3 minute read

Trees bees use - Polyscias fulva Araliaceae

Paul Latham, UK

Keywords: Apis mellifera adansonii, Ghana, honey collection, honey bee management, West Africa

Apicultural value

Polyscias fulva is an important source of nectar and pollen for bees.Synonym

Common name: Polyscias ferruginea Impembati


A fast growing deciduous tree up to 30 m tall, often with a straight, slender trunk to about 9 m before developing branches, like the spokes of an umbrella. The tree has a flat topped crown. The bark is grey and smooth and the leaf scars are prominent. Leaves are compound, up to 1m long, with 6-12 pairs of leaflets plus one at the tip, each leaflet is and leathery, 9-20 cm long, with a rounded base and covered with cream-yellow hairs. The flowers are green-yellow, honey scented, very small and in loose heads up to 60 cm long. The main stalks have red brown hairs. The fruit is small, black, more or less oval and often ribbed.


Polyscias fulva is found in the wetter highland forests and in the bamboo zone in Tanzania. The tree is widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa at an altitude range of 1,180-2,500 m, with annual rainfall of 1,500-2,000 mm.


Polyscias fulva is usually grown from wild seedlings, although in Umalila, Tanzania the tree is also planted using stakes. Seeds can also be used: collect the fruits immediately they turn purple-black on the tree. Allow them to mature in the shade for one or two days then extract the seed by soaking the fruits in cold water for 4-6 hours. Squeeze out the seeds which will float in the water, then dry them in the shade.

75% of seeds germinate after 35-45 days. Seeds can be stored for up to wo years.


Beekeepers use the regular and wide branching habit of Polyscias fulva for placing hives and the tree is often grown to provide shade. The timber is light, soft and pale in colour, and makes poor quality firewood. It is however tough and odourless and is used for making hives and containers for food. The bark from small roots is pounded in water and the resultant liquid can be drunk as a remedy for stomach-ache.

The tree can be grown with crops as the high crown lets in sunlight and the leaves produce good mulch. This species is becoming rare in its natural habitat.


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