We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Pterocarpus angolensis - DC.

Common Name Ambila
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The bark has been used as fish poison[299 ]. The dry sawdust may cause irritation to nose and bronchia[299 ].
Habitats Found in all types of woodland and wooded savannah[349 ]. Typically found in so-called miombo woodland with Brachystegia and other deciduous trees, in wooded grassland and savannah, at elevations from sea-level up to 1,650 metres[299 ].
Range Africa - Tanzania to Angola, south to S. Africa.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Pterocarpus angolensis Ambila

Susan Adams wikimedia.org
Pterocarpus angolensis Ambila
Public Domain


Translate this page:


Pterocarpus angolensis or commonly known as Ambila is a deciduous tree native to southern Africa growing about 5-20 m in height and 50-60 cm in trunk diameter. It is deciduous and has dark brown bark and wide-crowned canopy. Its leaves are dark green and arranged alternately. The flowers are orange-yellow and scented. The pods are brown and spiky containing a single seed. Ambila is not edible but it is used in traditional medicine, particularly the bark, for diarrhea, heavy menstruation, nose bleeding, headache, stomach pain, schistosomiasis, blood in the urine, sores, skin problems, mouth ulcers, and nettle rash. Root decoction cures malaria, blackwater fever, and gonorrhea while root infusion is taken orally against diarrhea, bilharzia, and abdominal pains. The wood has several uses in making canoes, furniture, and musical instruments. It is resistant to attacks or borers and termites. Ambila has nitrogen-fixing capability and is used for soil conservation practices. Plant parts are sources of dyes.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Pterocarpus angolensis is a deciduous Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Pterocarpus bussei Harms Pterocarpus dekindtianus Harms

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

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.
Antiasthmatic  Antidiarrhoeal  Antiinflammatory  Astringent  Malaria  Odontalgic  Ophthalmic  Parasiticide  

The bark, with its blood-red, gummy, resinous exudate, ('false dragon's blood' or 'kino') is often used in traditional medicine. In particular, it is a powerful astringent, being used in the treatment of conditions such as diarrhoea, heavy menstruation, nose bleeding, headache, stomach-ache, blood in the urine and schistosomiasis[299 , 303 ]. Applied externally, the bark is used in the treatment of sores, skin problems, mouth ulcers, 303 etc[299 ]. It is heated in water and mixed with figs then massaged on the breast to stimulate lactation[303 ]. A cold infusion from the bark alone provides a remedy for nettle rash.[299 ]. A decoction of the root is believed to cure malaria, blackwater fever and gonorrhoea[299 , 303 ]. An infusion made from the roots is taken orally for the treatment of diarrhoea, bilharzia and abdominal pains[303 ]. Roots are burnt and the ashes drunk in water to treat asthma and tuberculosis[303 ]. Corneal ulcers are bathed in an eyewash obtained when roots of the tree are first cleaned and then left to soak in water for 6 hours. In the follow-up treatment of this ailment, flowers are placed in boiling water over which the patient holds the face, allowing the steam to fill the eyes[303 ] Ripe seeds are burnt and the ashes applied as a dressing on wounds, inflammation, psoriasis and bleeding gums[299 , 303 ]. The sap is reputed to heal sores, including ringworm sores and stab wounds, and to treat various other ailments[303 ] Dropping sap into the eyes is used to treat cataracts and sore eyes[303 ]. Root extracts are lethal to adult schistosomes causing bilharzia and are comparable to praziquantel, an efficacious antischistosomal drug[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Basketry  Cosmetic  Dye  Fencing  Fuel  Furniture  Parasiticide  Soil stabilization  Tannin  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: A nitrogen fixing plant, it has been used for soil conservation, dune fixation, live fencing and as an ornamental casting a light shade and with attractive fruits[299 , 303 ]. The tree is regarded as an indicator of well-drained soils[303 , 418 ]. Other Uses The heartwood of the roots, pounded to powder, yields a fast brownish red dye which is used mainly to dye palm-leaf fibres for basket weaving[299 ]. Strips of palm leaves are boiled for about 12 hours in a dye bath containing hot water and the bark. After drying, the resulting red-brown fibres are used to obtain coloured designs in basketry weaving[299 ]. The dye obtained by extracting finely chopped roots or wood in alcohol can be used to dye wool and cotton various shades of brown to bright red[299 ]. The powder is also mixed with oil or fat to make a cosmetic pomade, which had great cultural importance[299 ]. It is traditionally applied to all exposed portions of the body, including hair, face, breasts, arms and legs[299 ]. It is also used to dye leather clothing, which is the traditional form of clothing for men and women alike and it still has cosmetic, medicinal and symbolic importance[299 ]. The inner bark and heartwood of the trunk and branches are also said to be used by some people to obtain dye[299 ]. The kino resin from the bark can be harvested by making incisions in the bark and collecting the exuding sap[299 ]. The sap contains 77% tannins[303 , 418 ], and is used as a long-lasting dye[349 ]. The inner bark is fibrous and is used in basketry[299 ]. The tree shows considerable promise as a firebreak[200 ]. The heartwood is pale to dark brown or reddish-brown, often with streaks; it is distinctly demarcated from the pale grey or pale yellow sapwood[299 ]. The grain is straight to interlocked, texture medium to coarse[299 ]. The wood is relatively light, it dries well but slowly, without warping and with little or no tendency to check or split[299 ]. Once dry, it is very stable[299 ]. The wood works well with hand and machine tools, only moderately blunting cutters; straight-grained material planes and finishes well[299 , 466 ]. The bending properties are moderate. The wood is easy to peel and slice, and has good glueing and excellent turning and carving properties[299 ]. The heartwood is moderately durable; it is moderately resistant to termites and marine borers[299 ]. The sapwood is liable to powder-post beetle attack. The heartwood is resistant to preservative treatment, the sapwood is moderately resistant[299 ]. A very valuable timber, it is a good substitute for Indian teak, which it somewhat resembles, although not so straight-grained. It is used for construction, carpentry, high-class furniture manufacture (tables, chairs, benches), parquet flooring and veneer, and in South Africa and Namibia particularly for wood carving (bowls, spoons and walking sticks). Due to its flexibility, resistance and lightweight it is also useful for boats, doors and windows[299 , 303 , 466 ]. The wood is occasionally used for firewood[303 ].

