Prosopis africana (Guill., Perrott. & Rich.) Taub.
|Author: Le Houérou|
Small to large tree (4-20 m), with an open canopy and drooping foliage, resembling Tamarindus indica. Provided with a deep, fast growing tap root, probable phreatophyte. Good ability for coppicing, but fairly slow growth. Bark very dark and scaly, slash orange to red-brown with white streaks. Branches and twigs thornless. Leaves alternate, bipinnate, leaflets in 9-16 pairs, oblong lanceolate 12-30 mm., shortly pubescent. A typical gland lies between pairs of pinnae and leaflets. Rachis 10-15 cm long. Flowers green-whitish to yellowish, fragrant in dense 6-8 cm axillary spikes. Calyx pubescent but petals glabrous ; 10 free standing stamens. Anthers with a small apical gland. Ovary villous. Flowering occurs shortly before the onset of the rains. Pods are dark red, cylindrical, hard and shiny up to 15 x 3 cm compartmented with wood cells. Seeds mature in Feb.-March containing some 10 loose rattling seeds per pod and 7,500-8,000 seeds per kg.
Frequently found on fallow land.
Found on various textured soils and on lateritic soils.
This is the only Prosopis native to intertropical Africa, occurring from Senegal to Ethiopia throughout the Sudanian and Guinean ecozones, reaching the border of the Sahelian ecozone to the north.
Propagation by treated seeds (in boiling water, as for acacias). According to M. Baumer, (pers. comm.) it can cross with P. juliflora, but N. Pasiecznik. (in Litt., 2000) doubts very much this would be possible given the floral biology of the two species and the fact that P. africana is regarded as a primitive and taxonomically isolated species (A.Verga, in Litteris, 2000).
There are two varieties one with narrow cylindrical pods (2.5 cm diameter) and one with broader, flattened pods, (3 cm in width), pods remain on the tree long after maturing.
Wood hard, of medium density to heavy, with a fine grain, resistant to termites. Sapwood yellow, heartwood red-brown, becoming wine-red after drying. Wood hard to work as it blunts the tools, cannot be nailed without previous pre-drilling, but durable and easy to carve, turn and glue, sought for art and craft. Highly valued as fuel and charcoal making. Due to overexploitation P. africana has disappeared from large tracts of the South Sahel and North Sudanian savannas. Other uses : the bark contains some 18 % tannins, young leaves, shoots and pods are much sought after as fodder in the second part of the dry season, and branches are often broken down or lopped for the easy access of stock. Seeds are fermented and used as seasoning as those of Parkia biglobosa. Pounded dry fruits are a fish poison, again like those of Parkia. Virtually all parts of the tree are used for some medicinal care, as for Parkia.
Aubréville 1950 ; Dalziel 1955 ; Berhaut 1975 ; Burkart 1976 ; Giffard 1974a ; Kerharo & Adam 1974 ; Geerling 1982/88 ; Von Maydell 1983/86 ; Burkill 1995 ; Tchoundjeu & al. 1997 ; Dommergues et al. 1999.