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BALANITES AEGYPTIACA

DISTRIBUTION

Found in most arid, semiarid to subhumid tropical savannahs, and hot dry areas, along watercourses and in woodlands. It borders seasonally inundated black clay plains and grows well in valleys and on river banks in depressions, and on the slopes of rocky hills. B. aegyptiaca is found in Mikumi, Selous, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire National Parks and Reserves (Rulangaranga 1989).

Minimum Altitude (m):

300

Maximum Altitude (m):

2000

Minimum Rainfall (mm):

200

Maximum Rainfall (mm):

800

Maximum Temperature (C):

40

REQUIREMENTS

Soil Requirements: Found on varied soils, it prefers valley soils but will grow in sand, sandy loams, clays, cracking clay, black cotton, alluvial, gravelly, and stony soils (RSCU 1992). B. aegyptiaca is known to tolerate heavy clay soils (Teel 1984).

Influential Factors: Ecologically very flexible with excellent persistence. It withstands occasional flooding and is adaptable to a wide range of sites (don Maydell 1986) and climatic conditions, but it can not tolerate prolonged waterlogging (Kew 1984). It has good drought tolerance (Hall 1991) and is not damaged by grass fires (except young trees), due to a deep tap root and thick bark. Invades areas having periodic fire and areas with heavy livestock activity. Young plants are fairly termite resistant, but Bunea alcinoe defoliates the tree.

PROPAGATION

Means of Propagation: Seedlings, cuttings, potted stock and root suckers.

Seeds per-kg:

1000

Germination Rate (%):

60

Germination Length:

7 to 48 days

Seed Sources:

1000 TSH per kg - Tanzania National Seed Centre 1991.

Seed Treatments: Fruit turns from green to yellow when ripe, each containing 1 pit. These can be stored for up to a year if kept air dry and insect free. When ready to plant, soak the fruit overnight in lukewarm water until the pulp can be removed and the pit extracted. Recommended pretreatments include: intestinal scarification; boiling 7 to 10 minutes and cooling; soaking 12 to 18 hours in hot water; soaking for 24 hours in warm water; and soaking overnight in warm water (FAO 1988).

Seedling Management: Does not withstand transplanting well because of the deep tap root. For best results plant in a container with the seed vertical (stem end down) (Teel 1984). Plants should remain in the nursery for 18 to 24 weeks before outplanting at the beginning of the rainy season.

Because of the vigorous tap root, direct sowing at the end of the dry season is recommended. Average rooting success from stem cuttings is about 60 to 70%. Seeds passed through the intestinal tract of ruminants germinate particularly well and can be gathered where livestock are kept overnight.

SILVICULTURE

Planting Types: Traditionally it has been, and still is, actively managed. It is planted in agroforestry along the banks of irrigation canals and as a boundary marker. The tree attracts numerous insect species and could be used in agroforestry as a trap tree (IFS 1989). B. aegyptiaca is worth considering for difficult sites, where water is the main limiting factor.

Growth Factors: Grows slowly and requires protection as a seedling (Teel 1984).

Growth Cycle: Slow growing but very resilient. Fruit and foliage appear at the height of the dry season (Hall 1991). It produces seed in August and September. The first fruit is harvested between years 5 and 8 with the yield increasing until year 25. It can live to more than 100 years.

Limitations to Planting: Attracts numerous insects which may be a limitation.

Management Systems: Requires weeding and protection from browsing up to the initial fruiting period (at least 3 years). Weeding is important due to slow growth, (FAO 1988) as high grass can compete for light. Weeds can also impede regeneration and grass fires can destroy young plants.

It coppices vigorously. Roots spread far, and throw up suckers at a considerable distance from the trunk (Stewart and Brandis 1972).

IMPORTANT USES

Use #1: MEDICINE
The fruits have been used in the treatment of liver and spleen diseases. The fruit is also known to kill the snails which carry schistosomiasis and bilharzia flukes (Tredgold 1986). The roots are used for abdominal pains and as a purgative. Gum from the wood is mixed with maize meal porridge to treat chest complaints.

Use #2: FRUIT
The fruit pulp though bitter, is edible. It produces fruit even in dry years which makes it a highly appreciated food source in dry areas. Pounded fruits make a refreshing drink which becomes alcoholic if left to ferment.

Use #3: GENERAL PURPOSE WOOD
B. aegyptiaca has fine-grained dense and heavy heartwood, it is easily worked and takes a good polish. Although valued for furniture it may be twisted and difficult to saw. The wood is durable and resistant to insects making it good for tool handles and domestic items such as spoons.

OTHER USES: Root cuttings readily form a live fence. Protein rich leaves and shoots are an excellent source of fodder. The leaves make very good mulch and the tree is nitrogen fixing, it is also valued as firewood since it produces almost no smoke and has a calorific value of 4600 kcal per kg (Webb 1984).


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