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Bauhinia thonningii - Schum

Common Name Camel's foot tree, monkey bread
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None Known
Habitats Woodland, wooded grassland and bushland, at elevations from sea level to 1,830 metres[398].
Range Tropical Africa - widespread from Sierra Leone to Ethiopia and Kenya, south to Angola, Botswana, northern S. Africa, Swaziland.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Bauhinia thonningii Camel

Bauhinia thonningii Camel


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Bauhinia thonningii is an evergreen Tree growing to 5 m (16ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees. The plant is not self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Piliostigma thonningii (Schum.) Milne-Redh.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Oil
Edible Uses: Drink  Gum  Oil

Fruit - raw or cooked[398 ]. The pulp surrounding the seed is eaten, it has a sweet flavour and is eaten mainly by children and travellers[398 ]. The brown pod is cracked open, the seeds removed, and the pulp eaten as a snack or as emergency food[398 ]. It is normally only eaten in small amounts[398 ]. The fruits are collected in large quantities during famine periods. They are then pounded and the powder soaked in water, the liquid stirred and drunk[398 ]. The flat, brown, woody pods are 15 - 20cm long. They persist on the tree but eventually decay on the ground to free the pea-sized seeds[398 ]. Tender young leaves - raw or cooked[303 , 617 ]. Chewed to relieve thirst[303 ]. The leaves are very occasionally eaten as a cooked vegetable[617 ]. The leaves are sometimes cooked in water, then the water is used for cooking millet[774 ]. Carbon Farming - Staple Crop: balanced carb.

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.
Antitussive  Contraceptive  Mouthwash  Skin  Stomachic

Tender leaves are chewed and the juice swallowed to treat stomach-ache, coughs and snakebite[398 ]. The ash obtained from burnt leaves is rubbed into snakebite wounds after scarification in order to hasten healing[398 ]. The leaves are combined with those of mpandanjobvu and the liquid used to relieve the inflammation from sore eyes[466 ]. The roots are used to treat prolonged menstruation, haemorrhage and miscarriage in women and also for the treatment of coughs, colds, body pain and STDs[398 ]. An infusion of the root, combined with the root of the wild cow pea (Vigna sp.), is said to be a contraceptive[466 ]. It is drunk for seven consecutive days during which time no intercourse is allowed[466 ]. An infusion of the bark is used to treat coughs, colds, chest pains and snakebite[398 ]. An infusion of the bark is used for the cure of an infection of the gums called ciseye[466 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Fibre  Fodder  Fuel  Gum  Mulch  Oil  Pioneer  Soap  Soil reclamation  String  Tannin  Waterproofing  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: A pioneer species within its native area, where it tends to colonize clearings and fallows[375 ]. Since it is a legume, and fixes atmospheric nitrogen, it might be a useful species to use when restoring woodland or setting up a woodland garden[K ]. A deep rooting species that produces considerable amounts of leaf litter, it can be used in soil protection initiatives. The use of the leaf litter as a mulch enhances soil fertility because the leaves decompose slowly[303 ]. The tree competes very little with maize if left in fields and pollarded to reduce shade[303 ]. Other Uses A fibre from the inner bark is used to make string, ropes and cloth[303 , 398 , 466 , 774 ]. A red-brown dye can be obtained from the macerated bark[303 , 774 ]. A blue dye can be obtained from the seeds and pods[303 , 774 ]. A black dye is obtained from the roasted seed[774 ]. The bark contains up to 18% tannins[303 , 774 ]. The roots are a source of tannins[303 ]. The inner bark is said to contain a gum that sweels in water and so can be used for caulking boats etc[303 , 774 ]. The unripe seedpods are used as a soap substitute[303 , 466 ]. The ashes of the plant are used for making soap[303 , 774 ]. The seeds contain oil[466 ]. No more information is given[K ]. The heartwood is pinkish to dark brown; the sapwood is light brown. The wood is straight-grained. It is used for poles, grain mortars, tool handles, spoons and bedsteads[303 , 398 ]. The wood is used for fuel[303 , 398 ]. Carbon Farming - Agroforestry Services: nitrogen. Fodder: pod.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Coppice  Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Fodder: Pod  Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Balanced carb

Climate: tropical. Humidity: semi-arid to humid. A plant of the semi-arid to moist tropics, where it can be found at elevations up to 1,850 metres. It is found in areas where the mean annual temperature can be around 20°c, and the mean annual rainfall is in the range 600 - 1,500mm[303 , 398 ]. Succeeds on a variety of soils[398 ]. Likes a rich, alluvial soil[466 ]. Heavy clayey soils or medium loamy soils are preferred[303 ]. The tree usually yields heavy crops of seedpods[375 ]. The plant has deep roots and can sucker freely[303 , 375 ]. It also responds well to coppicing and pollarding[303 ]. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required[303 ]. 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[303 ]. Carbon Farming - Cultivation: regional crop. Management: standard.

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Fodder: Pod  Fodder plants with pods.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Balanced carb  (0-15 percent protein, 0-15 percent oil, with at least one over 5 percent). The carbohydrates are from either starch or sugar. Annuals include maize, wheat, rice, and potato. Perennials include chestnuts, carob, perennial fruits, nuts, cereals, pseudocereals, woody pods, and acorns.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - it has a hard seedcoat and benefits from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve 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[303]. Suckers[375].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Camel's foot, Rhodesian bauhinia, wild bauhinia, Ihabahaba (Ndebele), monkey bread [English]; Kameelspoor [Afrikaans]; niama, niamia [Bambara]; klo [Ewe]; barke, barkehi [Fulani]; kalgo, kargo, chanchali [Hausa]; mokgoropo [North Sotho]; mutukutu [Shona]; mukolokote [Venda], Mubaba (Shona) Muhuku (Shona) Musakasa (Shona) Musekesa (Shona) Mutukutu (Shona)

Central African Republic; Gambia; Gabon; Ethiopia; Eritrea; Côte d'Ivoire; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; South Africa; Chad; Guinea-Bissau; Cameroon; Burundi; Burkina Faso; Botswana; Benin; Angola; South Sudan; Congo; Niger; Zambia; Yemen; Uganda; Togo; Tanzania, United Republic of; Sierra Leone; Senegal; Ghana; Nigeria; Guinea; Namibia; Mozambique; Mali; Malawi; Kenya; Zimbabwe; Rwanda; Sudan

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.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

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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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Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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