|Subgenus:||P. subg. Cerasus|
|Section:||P. sect. Laurocerasus|
Pygeum africanum Hook.f.
Prunus africana, the African cherry, has a wide distribution in Africa, occurring in montane regions of central and southern Africa and on the islands of Bioko, São-Tomé, and Grande Comore (Kalkman, 1965). It can be found at 900–3,400 m (3,000–10,000 ft) above sea level. It is a canopy tree 30–40 m in height. Large-diameter trees have impressive, spreading crowns. It requires a moist climate, 900–3,400 mm (35–130 in) annual rainfall, and is moderately frost-tolerant. P. africana appears to be a light-demanding, secondary-forest species.
The bark is black to brown, corrugated or fissured, and scaly, fissuring in a characteristic rectangular pattern. The leaves are alternate, simple, 8–20 cm (3.1–7.9 in) long, elliptical, bluntly or acutely pointed, glabrous, and dark green above, pale green below, with mildly serrated margins. A central vein is depressed on top, prominent on the bottom. The 2 cm (0.8 in) petiole is pink or red. The flowers are androgynous, 10-20 stamens, insect-pollinated, 3–8 cm (1–3 in), greenish white or buff, and are distributed in 70 mm (2.8 in) axillary racemes. The plant flowers October through May. The fruit is a drupe, red to brown, 7–13 mm (0.3–0.5 in), wider than long, two-lobed, with a seed in each lobe. It grows in bunches ripening September through November, several months after pollination.
In addition to its value for its timber and its medicinal uses, Prunus africana is an important food source for frugivorous birds and mammals Dian Fossey reports of the mountain gorilla: "The northwestern slopes of Visoke offered several ridges of Pygeum africanum .... The fruits of this tree are highly favored by gorillas." East African Mammals reports that stands of Pygeum are the habitat of the rare Carruther's mountain squirrel and asserts, "This forest type tends to have a rather broken canopy with many trees smothered in climbers and dense tangles of undergrowth." It is currently protected under appendix II of CITES since 16 February 1995 and in South Africa under the National Forest Act (Act 84) of 1998.
Large numbers of trees are harvested its bark to meet the international demand for its medicinal qualities. Early studies on the effects of bark harvest showed that the harvest affected population structure, increased mortality and decreased fecundity (Parrott and Parrott, 1989; Cunningham and Mbenkum, 1993; Ewusi et al., 1992; Walter and Rakotonirina, 1995). However, quantitative studies to examine specific life history parameters and possible sustainable harvesting practices were begun only recently (Stewart, 2001 and 2009). In these later studies, the combined factors of mortalities of a large percentage of reproductive trees (especially the largest ones), highly reduced fruit production and poor seedling survival seem to suggest a bleak prognosis for future regeneration and long-term persistence of the species in harvested populations.
The species has a long history of traditional uses. The bark is used for fevers, malaria, wound dressing, arrow poison, stomach pain, purgative, kidney disease, appetite stimulant, gonorrhoea, and insanity. The pharmacology and traditional uses of the species is reviewed in Stewart (2003a and 2003 b) 
The extract Pygeum, an herbal remedy prepared from the bark of P. africana, is used as an alternative medicine for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). In the 1960s, bark extracts were found to be effective in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia and has reached the international trade. A large number of clinical trials have been conducted to investigate the effectiveness of Pygeum in treating BPH, comparing it to a placebo rather than any pharmaceutical drug.
The timber is a hardwood employed in the manufacture of axe and hoe handles, utensils, wagons, floors, chopping blocks, carving, bridge decks, and furniture. The wood is tough, heavy, straight-grained, and pink, with a pungent bitter-almond smell when first cut, turning mahogony and odorless later.
The collection of mature bark for its use in traditional medicine and other uses has resulted in the species becoming endangered. P. africana continues to be taken from the wild. However, quotas have been awarded by the South African Forestry Department without adequate forest inventories due to some harvesters, spurred on by the high prices, removing too much of the bark in an unsustainable manner. In the 1990s, an estimated 35,000 debarked trees were being processed annually. The growing demand for the bark has led to the cultivation of the tree for its medicinal uses.
