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Afzelia africana - Sm. ex Pers.

Common Name African Mahogany
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The seeds are poisonous[ 303 , 375 ]. The sawdust can be irritating, producing sneezing[ 375 ]. The bark is used as a fish poison[ 325 ].
Habitats Humid and dry forests, tree savannahs, forest galleries[ 375 ]. Semi-deciduous forest and savannahs to the southern border of the Sahel. Found in the drier parts of the tropical forests region in valleys, on the savannah and in areas fringing forests[ 418 ].
Range Western Tropical Africa - Senegal to Sudan, south to the Congo.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Wet Soil Full sun
Afzelia africana African Mahogany

© Stefan Porembski
Afzelia africana African Mahogany
wikimedia.org User:Marco Schmidt


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A deciduous tree in the Fabaceae family that can grow up to 10 – 25 meters tall and up to 40cm in diameter, African mahogany or Lucky bean tree (Aflezia africana) is known for its very good quality wood that can be used as substitute for mahogany. The fruits, particularly the fleshy pulp in the seedpod or the aril, and leaves are edible. The seed is poisonous but contains 31% oil and have potential for industrial use. African Mahogany has medicinal purposes and is used in traditional medicine as laxative, analgesic, antihaemorrhagic, febrifuge, aprhrodisiac, emmenagogue, and emetic. It is also used in local medicine for treating digestive problems and for general pain relief. Its bark is used as a fish poison. However through the process of decoction and infusion, it can be used for treating malaria, rheumatism, paralysis and constipation. Other plant parts like pulp, roots and leaves have medicinal purposes as well. Further, the leaves are used to enrich the soil as it is rich in nitrogen. As for other uses, dried seedpods are used as musical instrument, and the burnt pods are rich in potash and used locally for manufacturing soap.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Afzelia africana is a deciduous Tree growing to 8 m (26ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist or wet soil. The plant is not wind tolerant.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Intsia africana (Sm. ex Pers.) Kuntze Pahudia africana (Sm. ex Pers.) Prain

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

Fruit - raw[ 375 ]. The fleshy pulp in the seedpod, surrounding the seeds, has a sweet flavour[ 303 , 375 ]. Some caution is advised because the seed is poisonous[ 375 ]. Pods flattened 12-17 x 5-8 x 3.5 cm, glabrous, black, woody, persistent bursts open at maturity spreading the seeds. Seeds poisonous, with a sweet edible aril[ 418 ]. The seeds are being investigated for their usefulness in providing seed flour and seed oil[ 325 ]. They contain about 27% crude proteins, 33% crude carbohydrates and 18% of the seed dry weight is oil[ 325 ]. Tender young leaves - occasionally cooked and eaten as a vegetable[ 617 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Analgesic  Anaphrodisiac  Antirheumatic  Diuretic  Emetic  Emmenagogue  Febrifuge  Laxative  
Leprosy  Malaria

The plant is used in traditional medicine, where it is considered to be analgesic, antihaemorrhagic, aphrodisiac, emetic, emmenagogue, febrifuge and laxative[ 375 ]. The plant is used in local medicine for general pain relief; treating digestive problems such as constipation and vomiting; and for internal bleedings (haemorrhagic)[ 325 ]. A decoction of the stem bark is used in the treatment of malaria and rheumatism[ 617 ]. An infusion of the bark is used as a treatment against paralysis, and a decoction against constipation. The pulp is combined with Pericopsis and Tamarindus and used as a diuretic and febrifuge[ 303 ]. The maceration is used as a remedy for leprosy[ 303 ]. The ash of the bark, prepared with Shea butter as a soap, is used as a treatment against lumbago. In a decoction or prepared with food, it is a treatment for back-ache[ 303 ]. The roots are pulverised with millet-beer and used to treat hernias and, in a decoction with pimento, as a remedy against gonorrhoea and stomach-ache[ 303 ]. A leaf decoction, combined with Syzygium guineensis leaves and Xylopia fruit, forms a drink that is used to treat oedema[ 303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Fuel  Furniture  Musical  Oil  Potash  Resin  Soap making  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: As the leaves are rich in nitrogen they are used to enrich the soil[ 375 , 418 ]. Other Uses The burnt pods are rich in potash[ 375 ]. They are used locally for manufacturing a soap[ 46 , 303 , 418 ]. The dried seedpods are used as musical instruments[ 325 ]. A dark yellow, highly aromatic resin exudes from injuries in the bark[ 303 ]. The seeds contain 31% oil and have potential for industrial use[ 303 ]. The heartwood is golden-brown to light red-brown, sometimes with darker veins; it is clearly demarcated from the 2 - 8cm wide band of yellow-white sapwood. The texture is coarse; the grain straight or interlocked. The white or yellow substance, afzelin, which is present in the vessels of the wood, can cause it to stain textiles and other materials that come into contact with it when damp. The wood is light in weight and soft according to some reports, whilst others say that it is hard and heavy. The wood is durable to very durable, being resistant to termites and dry wood borers and very resistant to fungi. It seasons slowly, with a slight risk of checking or distortion; once dried it is stable in service. The wood is hard to cut, stellite-tipped and tungsten carbide tools are recommended; nailing and screwing are good, but pre-boring is recommended; gluing is correct for internal use; filling is recommended to obtain a good finish. An excellent timber, it is considered to be a good substitute for mahogany (Swietenia spp.), though it is difficult to work. The wood has a wide range of uses, including for ship building, construction, interior and exterior joinery and panelling, cabinetwork, cooperage, shingles etc[ 46 , 303 , 325 , 375 , 418 , 848 ]. The wood is used for fuel and for making charcoal[ 325 ].

Special Uses

Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the lowland moist tropics where it can be found at elevations up to 900 metres[ 418 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 32°c, but can tolerate 10 - 40°c[ 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,200 - 1,800mm, but tolerates 1,000 - 2,500mm[ 418 ]. Requires a sunny position, though young plants can tolerate light shade[ 303 , 375 ]. Found in the wild in well watered sites with a deep sandy soil, though it can adapt to lateritic soils[ 375 , 418 ]. Grows best in a fertile soil[ 418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, tolerating 5 - 7[ 418 ]. Plants can tolerate occasional inundation of the soil[ 418 ]. The tree will resprout if cut back to the old wood[ 617 ]. The tree is not tolerant of fires[ 375 ]. The tree can resist fires[ 418 ]. Although most species in the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria on their roots that can fix atmospheric nitrogen, there is a report that this species does not have this relationship.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed. In germination experiments it was found that seeds that have been scarified by removing part of the seedcoat required 8 days to initiate germination and 100% germination was achieved by day 14 at 25°c[ 325 ]. The seeds germinated even when the outer seed coat was completely covered with fungi[ 325 ]. The seeds did not germinate at 10°c, whilst germination occurred by day 11 at 20°c and by day 7 at 30°c[ 325 ]. The optimum temperature for germination was 25°c, with incubated seeds having less fungi, and maximum germination was reached within two weeks at both 25°c and 30°c[ 325 ]. The seeds vary in their sizes, and while smaller seeds tend to germinate more rapidly, the seedlings from larger seeds have higher relative growth rates[ 325 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

AFRICA: Sudan, Chad, Uganda, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, Côte D‘Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Map_thumbnail_small Afzelia africana (Afzelia) Status: Vulnerable.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Afzelia xylocarpaMakha Tree, Cambodia Beng TreeTree20.0 10-12 MLMHNM224

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Sm. ex Pers.

Botanical References


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