Albizia (Albizia ferruginea)
|Size||Height: 6 – 40 m (2)|
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
The albizia is a widespread African tree and common timber species (3), with a beautiful spreading crown (2). The trunk is straight with low, fat buttresses (the roots protruding at the base of the trunk), and has thick, rough, scaly bark (4). The leafs are feather-like, with each leaf consisting of many smaller leaflets arranged on both sides of a stem and each leaflet itself divided into many parts (2) The undersides of the leaflets are covered with long, ginger hairs, particularly around the stem (2) (4). At various times of the year the albizia may also be identified by its greenish-cream flowers that grow in tight clusters (2), or fruit, which is a cigar-shaped pod, up to 20 centimetres long (2). Each pod, which can be reddish-brown and glossy, or papery and straw-coloured in the dry season, contains around ten flattened seeds (2) (4). Albizias exude a reddish-brown gummy sap, which has a bitter soapy taste and tobacco-like scent (4).
Occurs from Senegal, south through Gabon to Angola and Uganda (4)
Albizias grow in dry, semi-deciduous forests (4), from 700 to 1,200 metres (2).
The Albizia is a hermaphroditic tree (2), meaning that the flowers have both male and female reproductive parts and are self-fertilising. The pod-like fruits are winged (5), and so are presumably dispersed by wind, carrying the seeds away from the parent tree. Albizias need sufficient light to germinate and develop and are not able to grow and survive in deep forest shade (5). The albizia plays an important role in the lives of other species; goats feed upon it and the flowers provide nectar for bees (2).
The primary threat to albizias, like other popular timber species, is over-exploitation and as a result mature albizia trees are becoming rare in some areas (3). As well as being used for fuelwood, furniture and construction, parts of the plant are used in Ghana for medicinal purposes (2). The branches of the albizia are brittle and can snap off in high winds damaging any crops beneath, so large trees are sometimes killed off by farmers (6).
No conservation measures are known to be in place for this species at present.
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- Semi-deciduous: refers to plants that lose their foliage for a very short period.
IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
World Agroforestry Centre: Agroforestree Database (December, 2007)
- Oldfield, S., Lusty, C. and MacKinven, A. (1998) The World List of Threatened Trees. World Conservation Press, Cambridge, UK.
- Hawthorne, W. and Jongkind, C. (2006) Woody Plants of Western African Forests. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey.
- Kyereh, B., Swaine, M.D. and Thompson, J. (1999) Effect of light on the germination of forest trees in Ghana. Journal of Ecology, 87: 772 - 783.
- Leach, M. (1994) Rainforest Relations: Gender and Resource Use Among the Mende of Gola. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.