presence of latex can clog sawblades; it does not take nails or screws well; but glues corect. It is suitable for light carpentry, veneers, boxes, mouldings, pencils, match-splints, etc. It is used locally for making wooden bowls and plates, toys, masks, canoes, etc. The well-known Asante stools are often made of it, as also are the small paddles the Ijo carve from it for use in dancing. The sound box of an Yoruba musical instrument, as?logun, a kind of zither, is made of it. It is also used in hut-construction for rafters and window-frames.
The wood is used for fue.
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