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Baphia nitida - Lodd.

Common Name Camwood, Baphia
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats An understorey tree in wetter parts of the coastal regions, in rainforest, in secondary forest and on abandoned farmland, from sea-level up to 600 metres[ 299 ].
Range Western Tropical Africa - Senegal to Gabon.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Baphia nitida Camwood, Baphia
Baphia nitida Camwood, Baphia


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Camwood (Baphia nitida), otherwise known as African sandalwood or barwood, is a leguminous, shrubby, hard-wooded, erect small tree native to central west Africa. It grows up to 10 m tall and 45cm across and usually planted as an ornamental shade tree or hedge. The bark and heartwood are great sources of a high quality red dye used to dye raffia and cotton textiles. Camwood is also used as a medicinal plant. In particular, it has been used in traditional African medicine. The leaves have inflammatory activities, antidiarrheal effects, and analgesic activities. Powdered heartwood can be made into ointment with shea butter for sprains, swollen joints, and rheumatic pains. Roots have medicinal properties as well. The twigs are used as chewing sticks. The seeds are edible. Other Names: Barwood, Dolo, Doro, African Sandalwood.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Baphia nitida is an evergreen Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 10 m (32ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Baphia angolensis Lest.-Garl. Baphia barombiensis Taub. Baphia haematoxylon (Schum. & Thonn.) Hook.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses:

Edible portion: Seeds. The seeds are edible[ 299 ].

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.

Camwood has long been used in traditional African medicine. Modern research has shown that several medically active compounds are present in the leaves, including saponins, flavonoid glycosides and true tannins[ 299 ]. An ointment made from the leaves has showed anti-inflammatory activity, supported the external use in traditional medicine. Extracts of fresh leaves inhibited digestion, showed antidiarrhoeal effects and also demonstrated analgesic activity[ 299 ]. An infusion of the leaves is drunk to cure enteritis and other gastrointestinal problems[ 299 ]. The powdered leaves are taken with palm wine or food to cure venereal diseases[ 299 ]. Combined with Senna occidentalis, it is drunk against asthma; in combination with the leaves of Morinda lucida it is a treatment against female sterility and painful menstruation[ 299 ]. A decoction of the leaves is taken against jaundice and diabetes[ 299 ]. The leaves have also been used as an enema to treat constipation[ 299 ]. The leaves or leaf juice are used externally against parasitic skin diseases[ 299 ]. Combined with Cissus quadrangularis, it is used to treat bone fractures[ 299 ]. Both leaves and bark are considered haemostatic and anti-inflammatory, and are used for healing sores and wounds[ 299 ]. A bark decoction is drunk to cure epilepsy and cardiac pain[ 299 ]. The powdered heartwood is made into an ointment with shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa) and is applied to stiff and swollen joints, sprains and rheumatic complaints[ 299 ]. Finely ground root bark, mixed with honey, is taken against asthma[ 299 ]. The pounded dried root, mixed with water and oil, is applied to a ringworm-like fungus attacking the feet[ 299 ].

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Other Uses

Other uses rating: High (4/5). Agroforestry Uses: The plant responds well to trimming and is grown as a hedge and fence[ 299 ]. Other Uses The heartwood and roots yield a red dye that is used to dye raffia and cotton textiles[ 299 ]. It was exported on a large scale to Europe from the 17th century and to North America from the 18th century as one of the main ?redwood? dyes for wool, cotton and silk. It was considered by European and American dyers to have a colouring power 3 - 4 times stronger than the other 'insoluble' redwoods they were using[ 299 ]. In the wool industry, camwood was not only used to obtain red colours but a large range of reddish to dark brown colours called 'drabs', 'muddy brown' and 'London smoke', mostly in combination with other dyewoods. In small quantities, it was an ingredient of recipes for bronze-green colours and was used as ground dye followed by a logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum) dye bath[ 299 ]. It was used for dark grey and black colours in the wool-cloth industry until the beginning of the 20th century. It was a major source of bright to dark red colours in the big European cotton-printing industries, e.g. to dye bandanas in 'mock turkey red', and it was also used, principally in the United Kingdom, to dye silk pink, 'acid brown' and 'light claret'[ 299 ]. In West Africa, powdered heartwood is a familiar red body paint that is considered to have magic powers[ 299 ]. A paste of the heartwood is much used as a cosmetic for the skin[ 299 ]. By soaking the dried and ground roots in water a red liquid is obtained, which is used for painting furniture[ 299 ]. In southern Benin and south-western Nigeria, Yoruba ceremonial masks are painted dark red with a decoction of the wood[ 299 ]. In Nigeria, Tiv people colour the inside of a gourd prepared as a beehive with the red dye to attract a swarm to settle there and Yoruba honey-hunters rub their body with the dye paste to prevent bee-stings[ 299 ]. The dye is found in the heartwood, which often is of small size. It is present in varying concentrations, up to about 23%[ 299 ]. The dye is soluble in alkali and alcohol, much less so in water[ 299 ]. In the Colour Index the number of the dye is 75560 and it is classified as Natural Red 22, together with other redwoods[ 299 ]. The twigs are used as chewing sticks[ 299 ]. When freshly cut the sapwood is yellowish white, emitting an unpleasant smell, scarcely darkening when dry. The heartwood is pale brown when fresh, turning rapidly to dark red or orange upon exposure. The wood is extremely hard, heavy and durable, close-grained and of fine texture. It carves and turns well and planes smoothly. The wood is used for house posts, rafters, naves of wheels and utensils such as walking sticks, mortars, pestles, tool-handles and farm implements. It was formerly exported to Europe for turnery and cabinetry.

Cultivation details

A plant of the moister lowland tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 600 metres[ 299 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 24 - 30°c, but can tolerate 16 - 32°c[ 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,500 - 2,400mm, but tolerates 1,300 - 4,500mm[ 418 ]. Prefers a position in full sun, tolerating light shade[ 418 ]. Prefers a fertile, medium-textured soil[ 418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 5.5, tolerating 4.5 - 7[ 418 ]. 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 ].

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Seed - For best results cuttings should be taken from rather young parts of the plant[ 299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Camwood (Baphia nitida), otherwise known as African sandalwood or barwood. Other Names: Barwood, Dolo, Doro, African Sandalwood.

Found In

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

Found In: Africa, Cameroon, Central Africa, Gabon, Guinea, Guine, Senegal, Sierra Leone, West Africa.

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 : Least Concern

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