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Erythrophleum ivorense - A.Chev.

Common Name Ordealtree, sasswoodtree
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The bark, and sometimes the seeds, are widely used as hunting and ordeal poison[ 299 ]. The bark is used as fish poison[ 299 ]. The sawdust may irritate mucous membranes and may cause allergy and asthma of labourers in sawmills[ 299 ].
Habitats Essentially a scattered, canopy tree of old secondary forests, it can also be found in evergreen primary and secondary forests, as well as in moist semi-deciduous forest[ 299 ].
Range West tropical Africa - Gambia to Cameroon, Central African Republic and Gabon.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Erythrophleum ivorense Ordealtree, sasswoodtree

Erythrophleum ivorense Ordealtree, sasswoodtree


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Erythrophleum ivorense is an evergreen tree with a cylindrical trunk of 60 -90 cm in diameter and can be with or without buttresses. It grows up to 40 m in height. It can be found in west tropical Africa. Locally, it is known as sassy bark, mancona bark, casca bark, or ?corce de tali. The bark is used as fish poison and for tanning. Bark decoction can be applied externally to relieve pain. Bark extract, on the other hand, can be taken orally as an emetic and laxative. The wood is hard to very hard, heavy to very heavy, elastic, durable, and resistant to fungi, dry wood borers and termites. It is commonly used for joinery, heavy flooring, construction, bridges, etc.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Erythrophleum ivorense is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Erythrophleum micranthum Harms ex Craib Erythrophleum micranthum Holland


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Inner bark
Edible Uses: Drink

A bark decoction added to fermenting palm wine would make it a more potent drink[ 299 ].

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.
Anaesthetic  Cardiac  Diuretic  Emetic  Laxative

A bark extract is taken orally as an emetic and laxative[ 299 ]. A decoction of the bark is applied externally to relieve pain[ 299 ]. Water in which the bark of young branches is crushed, is rubbed on the skin to treat smallpox[ 299 ]. The plant is a source of alkaloids. The bark contains the alkaloids cassaine, cassaidine and erythrophleguine. The alkaloid content ranges from 0.2% to 1.1%. In high doses, the bark extract is an extremely strong, rapid-acting cardiac poison, in warm-blooded animals causing shortness of breath, seizures and cardiac arrest in a few minutes[ 299 ]. The alkaloids have a stimulant effect on the heart similar to that of the cardenolides digitoxine (from Digitalis) and ouabain (from Strophanthus gratus), but the effect is very short-lasting, as the alkaloids are quickly metabolized in the organism[ 299 ]. Cassaine and cassaidine have strong anaesthetic and diuretic effects, and increase contractions of the intestine and uterus[ 299 ]. Apart from an increase of heart contraction in systole, the alkaloids also demonstrated an increase in diastole. In addition, cassaidine caused depressive effects, while cassaine caused a violent state of excitation[ 299 ]. Although the alkaloid content in the seeds is markedly lower than in the stem bark, the seeds are more toxic[ 299 ]. This strong activity is due to a strong haemolytic saponin, which acts in a synergistic way with the alkaloids[ 299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Fuel  Tannin  Wood

The bark is used for tanning[ 299 ]. The heartwood is an orangey yellowish brown to reddish brown, darkening upon exposure; it is clearly demarcated from the 3 - 6cm wide band of creamy-yellow sapwood. The grain is interlocked; the texture coarse; the lustre is moderate. The wood is hard to very hard; heavy to very heavy; elastic; durable, even in contact with the soil, being resistant to fungi, dry wood borers and termites. It seasons slowly, with a high risk of checking and distortion; once dry it is moderately stable to stable in service. The wood is difficult to saw, with a fairly high blunting effect, stellite-tipped sawteeth and tungsten carbide tools are recommended; finishing is generally fair, but planing may be difficult due to interlocked grain; pre-boring is necessary for nails and screws; gluing properties are good for internal purposes only. The wood and iron should not be in contact in damp situations because of risks of reciprocal attack between the wood and the metal. The wood is suitable for joinery, heavy flooring, railway sleepers, harbour and dock work, turnery, construction and bridges. It is also used for boat building and wheel hubs[ 299 , 848 ]. The wood is a good fuel and makes excellent charcoal[ 299 ].

Special Uses

Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Requires a sunny position[ 299 ]. In Cote d'Ivoire the mean annual bole diameter increment has been recorded as 6.5mm; in the Central African Republic it is 4.5mm[ 299 ]. The logs sink in water and so cannot be transported by floating along a river[ 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

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Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a sunny position in a nursery seedbed[ 299 ]. Germination usually takes place within 3 weeks[ 299 ]. Inoculating the soil with Bradyrhizobium bacteria is beneficial and results in increases in height and diameter of about 40% after 4 months[ 299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Ordealtree, sasswoodtree

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Found In

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

Cameroon; Central African Republic; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Liberia; Nigeria; Sierra Leone

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 : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Erythrophleum suaveolensErun, ordealtree, Sasswood TreeTree20.0 10-12 SLMHNM034

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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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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