Pterocarpus erinaceus

Pterocarpus erinaceus

The African Kino (Pterocarpus erinaceus Poir.) Is an arboreal species belonging to the Fabaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta Division,
Magnoliopsida class,
Fabales Order,
Fabaceae family,
Faboideae subfamily,
Dalbergieae tribe,
Genus Pterocarpus,
P. erinaceus species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Drepanocarpus senegalensis T.Nees & C.H.Eberm.;
– Echinodiscus erinaceus Benth.;
– Echinodiscus erinaceus Benth. ex Walp.;
– Lingoum erinaceum Kuntze;
– Pterocarpus adansonii DC.;
– Pterocarpus africanus Hook.;
– Pterocarpus senegalensis Vahl;
– Pterocarpus senegalensis Vahl ex DC..

Etymology –
The term Pterocarpus comes from the Greek πτερóν pterόn ala and from carpos fruit: with winged fruits.
The specific epithet erinaceus comes from erícius the hedgehog: due to the aculeate, thorny, pungent appearance of the plants or carpophores.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
African Kino is an endangered plant native to the Sahelian region of West Africa. It is present in tropical western Africa, from Sierra Leone to the Central African Republic.
Its habitat is that of open countryside, wooded savannah, wood, even on the edge of dense humid forests, sometimes on shallow soils, gravelly and lateritic soils, often at the foot of the slopes; at altitudes between 200 and 1,030 meters above sea level.

Description –
Pterocarpus erinaceus is a medium sized tree that grows up to 15 (maximum 25m) in height with a rounded and open crown.
The branches have long shoots that bend downward.
In good growing conditions the trunk is straight, cylindrical and branchless up to 10 m in height. In worse conditions, the trunk is often twisted, grooved and not very branched. The trunk can have a diameter of up to 75 (-100) cm, slightly reinforced.
It has a grayish brown to blackish, fissured and scaly bark surface. The inner bark is instead yellowish brown, with reddish streaks, and at the cut of which emanates a reddish translucent gum.
The twigs are densely hairy when young.
It has alternate, imparipinnate leaves made up of (5-) 7- 11 (-15) leaflets. The leaves are carried on 3–7 cm long petioles, with hairy fins, (7-) 10-17 (-22) cm long. The leaflets are often of paper consistency, generally alternate, veined, hairy when young, ovate to elliptical in shape, (4-) 6-11 cm long × (2-) 3-6 cm wide and brownish in color.
The inflorescence is an axillary or terminal panicle 7-20 cm long. The flowers are bisexual, golden yellow, papilionaceous, with an almost circular banner, up to 15 mm × 13 mm, wings up to 13 mm long, and keel up to 10 mm long.
The fruit is a straw-colored, circular, flattened, indehiscent pod with 1-2 seeds, 4-7 cm in diameter. The pod has a papery, finely veined wing with a wavy or intertwined margin. The portion containing seeds bears thorns. Seeds are smooth, kidney-shaped, flat to slightly thickened, 10mm long × 5mm wide, red to dark brown in color.

Cultivation –
Pterocarpus erinaceus is a tree that produces one of the most valuable woods in the regions where it grows: the wood is usually used locally and traded internationally.
It is one of the three main species used as Hongmu lumber (red wood), used for the production of high quality Chinese furniture following the traditions of the Ming and Quing dynasty.
The tree also has a number of medicinal uses, and provides tannins and dyes for the local population. The resin obtained from the tree was exported to Europe for medicinal use, but has now been replaced by new drugs.
Due to these uses, the tree has been severely over-exploited in the past, so attempts have been made to reforest the savannah and create stands on farms.
It is also a plant of great ornamental interest; it is completely covered with copious racemes of bright golden yellow flowers during the dry season, these fall creating a golden carpet under the trees with the new leaves that are then produced so the shade is quickly restored.
For its cultivation it should be considered that it is a plant that is found, in its natural state, in the semi-arid to sub-humid arboreal savannah of the tropics, where it usually grows at altitudes up to 600 meters, exceptionally up to 1,200 meters.
This species grows best in areas with an average annual temperature of 15 – 32 ° C and prefers an average annual rainfall of 600 – 1,200 mm, but can tolerate annual rainfall of up to 1,600 mm. It can tolerate up to 4,000mm of rain.
It grows naturally in areas with a long dry season of up to 9 months and requires a sunny location.
From a pedological point of view it tolerates most types of soil, but prefers a light to medium, draining soil, with a pH between 5 and 5.5, tolerating between 4.5 and 6.5.
The tree can grow well even in poor and shallow soils, although growth is often stunted.
Trees respond well to coppice, recover well and grow more than 1 meter per year.
When used for timber and forage, a coppice is recommended at a height of 10 cm from the ground, but a height of 50 cm has also been recommended.
Propagation occurs by seed; pre-soaking in water for 12 – 24 hours or treatment with sulfuric acid for 30 – 60 minutes improves germination rates from 50% to 70%.
A germination rate of 100% was achieved by mechanical scarification, seeding on 1% agar, incubation at 21 ° C and with a photoperiod of 12 hours.
The seeds can be sown in pots or in flower beds at a distance of about 20cm × 30cm. Germination is optimal at a temperature of 25 – 35 ° C, with the first seeds germinating after 6 – 10 days.
The seedlings develop a long taproot and grow slowly and can be planted in pots or as bare root plants, either as stumps or as whole seedlings. The survival rate is generally high when the seedlings are protected from cattle grazing and wild herbivores.
Suckers can also be used for reproduction and propagation systems by cuttings have given good results.

