African plum - Safou
African plum - Safou - Dacryodes edulis
Dacryodes edulis or safou is a fruit tree native to
Africa, sometimes called Atanga (Gabon), Ube (Nigeria), African or bush pear or
plum, Nsafu, bush butter tree, or butterfruit.
The name of the genus comes from the Greek word for tear, dakruon. This is a reference to the resin droplets on bark surface of its
members. The species name edulis means edible.
Dacryodes edulis is an evergreen tree attaining a height of 18–40 m in the forest but not exceeding 12 m in plantations. It has a relatively short trunk and a deep, dense crown. The
straight, cylindrical bole is often shallowly fluted and branching from low down; it can be up to 90cm in
diameter. The bark is pale gray and rough with droplets of resin. The leaves are a compound with 5-8 pairs of leaflets. The upper surface of the leaves is glossy. The flowers are yellow and about 5 mm across. They are arranged in a large inflorescence. The fruit is an ellipsoidal drupe which varies in length from 4 to 12 cm. The skin of the fruit is dark blue or violet, whereas the flesh is pale to light green. The tree flowers at the beginning of the rainy season and bears fruits during 2 to 5 months after flowering. There are two variants of Dacryodes edulis: D. e. var. edulis and D. e. var. parvicarpa. The fruit of D. e. var. edulis is larger and the tree has stout, ascending branches. D. e. var. parvicarpa has smaller fruit and slender, drooping branches.
The preferential habitat of D. edulis is a shady, humid tropical forest. However, it adapts well to variations in soil type, humidity, temperature and day length. The natural range extends from Angola in the South, Nigeria and Sierra Leone in the West and Uganda in the East.A major fruit crop in parts of Africa, where the tree is widely utilised as a local source of food, medicine and other commodities. It is both harvested from the wild and also often cultivated. It is also grown as a shade and ornamental
tree It is also cultivated in Malaysia and Honduras.
The main use of D. edulis is its fruit, which can be eaten either
raw, cooked in salt water or roasted. A pleasant, subacid flavour. Cooked flesh of the fruit has a texture similar to
butter. The pulp contains 48% oil and a plantation can produce 7-8 tons of oil per
The oil of fruits of D. edulis is a rich source of fatty acids and triglycerides.
The fat content of this fruit is much higher compared to fruits such as apple,
guava, and pawpaw. It is also rich in vitamins. The kernel can be used as fodder for sheep or
goats. The flowers are useful in apiculture.
The wood of D. edulis is elastic, greyish-white to pinkish. The wood has general use for tool
handles, and occasionally for mortars, and is suitable for carpentry. The wood is used mainly for
The seed of Dacryodes edulis is rich in different proportion of carbohydrates,
proteins, crude fibres, appreciable amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium and
phosphorus. It is also rich in essential amino acids such as Lysine,
Phenylalanine, Leucine, Isoleucine. It contain a considerable amount of fatty acis such as palmitic
acis, oleic acis and Linoleic acids Physicochemical analysis suggested that the seed have valuable functional attributes of industrial interest The important natural
product, Gallic acid,is found in significant quantity in the seed of Dacryodes
edulis. The seed kernel is also rich in oil of the same fatty acids and approximately in similar
The bark is aromatic and on injury yields a resin[46, 332]. This is used in various ways - in
perfumery; as an adhesive for mending broken earthenware; as a waterproofing the inner surface of
calabashes; it can also be burnt as a primitive lamp-oil or bush-candle.
The tree is also a source of many herbal
medicines. It has long been used in the traditional medicine of some African countries to treat various ailments such as
wound, skin diseases, dysentery and fever. The extracts and secondary metabolites have been found to show biological activities such as
antimicrobial, antioxidant [and anti sickle-cell disease. A wide range of chemical constituents such as
terpenes, flavonoids, tannins, alkaloids and saponins have been isolated from the
The tree is used as an ornamental plant and is known to improve soil quality by providing large quantities of