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Pterocarpus soyauxii - Taub.

Common Name African Coralwood
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The dry sawdust may cause irritation to skin, nose and bronchi[299 ].
Habitats Evergreen or deciduous forests on firm-ground, rain-forest; at elevations from 50 - 500 metres[328 ].
Range West tropical Africa - Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Zaire and Angola.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Pterocarpus soyauxii African Coralwood

Pterocarpus soyauxii African Coralwood
Ehoarn Bidault mobot.org


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Pterocarpus soyauxii or commonly known as African Coralwood is an evergreen or deciduous species in the Fabaceae family. It is native to central and tropical west Africa and grows about 34 m in height and 1 m in trunk diameter. It has a flaky reddish-gray bark, pinnate and alternate leaves, and fruits that are round pods containing one seed each. The crown is open and dome-shaped. The trunk is straight and cylindrical, and can be branchless for up to 32 m. Plant parts are used medicinally to treat wounds, skin diseases, ringworm, yaws, dysentery, toothache, gonorrhea, dysmenorrhea, uterine hemorrhage, hemorrhoids, inflammations, edema, hernia, whitlow, and broncho-pulmonary affections. Leaves and young shoots are cooked and eaten as vegetables. Leaves are high in vitamin C. The heartwood is a source of red dye, called true bar wood dye, which is used in cloth, fibers, cosmetics, and ceremonial rites.The wood is heavy, hard, highly durable, resistant to attacks of insects, termites, and marine borers. it is highly valued for it has a wide range of uses including construction, carpentry, flooring, railway sleepers, boats, veneer, joinery, etc. It is also used as fuel.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Pterocarpus soyauxii is a deciduous Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Insects.
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


Pterocarpus casteelsii De Wild.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Shoots
Edible Uses: Colouring

Leaves and young shoots - cooked as a vegetable, made into soups, or used for other dishes with cassava and yam[299 , 317 ]. A high ascorbic acid content, even after cooking[303 ].

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.
Antifungal  Antihaemorrhoidal  Antiinflammatory  Astringent  Dysentery  Odontalgic  Parasiticide  Skin  
Vitamin C

The powdered wood, baked with a slice of lime, is used as a dressing on wounds[299 ]. Mixed with palm oil, raffia oil or vegetable butter, it is used to treat skin diseases, ringworm and yaws[299 ]. The bark contains a kino type resin, known as 'dragon's blood'[299 ]. This is very astringent and is used to ward off skin parasites in ethnoveterinary medicine. It is also used, usually in combinations with parts of other plants, as an enema to treat dysentery and against toothache, gonorrhoea and excessive menstruation[299 ]. A bark decoction is drunk to treat dysmenorrhoea, uterine haemorrhage, dysentery and haemorrhoids[299 ]. A pulp obtained by scraping the inner surface of the bark is applied as a wet dressing against inflammations, oedemas, incipient hernia and whitlow[299 ]. Decoctions, draughts or vapour-baths of the leaves and bark are taken against broncho-pulmonary affections[299 ]. In trials, the bark showed antifungal activity against some pathogenic fungi[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Cosmetic  Dye  Fuel  Furniture  Parasiticide  Wood

Other Uses: A red dye is obtained from the heartwood[317 ]. The source of the so-called true barwood dye, it is used to colour fibres and cloth; in cosmetics and in magical rites and ceremonies[299 , 317 ]. More recently it has been used in Europe as a food colouring for ketchup[317 ]. The dye is combined with tannin-rich plants and a mordant of iron-rich mud to produce the famous 'Kasai velvet' dyes of Zaire[299 ]. A pomade, made by mixing the red wood powder with oil, is used as a body cosmetic[299 ]. The roots can be prepared and used in the same way as the heartwood and yield a dye of equal or better quality[299 ]. Pulverized bark, mixed with palm oil, is also used as a cosmetic pomade[299 ]. Logs are liable to brittle heart. For dye extraction, preferably old and hollow trees are cut from the forest and the heartwood is lumbered out. Often trees are felled and left for 2 - 3 years lying on the forest floor before taking the heartwood for dyeing purposes[299 ]. The roots are also harvested for dye extraction[299 ]. For dye production the heartwood is split into billets and chips which are dried and subsequently pounded into powder. A little oil is added to the pulverized material, which is moulded into cakes for stocking and for local sale[299 ]. The heartwood is bright red when freshly cut, becoming orange-red on exposure and darkening to purple-brown; it is distinctly demarcated from the 6 0 20cm wide band of whitish to brownish yellow sapwood. The grain is straight to interlocked; the texture coarse; the wood has a faint aromatic scent when freshly cut. The wood is moderately heavy to heavy; hard to very hard; very durable being resistant to fungi, Lyctus beetles, termites and marine borers. It seasons somewhat slowly, but with only a slight risk of checking and distortion; once dry it is stable in service. It is moderately difficult to work, having a fairly high blunting effect - stellite-tipped sawteeth and tungsten carbide cutting tools are recommended; it takes a good finish, but sometimes with some tearing of interlocked grain; slicing does not cause problems; nailing and screwing are good, but pre-boring is advisable; gluing properties are good. A valuable multipurpose hardwood, because of its resistance to water it is used locally to make canoes and because of its beautiful reddish colour it is favoured for carving and sculpturing, high class furniture, cabinet making, knife and tool handles, traditional hair combs, walking sticks and musical instruments. The wood has a high resonance quality as its damping of vibrations is low - in the past large telegraph slit drums and war drums, as well as xylophones, have been made from it. It is currently used also for ?Western music? xylophones and increasingly tried for the back and sides of guitars. Because of its high durability the wood is excellent for construction, carpentry, outdoor joinery, flooring, staircases, railway sleepers and boats but also for veneer, inlay, billiard tables, toys, joinery, dowels, shuttles, bobbins, spindles, sporting goods and paddles. As the wood is resistant to marine borers it was used in temperate regions for marine constructions such as piers and sluice gates[299 , 848 ]. The wood is also used as fuel[299 ].

Special Uses

Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the lowland wet tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 500 metres. It grows best in areas where the mean annual temperature is about 23°c[299 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall of 1,500 - 1,700mm[299 , 303 ]. Requires a sunny position[299 , 303 ]. Prefers a moist but well-drained deep soil[299 , 303 ]. Seedling growth is rather fast. In a trial plantation in Cote d'Ivoire, annual height growth in the first 7 years varied between 1.6 metres and 2.7 metres[299 ]. Trees do not coppice well, stump regrowth is weak and uneconomic for wood production[299 , 303 ]. 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[299 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - an easy process[299 ]. In a test in Nigeria, 86% of the seeds, with the fruit wall removed, were soaked overnight in water and then germinated in 7 days[299 ]. Seedlings can be planted out into the field about 40 days after sowing[299 ]. Seedling growth showed a greater response after inoculation of the soil with fungi from the rhizosphere of the mother tree than after inoculation with a similar spore number of fungi from a fallow field[299 ]. Propagation by non-woody cuttings in normal topsoil gave 83% success[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Akume, Epion, Kisese, Koula, Mbe, Mbel, Mbele, Mbie, Mohingue, Ngele, Oha, Osun pupa, Tizeze, african coralwood, african padauk, barwood.

Angola; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Equatorial Guinea; Gabon; Nigeria, Africa, Cabinda, Central Africa, CAR, Congo DR, 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.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

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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.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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

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