Customs and Traditions –
African Kino, known in various areas by the names of: kosso, barwood, muninga, vène or mukwa is a tropical plant from West and Central Africa that has long been a major source of forage and wood in its native range. Between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, the overexploitation of this slow-growing species and the reduction of its habitat, due to the conversion of the land, led to the significant decline of its once numerous population. . The tree has now disappeared in some regions and was listed as an endangered species in 2018. The current exploitation rate is considered unsustainable and threatens the survival of the species in the wild (Barstow, 2018).
In its range it is used for firewood, for medicinal purposes, as a material for wood processing and is useful as a nitrogen-fixing plant to improve nutrient-depleted agricultural soils.
Pterocarpus erinaceus was brought to Europe in the 19th century by the Scottish explorer Mungo Park. Although threatened due to overexploitation, environmental degradation and climate change, it is a somewhat prolific and easy-to-grow tree, so reforestation efforts have shown some success.
This species is one of many that provide a red resin. This resin, often known as “Dragon’s Blood”, is often used as an external application to treat a variety of skin problems and injuries.
It also has food uses as its leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
Furthermore, the seeds can be consumed well cooked to avoid emetic or intoxicating effects.
Resin is mainly used for medicinal use, especially in traditional African medicine.
Some research has been done on the tree’s medicinal properties, many of which have confirmed traditional uses.
Bark exudate, which hardens rapidly after exposure to air, contains 30 – 80% quinotannic acid, which is a strong astringent. These extracts, in vitro, have shown antibacterial and antifungal activities against various human pathogens. In tests they blocked ovulation and the oestrus cycle through antigonadotropic activity.
Furthermore, a moderate antimalarial activity of the bark extract against Plasmodium falciparum strains has also been demonstrated.
The effectiveness of the cortex as a healing agent has been confirmed by tests and the activity can be explained by the presence of phenolic compounds that have an effect on the immune system.
The bark showed significant antioxidant activity. Extracts of water and methanol showed inhibitory activity in vitro against Mycobacterium smegmatis and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the latter being an etiological agent of tuberculosis.
The resin, known as kino, is astringent and hemostatic. It is taken internally to treat diarrhea, dysentery, fever, gonorrhea and intestinal worm infections.
Externally it is used to treat eye disorders, ulcers and sores.
Other uses include agroforestry ones. Pterocarpus erinaceus, in its natural habitat, is in fact a pioneer species that readily colonizes uncultivated land. It fixes atmospheric nitrogen, although it grows quite slowly when young.
The tree can also be used as a live fence and is a good source of good quality nectar for bees.
The heartwood of this plant is used for various purposes, which has a color ranging from yellowish brown to reddish brown, often with purplish brown streaks; it is clearly demarcated by the sapwood 2 – 8 cm thick, yellowish or pale cream in color. Grain is straight to woven, fine to moderately coarse texture; fresh wood has an unpleasant odor. The wood is moderately heavy to very heavy; firm, very durable, being very resistant to fungi, dry wood xylophagous insects and termites; it is also resistant to freshwater organisms. It matures slowly but with very little risk of control or distortion; once dry it is stable.
The wood has a fairly high bevel effect and is rather difficult to saw and work, requiring considerable power; holds nails and screws well, but pre-drilling is required because it is fragile; the gluing properties are often poor due to the presence of exudates in the wood but it accepts easily takes the varnish and polishes well. Wood is highly prized for furniture and cabinet making, but is also used for heavy construction including aqueducts, parquet floors, stairs, tools, turning, carving and veneer. It is also suitable for joinery, interior finishing, mortars, pestles, house poles, mine props, ship and boat building, vehicle bodies, sporting goods, toys, novelties, musical instruments (eg Balafons) and precision equipment.
In addition, wood is suitable as a fuel and is used to make good quality charcoal which is highly valued by local blacksmiths.
From the heartwood of this plant, by staking it, a red substance is obtained that resembles the resin. This is rich in tannins and can be used as a red dye and medicinally as an astringent.
This red dye is used to dye fabrics, body or hair; it is pulverized and mixed with water, the fabric is dipped and dried and rubbed with shea oil or palm oil to produce a dark purple color.
The bark is occasionally used for tanning.
The decoctions of the leaves are used as insect repellents.
The roots become arches.

Preparation Method –
Pterocarpus erinaceus is a plant that in western and central Africa has had and still has, even if diminished due to exploitation, widely used for various uses.
In addition to food uses, in which the leaves are cooked and consumed as a vegetable and the very cooked seeds, it is widely used in the medicinal field.
Decoctions or infusions are prepared from the bark or roots which are used in the treatment of bronchial infections, toothache, dysentery, menstrual disorders, anemia, gonorrhea, postpartum bleeding, ringworm infections, leprosy, wounds, tumors and ulcers and as antiemetics, purgatives and tonics.
Root preparations are administered as an enema to treat STDs.
Also from the leaves are obtained decoctions used to treat fever, syphilis and are used as aphrodisiacs.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
Photo source: https://www.gbif.org/occurrence/1453218370

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.




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