2 minute read

The bitter albizia - Albizia amara subspecies sericocephala

by Reinhard Fichtl 

Apicultural value

Honeybees collect the abundant nectar and pollen produced by Albizia throughout the day. Bees can produce surplus of honey if there are dense stands of Albizia amara.

Recommended for planting to increase honey production

Family

Leguminosae (Fabaceae) subfamily Mimosoideae

Description

deciduous shrub or more commonly tree, growing up to tall with rounded crown.

Bark: rough, dark-brown and furrowed, young branchlets grey-brown.

Leaves: pinnae 4-46 pairs, leaflets 12-48 pairs, oblong to linear, thinly silky.

Flowers: fragrant, white or flushed pink, peduncles clustered at the nodes of short lateral branches. Pods: papery, pale-brown, oblong, 10-28cm long and 2-4cm broad.

Flowering: trees can be found in flower from April to August.

Cultivation

Occurs in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan southwards to Zambia and Zimbabwe. The subspecies Albizia amara amara occurs mainly in India and Sri Lanka and may have similar apicultural value.

Habitat 

Found at altitudes of 1000-1800 m in wooded grassland and scrub, on rocky slopes and in Acacia woodland. Very often along dry river beds with an annual rainfall of at least 350mm. 

Uses

The wood is widely used as fuel and for charcoal making. The wood is durable and suitable for construction work, farm implements, digging sticks and frames for huts.

Saponins are extracted from the roots and leaves. Tannins and gums are extracted from the bark.

It is valuable tree for soil conservation measures. As with Acacia species, other plants near the tree benefit from the nitrogen fixing abilities of the roots. It is also soil-improving and provides mulch.

Leaves are browsed by livestock.

This attractive Albizia could be more widely grown as an ornamental tree and boundary marker.

In traditional medicine the roots are chewed and applied to an eye infection of cattle. Fruits are also used as an emetic and for treating coughs and malaria. 

Practical notes

Propagation is carried out by direct sowing, seedlings, cuttings and wildlings. The tree coppices well.

References

Hedberg, ]; Edwards,S (eds) (1989) Flora of Ethiopia. Volume 3: Pittosporaceae to Araliaceae. National Herbarium, University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Sweden.

Amanuel G (ed) (1994) Indigenous Trees and Shrubs of Eritrea. Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Asmara, Eritrea.