Special Uses

Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Ambali is a tree of low to medium elevations in the tropics, where it can be found from sea level to around 1,650 metres[325 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 32°c, but can tolerate 12 - 38°c[418 ]. It is not resistant to frost, although older trees survive very light frosts[299 ]. The plant can survive temperatures down to about -1°c[418 ]. It prefers a climate with well-defined wet and dry seasons, with a mean annual rainfall in the range 700 - 1,500mm, but tolerates 500 - 2,000mm[418 ]. Requires a sunny position, even when young[299 ]. Requires a well-drained, medium to light soil of low to moderate fertility[299 ]. Tolerates moderate levels of salt in the soil[418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7, tolerating 5 - 7.5[418 ]. Trees do not coppice well, if at all[349 ]. Growth is slow and variable for at least the first seven years, making it less suitable for plantation[349 ]. After germination the seedling rapidly develops several shoots and a strong taproot, which may reach to a depth of 1 metre in the first year[299 ]. The shoots reach about 15 cm length in the first year and often die back in the dry season[299 ]. The plants enter a suffrutex stage, in which the root expands in size and lateral roots develop in the top 50 cm of the soil, while shoots usually die back to below ground level in the dry season[299 ]. New shoots develop in the rainy season. This stage may last for 10 years (sometimes up to 25 years) until the root has sufficiently developed to allow the above-ground part of the sapling to survive the dry season[299 ]. After the suffrutex stage, the growth is fast, up to 2 metres or more in one year, and the tree rapidly reaches a height where it cannot be reached by most browsing animals[299 ]. Compared to other trees the saplings with a thick corky bark are extremely fire resistant, sometimes surviving temperatures of up to 450°c, and fires contribute to pruning side branches and multiple stems[299 ]. Trees start flowering when they have a permanent stem of 15 - 20 years old, but full development of fruits usually only starts when trees are about 35 years old[299 ]. 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[200 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - although trees can produce ample seed (up to 10,000 fruits/ha are recorded), germination is poor. Under natural conditions only 2% of the seed germinates and half of the seedlings produced die in the first year[299 ]. Another report gives a totally different story - Seeds not extracted from the pod have a low germination possibly because of physical or mechanical dormancy exerted by the pericarp. The seed itself has only slight physical dormancy. Germination is improved by scarification but even without pre-treatment high germination can be expected[325 ]. Seeds can be sown in seedbeds and seedlings transplanted into pots, or sown directly in pots. For testing, germination in sand is recommended. The species has both rhizobium and mycorrhizal associations. Inoculation is applicable where these microsymbionts are absent from the nursery soil or planting site[325 ]. At moisture contents