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Entada abyssinica A.Rich. 1847
pronounced: en-TAH-duh ab-biss-IN-ik-uh
(Mimosaceae – the wattle family)
common name: Tree Entada
This tree, growing at the southern end of the scrub around the Nelly Bay habitat area, not far from the road, has taken a great deal of tracking down. Looking very much like a native Acacia, it is, in fact, an imported exotic, in common with a few other exotic species in the same area, which leads me to think that there must have been a dwelling or garden here in earlier times.
Entada is a Malabar name used by van Rheede for the genus of giant seeds that float across the Atlantic Ocean to wash up on the shores of northwest Europe. Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede (1636–1691) was a Dutch East India Company administrator and a naturalist. Abyssinica is botanical Latin, ‘from Abyssinia (Ethiopia)’.
This is an understorey forest species of central and eastern tropical Africa and Madagascar, usually found in a savannah habitat. It is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree, 3–15 m high, with a flat, spreading crown. The bark is grey to reddish, slightly fissured, flaking off in irregular patches, slash pink with streaks of red. The branchlets are pendant, glabrous or sometimes pubescent. The leaves are alternate, bipinnate, stipules absent, with anything up to 22 pairs of pinnae; there are 15–55 pairs of leaflets, mostly linear-oblong, 13–14 by 1–4 mm, the apex round to slightly obtuse and slightly mucronate, appressed, pubescent above and below, or sometimes glabrous above, rarely entirely glabrous; the petiole is glandular. The inflorescence is of cream flowers, fading yellowish, in racemes 7–15 cm long. The fruit is a large flat pod with an undulate margin, 7–10 cm by 7 mm or so, glabrous, with 12–15 seeds per pod; the seeds are 2-winged.
The leaves are suitable for fodder, and the wood of the tree is used for firewood. The heartwood of the timber is pale brown, occasionally tinged with pink, and is moderately light and easy to work. The root contains a saponin, entada saponin, and an alkaloid. A juice made from the bark and the cambium has been used as an ordeal poison under the eyelid. Ashes from burning the wood are suitable for soap-making.
The plant is used in the treatment of miscarriage. A decoction of the bark is taken for coughs, chronic bronchial engorgement, rheumatical pain and abdominal pain. An infusion of crushed roots is also used for bronchial problems. A root or leaf decoction is used as a fever remedy; powdered or roasted pulverized seeds for sneezing; root bark as a massage for swelling; and the raw fruit induces vomiting as an antidote to snakebite. The seeds treat cataracts and diseases of the back of the eye.
In Africa, the tree is often used around homesteads and in coffee plantations for light shade. It also has the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil. The tree grows best in sandy loam soils.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2009
Page last updated 27th November 2016