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Prunus africana - (Hook.f.) Kalkman

Common Name Pygeum
Family Rosaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The bark, bruised leaves and fruits smell strongly of bitter almonds, suggesting the presence of hydrogen cyanide. They are reputed to be poisonous and are used in witchcraft[418 ]. Hydrogen cyanide is found mainly in the leaves, seed and bark, and is readily detected by its bitter taste. It is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Habitats Upland rain-forest, montane and riverine forests; moist evergreen forest; on termitaria in Brachystegia woodland; edge of dry gallery forest; mixed Podocarpus latifolius forest with Olea capensis subsp. hochstetteri, Zyzygium, etc[328 ].
Range E. Africa - Sudan, Ethiopia, south to Zambia, Zimbabwe and S. Africa. Also in Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Angola in West Africa.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (5 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Prunus africana Pygeum

Prunus africana Pygeum


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Prunus africana or otherwise known as Pygeum is a fast-growing, evergreen canopy tree about 30-40 m in height. It has a spreading, spherical crown and bole that is up to 1 m in diameter. It also has alternate leaves that are simple, long, elliptical, and dark green. The flowers are greenish-white and the fruits are purple. Its bark is black to brown in color, rough, and a popular remedy for enlarged prostate. Other medicinal uses of the plant include traditional remedy for diseases and conditions such as fever, malaria, wounds, stomach ache, kidney diseases, and, gonorrhea, and as appetite booster. Pygeum fruits can be eaten raw. The wood is used for furniture, carving, chopping blocks, floors, wagons, utensils, etc.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Prunus africana is an evergreen Tree growing to 18 m (59ft) by 18 m (59ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly 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


Prunus crassifolia (Hauman) Kalkman Pygeum africanum Hook.f. Pygeum crassifolium Hauman

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.
Appetizer  Febrifuge  Purgative  Urinary

The bark is highly valued for its medicinal properties, particularly as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate gland hypertrophy, diseases that commonly affect older men in Europe and N. America[402 , 418 ]. Modern research has shown that this can be a very effective treatment. In addition, the bark is used in traditional medicine as a purgative and as a remedy for stomach ache[402 , 418 ]. The leaves are used as an inhalant for fever or are drunk as an infusion to improve appetite[418 ]. The tree contains several medically active compounds including the cyanogenic glycoside amygdalin, which is found in the bark, leaf and fruit; phytosterols such as. ß-sitosterol 15-18%, and its 3-O-glycoside, ß-sitostenone, campesterol, and aucosterol; pentacyclic triterpenoids (mainly of the oleanolic and ursolic acid type)[395 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Fuel  Furniture  Green manure  Shelterbelt  Soil stabilization  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: The tree is used for erosion control, shade, shelter, windbreak and as an ornamental. Fallen leaves act as a green manure[418 ]. Other Uses The heartwood is pale red when freshly cut, turning a dark rich red colour upon exposure to air; the sapwood is pale pink and not clearly defined[316 ]. The texture medium to fine; the grain straight to interlocked[316 ]. The wood is strong but not durable[316 , 466 ]. Seasoned wood saws easily and cleanly; works well with hand and machine tools; is difficult to nail; polishes and finishes well[316 ]. This species has excellent timber for flooring, heavy construction where durability is not required, furniture and household utensils[316 , 402 ]. The tree yields a high quality fuel[303 , 418 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A tree of higher elevations in the humid and semi-humid tropics, also of middle elevations in the humid tropics, it is found at elevations from 900 - 3,400 metres[418 ]. It grows best in areas where the mean annual temperature is within the range 14 - 18°c, but can tolerate 12 - 26°c[418 ]. It prefers a climate with a distinct dry season and a mean annual rainfall in the range 900 - 1,400mm, but can tolerate 700 - 2,000mm[418 ]. Requires a sunny position[418 ]. Prefers medium to light soils[418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, but tolerates 5 - 7[418 ]. The tree is able to withstand severe bark removal so long as the cambium layer is not damaged, but poor harvesting of the bark may lead to tree death[303 ]. The bark is only collected from two quarters of the circumference of the tree, each quarter on opposite sides of the tree. It is harvested from about 35cm above the ground level to the height of the first branch[303 ]. In this way, it is thought that the bark can be harvested sustainably every 4 - 5 years, harvesting from alternate pairs of quarters each time[303 ]. Mean bark yield per tree is 55 kg, ranging from a low of 34 kg up to 74 kg[303 ]. Bark removal induces early flowering[303 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - does not require pre-treatment[303 ]. It has a fairly short period of viability and is best sown as soon as it is ripe. Under ideal conditions, germination takes place within 35 - 50 days; expected germination rate of a mature, healthy seed lot is 60 - 80%[303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Chachu, Muchambati, Red stinkwood, Thikur inchet, Tikur enchet, african cherry, african plum, african plum tree, african prune, african prune tree, afrikansk lagerhägg, alumty, armaatet, armaatet, oromoti, bitter almond, bitteramandel, chati, cortex pruni africanae, gwaami, gwaami, gwami, iluo, inkhokhokho, inyangazoma-elimnyama, iron wood, kiburabura, kirah, kondekonde, lemalan, lemalan migambo, ligambo, mdundulu, mfi la, mfila, migambo, mkomahoya, mkonde-konde, mkonde-konde, msendo, mudy, muuri, mpembati, mueri, mufubia, muiru, murugutu, mutimail, mutimailu, mweria, mwiluti, mwiritsa, nuwehout, ol gujuk, ol-koijuk, olkonjuku, oromoti, pruni africanae cortex, pygei africani cortex, pygeum, pygeum africanum, pygeum africanum bark, pygeum bark, red stinkwood, rooistinhout, tenduet, tendwet, twendet, umdumizulu, umkakase, umkhakhazi, umlalume, wami.

Angola; Burundi; Cameroon; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Equatorial Guinea; Ethiopia; Kenya; Lesotho; Madagascar; Mozambique; Rwanda; Sao Tomé and Principe; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; 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: Vulnerable A1cd

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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.


Expert comment


(Hook.f.) Kalkman

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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