of 4 - 6%, seeds can be stored cold for at least 3 years[299 ]. The trees can be grown from large cuttings[466 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Kiaat, M'bila, Mlombwa, Mokwa, Mtumbati, Mubvamakovo, Mubvamaropa, Mubvinziropa, Mukambira, Mukonambiti, Mukula, Mukurambira, Mukwa, Mupyka-kulu, Padauk, Umbila, Umvagazi, ! ee, #gau, african teak, ambila, asaninga, bastergreinhout, bloedhout, bloodwood, bloodwood tree, brown african padau, dolf, dolfholz, dolfhout, gaû, ghughuva, ghughuwa, girasonde, greinhout, gulombila, gulombira, ilombe, imbilo, kehatenhout, kejaat, kiaat, kiaatboom, kula, kwanambila, lakboom, makwa, malombe, maninga, matabeleland deal, matebeleland deal, mbila, mecurambira, mhagata, mikwa, milombwe, miniga, mininga timber, mirahonde, mlambadanda, mlinga, mlombe, mlombwa, mninga, mokoto, mokwa, molombe, moninga, moowa, moretchure, morotomadi, morôtô, mpagata, mtubati, mtumbali, mtumbati, mtumbati jangwa, mubalakula, mubonambiti, mubvamaropa, mubvaropa, mubvinza, mubvinza-maropa, mubvinzinaropa, mucurambira, muhagata, muhangata, mukala, mukambira, mukonambiti, mukula, mukulakula, mukulambira, mukulu, mukunambira, mukurambira, mukwa, mukwamaropa, mukwirambira, mulombe, mulombwa, mulombwe, munaabenaabe, muninga, murilahonde, murotso, mushambaropa, musomba, mutete, mutondo, mutondo-mashi, muwa, muwasagama, muwuwa, muzwamalowa, mvangezi, mvhangazi, mwininga, n 'heng, n#hang, n#hng, n'dombe, n'n, ndombe, ng'wininga, ngcawu, ngillasondo, ntsonde, n|gao, n|gáó, n?'hang, n?'heng, n?hàng, omu(h)uva, omuguya, omuhuva, omuryamhahe, omuuva, omyuuva, omyuuva (pl.), rhodesia teak, rhodesian teak, sealing wax tree, sealingwax tree, senyamadi, south african teak, thondo, thotamadi, transvaal teak, ughuva, uguva, uguya, um-vangati, um-vangatsi, umbila, umvagatsi, umvagazi, umvangatsi, umvangatzi, umvangazi, unkulambila, uvagazi, uwuwa, wild teak, |naob/s, |naohais, ?ga?.

Angola; Botswana; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; South Africa; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Zambia; Zimbabwe, Africa, Angola, Botswana, Central Africa, East Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Southern Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

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 : Status: Lower Risk/near threatened

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Dipterocarpus alatusApitong, baume de gurjun, gurjun balsamTree30.0 10-12 SLMHSNM024
Dipterocarpus gracilisTagalog: PanaoTree50.0 10-12 MMHSNM013
Dipterocarpus grandiflorusApitongTree40.0 10-12 SMHSNM003
Dipterocarpus kerriiKerr's KeruingTree40.0 10-12 MMHSNM023
Pterocarpus dalbergioidesAndaman padauk, East Indian-mahogany,Tree35.0 10-12 MLMHNM224
Pterocarpus erinaceusAfrican KinoTree20.0 10-12 SLMNM034
Pterocarpus indicusAmboyna, Indian Padauk, Burmese Rosewood, Narra, BloodwoodTree30.0 10-12 FLMHSNM224
Pterocarpus soyauxiiAfrican CoralwoodTree30.0 10-12 FLMHNM224

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.


Expert comment



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.

Readers comment

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Pterocarpus angolensis  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.