Discovery and classification
The name of the remedy, pygeum, comes from the name of the plant, which was discovered to botany by Gustav Mann during his now-famous first European exploration of the Cameroon Range, with Richard Francis Burton and Alfred Saker, in 1861. A letter from Mann to the Linnean Society of London, read by William Jackson Hooker, then Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on June 5, 1862, describes the naming of the peaks of the Cameroon Range (such as Mount Victoria, later Mount Cameroon) and the collection of specimens there. The latter were shipped back to Kew for classification, which was duly performed by Hooker and his son, Joseph Dalton Hooker, who had the responsibility of publishing them, as William died in 1865.
When the publication came out the Hookers had named the plant Pygeum africanum, followed by the designation "n. sp.", an abbreviation for nova species. The habitat is listed as "Cameroons Mountains, alt. 7000-7500 feet", which was above the tropical forest and in the alpine grasslands. Hooker notes that another specimen had been "gathered in tropical Eastern Africa" at 3000 feet by Dr. Kirk on an expedition of David Livingstone.
The first publication of the synonym in 1864 had been preceded by publication of the bare name in 1863 in a book by Richard Francis Burton. Evidently Hooker had already made the contents of J. Proc. Linn. Soc., Bot. 7 for 1864 available to some, as Burton mentions the volume and Mann's letter in 1863.
Hooker gives scant hint of why he chose "pygeum"; however, what he does say indicates it was common knowledge among botanists. Kirk's specimen fruit was "a much depressed sphere". By this, he undoubtedly meant to reference Joseph Gaertner's genus, Pygeum Gaertn., which innovates pygeum from a Greek word, πυγή, "rump, buttock", because the two lobes of the fruit resemble the human gluteus maximus muscles.
In 1965, Cornelis Kalkman moved Pygeum to Prunus, and this classification has the authority for now. However, a recent cladistic study notes of Pygeum: "its relationships to Prunus remain to be tested by molecular cladistics."
Prunus africana is known by the common names African cherry, pygeum (from its former scientific name, Pygeum africanum), iron wood, red stinkwood, African plum, African prune, and bitter almond. In other languages spoken where it grows, it is known as tikur inchet in Amharic, mkonde-konde in Chagga, muiri in Kikuyu, entasesa or ngwabuzito in Ganda, uMkakase in Xhosa, inyazangoma-elimnyama or umdumezulu in Zulu, and rooi-stinkhout in Afrikaans.
A 1994/1995 study published in 1997 by Marchant and Taylor did a pollen analysis on and radiocarbon-dated two core samples from montane Mubindi Swamp in Uganda. The swamp is a catchment at 2100 m altitude between mountain ridges. It is a "moist lower montane forest" in Bwindi Forest National Park. The investigators found montane Prunus, represented by currently growing P. africana, has been in the catchment continuously since their Pollen Zone MB6.1, dated about 43000–33000 years ago.
- "Sorting Prunus Names". Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
- "Kalkman, C., 1965. The Old-World species of Prunus subg. Laurocerasus including those formerly referred to Pygeum.". Blumea. 13: 1–174.
- U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). "Prunus africana (Hook.f.) Kalkman". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) Taxonomy for Plants.
- U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). "Pygeum africanum Hook.f.". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) Taxonomy for Plants.
- Dharani, Najma (2002). Field Guide to Common Trees and Shrubs of East Africa. New Holland. p. 150. ISBN 1-86872-640-1. Previewable Google Books.
- Cunningham, A.B.; Mbenkum, F.T. (May 1993). "Sustainability of harvesting Prunus africana bark in Cameroon: A medicinal plant in international trade" (pdf). People and Plants working papers. Division of Ecological Sciences, UNESCO.
- World Health Organization; Inc. NetLibrary (2002). WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants: Volume 2. Geneva: World Health Organization. p. 246. ISBN 92-4-154537-2. Previewable Google Books.
- Nonjinge, Siyabulela (October 2006). "Prunus africana (Hook.f.) Kalkman". PlantZAfrica.com. South African National Biodiversity Institute.
- Fossey, Dian (2000). Gorillas in the Mist. Houghton Mifflin Books. p. 146. ISBN 0-618-08360-X.
- Kingdon, Jonathan (1984). East African Mammals: an Atlas of Evolution in Africa: Volume IIB. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 389. ISBN 0-226-43718-3.
- "Protected Trees" (PDF). Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Republic of South Africa. 30 June 2013.
- Parrott J., Parrott, H., 1989. Report on the conservation of Prunus (Pygeum africanum) in Cameroon. Unpublished report prepared for the International Council for Bird Preservation (now Birdlife International).
