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Boscia senegalensis - (Pers.) Lam. ex Poir.

Common Name Aizen, Boscia
Family Capparaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Poison: The leaves are used to protect stored food against parasites in granary. Leafless twigs contain glucosinalates, which can hydrolyze to mustard oils, which are highly toxic and irritant to mucous membranes.
Habitats It occupies most types of arid-land environment including stony slopes, sand dunes, and cracking-clay plains[ 323 ]. It often occurs in desiccated, barren, hard, and even fire-scorched sites[ 323 ]. It often sprouts directly out of termite mounds[ 323 ].
Range Africa - Senegal and Mauritania east through the Sahel to Egypt, Somalia and Kenya.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Boscia senegalensis Aizen, Boscia

Boscia senegalensis Aizen, Boscia


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Aizen, Boscia senegalensis, is an evergreen, perennial woody shrub or tree native to Sahal region in Africa. Plant size varies depending on habitat. However, in favourable environment, it can grow tree-like with a rounded spreading crown. It is an important local food plant in Africa and widely exploited for its fruits and seeds. It can survive arid environmental conditions and is known to repel pests. Edible parts are the yellow small berries, seed (dried or roasted), young roots and scraped of bark, and leaves. Leaves have various medicinal uses such as treatment against haemorrhoids, intestinal problems, headaches, bilharziosis, colic, and ulcers. The roots are vermifuge, the fruits are used against syphilis, and the plant is used for jaundice and swellings.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Boscia senegalensis is an evergreen Shrub 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.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Boscia octandra Hochst. ex Radlk.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Root  Seed
Edible Uses: Coffee  Drink  Sweetener

Edible portion: Seeds, Leaves, Fruit (Caution), Vegetable. The yellow cherry-sized berries (up to 15mm in diameter) are borne in clusters. When newly ripe, their rather sweet pulp is translucent and jelly-like. However, in the desiccating air it quickly dries out, turning into something not unlike caramel before ending up a brittle, brown, and quite sugary solid[ 323 ]. Despite its good taste, this toffee-like treat is difficult to separate from the seed[ 323 ]. Besides being eaten fresh, the ripe fruits are often boiled[ 323 ]. The juice is sometimes extracted, filtered, and boiled down into a semisolid, which is commonly mixed with millet and curdled milk to make cakes[ 323 ]. The dried seeds are used as a substitute for millet or lentils[ 323 ]. They require lengthy preparation and must be eaten cooked[ 323 ]. The traditional procedure involves soaking the seeds for a week (changing the water daily) to remove bitter components[ 323 ]. Less commonly, the seeds are boiled for 3 hours (and rinsed at least twice with new water)[ 323 ]. In either case, they are subsequently dried and ground into flour and used in making porridge[ 323 ]. The roasted seed is used as a substitute for coffee[ 323 ]. Young roots, scraped of bark, may be ground, sieved, mixed with cereals, and boiled into a thin gruel or thick porridge[ 323 ]. They are very sweet[ 323 ]. The roots can be sun-dried and stored for later use[ 323 ]. The root tissues are also boiled slowly for several hours to make a sweet syrup[ 323 ]. The leaves, although just about the most leathery and least appealing foodstuffs on earth, are also consumed[ 323 ]. Most are dropped into soups or boiled and mixed into cereal products such as gruel or couscous[ 323 ]. The plant is particularly useful this way because it is an evergreen and provides food and nutrients when other plants are bare[ 323 ]. An important food in the Sudan and Mali. The seeds are used as a famine food in emergencies. Chemical composition (after Berry-Koch) (g/mg/mcg per 100g) (dried): Protein = 21g. Fat = 1.6g. Calcium = 123 mg. Fe = 6.8 mg. Beta carotene = 165 mcg Vitamin B1 = .02 mg. Vitamin B2 = .03 mg. Niacin = 8.8 mg. Vitamin C = 5 mg. Kcal = 341; (cooked): Protein = 5.4g. Fat = 0.2g. Calcium = 33 mg. Fe = 2.8 mg. Beta carotene = 25 mcg. Vitamin B1 = .01 mg. Kcal = 92. (after Abdelmuti) (un- debittered): Protein (crude) = 29.3%. Oil = 0.7%. Ash = 3.5%. Fibre (crude) = 2.7%. Carbohydrate (soluble) (starch) = 39.5%; (sugars): Sucrose = 4.3%. D-glucose = 0.2%. D-fructose = 0.7%. Amino acids (g (16g N)-1): Aspartic acid = 7.7g. Threonine = 1.7g. Serine = 2.3g. Glutamic acid = 9.0g. Proline = 6.5g. Glycine = 3.5g. Alanine = 3.2g. Valine = 4.5g. Cysteine (performic acid oxidation) = 1.3g. Methionine (performic acid oxidation) = 1.8g. Isoleucine = 2.9g. Leucine = 7.0g. Tyrosine = 2.3g. Histidine = 1.3g. Lysine = 1.5g. Arginine = 15.1g. Minerals: Sulphur = 2.20 mg/kg-1 (dry). Potassium = 0.15%-1 (dry). Magnesium = 0.10% (dry). Calcium = 0.14% (dry). Na = 0.01% (dry). K = 1.03 mg/kg-% (dry). Zinc = 42 mg/kg-1 (dry). Iron = 10.5 mg/kg-1 (dry). Manganese = 17 mg/kg-1 (dry). Copper = 8 mg/kg-1 (dry).

