2 minute read

Trees Bees Us

 Securidaca longepedunculata

Reinhard Fichtl, Weissgerbergraben 5, 93047 Regensburg, Germany

PHOTOS © REINHARD FICHTL

Apicultural value

Honey bees are found frequently visiting the flowers for pollen and nectar. This tree is one of the most valuable lowland honey sources of Eritrea and Ethiopia and yields very satisfactory surpluses of honey.

Securidaca longepedunculata is recommended for planting to increase honey production

Family:

Polygalaceae

Names

Violet Tree (English), Arbre à serpent (French)

Description

A much-branched semi-deciduous shrub or small tree, growing up to 5 m high, (occasionally up to 12 m) with an often flattened or slightly fluted bole, and with an open, rather straggly looking crown. The branches are slender, erect or drooping, and hairy.

Bark

Pale brown to grey brown, rough with very small dark-coloured scales.

Leaves

Alternately arranged, simple and entire, oblong to oblonglanceolate and up to 6 cm long.

Flowers

On long slender stalks produced in beautiful profusion in terminal axillary sprays 3-5 cm long, appearing with the very young leaves; very fragrant with the scent of violets, reddish purple to pink. Flowers in abundance at the beginning of the rainy season.

Fruit

More or less a round nut, winged, yellow green to red.

Distribution

Found in Eritrea and Ethiopia 500-1,700 m and elsewhere in a broad range of vegetation, from semi-arid scrub to dense forest, including many woodland and bush habitats, in semi-arid lowland savannah and gallery forests.

Occurring in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Republic, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, The Gambia, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Practical notes

The germination of seeds is not easy and transplanting of seedlings is very difficult. Seeds should be soaked in cold water and then sown in sandy soil where the plants are to remain. Securidaca longepedunculata can be propagated by taking cuttings of the root shoots, as it does not grow well when transplanted. The roots are extremely poisonous and in some parts of Africa the bark, roots and seeds are used in arrow poison.

The tree is resistant to bush fires and is frost sensitive.

Uses

Securidaca longepedunculata is used for making poles which are reputed to be resistant to rot and termites. It is also used for firewood and charcoal. The young stems yield a very strong fibre from the inner bark of the straight, annual shoots. Widely used in western, central and southern Africa for its long, durable and tough fibres to make string and rope for fishing net and lines. The young leaves are edible.

This attractive tree could be more widely grown ornamentally because of its fragrant flowers.

In traditional medicine the roots are used as a remedy for rheumatism and typhoid fever.

In many countries outside Ethiopia the tree is of considerable medicinal importance and is sometimes called the Mother of Medicine.

Flower of Securidaca