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Ophthalmic  Stomachic  Vermifuge  Vitamin C

The leaves are used as a treatment against bilharziosis, guinea-worm sores, haemorrhoids, intestinal complaints, headaches, colic and ulcers[ 774 ]. An emulsion of the leaves is used as an eyewash[ 46 ]. The roots are vermifuge[ 774 ]. The fruits are used in the treatment of syphilis[ 774 ]. The plant (part not specified) is used in the treatment of jaundice and swellings[ 774 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Filter  Fuel  Shelterbelt  Soil stabilization  Wood

Other uses rating: Medium (3/5). Agroforestry Uses: Aizen is a promising plant for establishing famine-food reserves, for protecting erodible soil, for stabilizing dunes, for windbreaks, and for other utilitarian purposes in the harshest of harsh sites[ 323 ]. Its foliage is unpalatable to livestock and other herbivores, who only eat it in times of direst need. Thus the trees are able to survive without the need for protection[ 323 ]. Other Uses The leaves are added to granaries in order to protect stored foods against pests[ 774 ]. This long-standing traditional process seems to work[ 323 ]. Leafless twigs contain glucosinalates, which can hydrolyze to mustard oils, which are highly toxic and irritant to mucous membranes[ 303 ]. The plant contains natural coagulants. The bark, twigs, leaves, and roots are used to scavenge suspended and colloidal compounds from unclean water (such as that from ponds churned up by storms or from baobab-tree cisterns contaminated with soil). Normally the plant parts are sliced up and placed on the water surface. Compounds leach out and catch the clay and other particulates like magnets, causing them to clump and settle to the bottom. It is reported that truly turbid water can be safely drunk after just a day of such treatment[ 323 ]. For even faster results, aizen branches are swirled in the water[ 323 ]. Aizen wood is soft and easy to work when boiled[ 303 ]. It is cut for poles, notably those holding up houses[ 323 ]. Although smoky and stinky, the wood is used as cooking fuel when nothing better is at hand (which in the harshest areas is all too often)[ 323 ]. This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and birds. Suitable for growing in containers.

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the arid tropics and subtropics where it can be found at elevations up to 1,450 metres[ 303 ]. This plant's endurance is remarkable. It tolerates shade temperatures as high as 45°c, a level not rare in its habitat; it also survives in areas receiving as little as 100mm annual rainfall, although it grows best where there is at least 250 - 500mm[ 323 ]. Requires a sunny position. Prefers sandy-clayey soils, fixed dunes, abandoned croplands and termite mounds[ 774 ]. Succeeds even in very dry, poor, sandy, rocky, worn-out laterite, or clay soils[ 323 , 774 ]. Contributing to the plant's built-in drought tolerance is its remarkable leaf structure: the cuticle is up to 20 microns thick, the stomata are sunk in deep cavities, and each stomata has thickened walls and a protective armouring of papillae[ 323 ]. The flowers provide bee forage, often in areas where little else capable of sustaining honeybees is available[ 323 ]. Although the fruit is a seasonal food, its season differs from the norm and comes at the beginning of the rains, a time when farm crops are just being planted and anything to eat is usually difficult to find[ 323 ]. Suitable for growing in containers. Suitable for xeriscaping.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - Although the seeds germinate readily, the seedlings have so far proved difficult to transplant from nursery to field. Thus, it is recommended that direct-seeding trials be established to find out how to establish healthy populations in situ[ 323 ] There are claims that root and shoot cuttings have been used to propagate aizen[ 323 ]. This could be a vital lead because with them superior plants can be replicated[ 323 ]. The possibility of grafting should be explored, because it would allow elite aizen types to be grafted onto the wild trees now so prevalent and widespread. That in turn would ensure rapid quality-fruit production. Also, it would provide lasting benefits because of the rootstock?s obvious adaptability to the site[ 323 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Aizen, Boscia senegalensis.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Africa, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa, Central African Republic, CAR, Chad, C™te d'Ivoire, East Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, GuinŽe, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, North Africa, Sahel, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, West Africa, Zambia. Other Names: Boscia, Dila, Aisen, Akondok, Hanza, Korsan, Mekhet, Mukhait, Mukheit, Tabila, Tubaqe.

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.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

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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(Pers.) Lam. ex Poir.

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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