- Ewusi, B.N., Eben-Ebai, S., Asanga, C.A., Nkongo, J.B.N., 1992. An evaluation of the quantity and distribution of Pygeum africanum on the slopes of Mount Cameroon. Unpublished report prepared for Plantecam-Medicam.
- Walter, S., Rakotonorina, J.C.R., 1995. L’exploitation of Prunus africana à Madagascar. Rapportt à P. Zahemena et au Département de l’Eau and des Forêts, Antannarivo, Madagascar.
- Stewart, K.M., 2001. The commercial bark harvest of Prunus africana on Mount Oku, Cameroon: effects on traditional uses and population dynamics. Ph.D. Dissertation, Florida International University.
- "Stewart, K. M. 2009. Effects of bark harvest and other human activity on populations of the African cherry (Prunus africana) on Mount Oku, Cameroon.". Forest Ecology and Management. 258: 1121–1128.
- Stewart, KM (2003). ""The African cherry (Prunus africana): can lessons be learned from an over-exploited medicinal tree?." [Review]". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 89 (1): 3–13. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2003.08.002.
- Stewart K.M. (2003). "The African cherry (Prunus africana): can lessons be learned from an over-exploited medicinal tree?". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 89: 3–13. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2003.08.002.
- "Stewart, K. M. 2003. The African cherry (Prunus africana): from hoe handles to the international herb trade.". Economic Botany. 57: 559–569.
- Edgar, AD; Levin, R; Constantinou, CE; Denis, L (2007). "A critical review of the pharmacology of the plant extract of Pygeum africanum in the treatment of LUTS". Neurourology and urodynamics. 26 (4): 458–63; discussion 464. doi:10.1002/nau.20136. PMID 17397059.
- Wilt T, Ishani A, Mac Donald R, Rutks I, Stark G (2002). "Pygeum africanum for benign prostatic hyperplasia". Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 1. CD001044.
- "Africa's Medicine Tree Facing Extinction From Greed, Corruption". VOANews. 22 May 2006. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
- The British names did not survive the transfer of Cameroon to Germany in 1884 and now are nearly unknown.
- Hooker, Sir W.J. (1864). "Letter from Mr. G. Mann, Government Botanist, describing his Expedition to the Cameroon Mountains". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. VII: 1–13. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.1863.tb01054.x.
- Hooker, J.D. (1864). "On the Plants of the Temperate Regions of the Cameroons Mountains and Islands in the Bight of Benin; collected by Mr. Gustav Mann, Government Botanist". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. VII: 191–192. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.1864.tb01067c.x. The article occupies pages 171–240. The botanical abbreviation for this publication is J. Proc. Linn. Soc., Bot.
- Hooker, J.D. (1863). "Enumeration of the Mountain Flowering Plants and Ferns Collected by M. Gustav Mann, Government Botanist, during his various ascents of the Cameroons Mountains, of Clarence Peak, Fernando Po, and of the Peak of San thomé". Abeokuta and the Camaroons Mountains: An Exploration: Appendix III. London: Tonsley Brothers. pp. 270–277.
- Page 47, first note.
- U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). "Pygeum Gaertn.". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) Taxonomy for Plants.
- See under De Fructibus et Seminibus Plantarum. The edition is the 1788.
- Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms: Volume III M-Q. CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-2673-7. Previewable Google Books.
- Kalkman, Cornelis. "The Old World Species of Prunus subg. Laurocerasus including those formerly referred to as Pygeum". Blumea. 13: 1–115. The specification is Blumea 13:33.
- Bortiri, Esteban; Oh, Sang-Hun; Gao, Fang-You; Potter, Dan (2002). "The Phylogenetic Utility Of Nucleotide Sequences Of SORBITOL 6-PHOSPHATE DEHYDROGENASE In Prunus (Rosaceae)" (PDF). American Journal of Botany. 89 (11): 1697–1708. doi:10.3732/ajb.89.10.1697.
- Marchant, Robert; Taylor, David (1997). "Late Pleistocene and Holocene History at Mubwindi Swamp, Southwest Uganda" (PDF). Quaternary Research. 47 (3): 316–328. doi:10.1006/qres.1997.1887.
- Hall, J.B.; Sinclair, Fergus L; O'Brien, Eileen M. (2000). Prunus Africana – A Monograph. Bangor: University of Wales. ISBN 1-84220-048-8.
|Wikispecies has information related to: Prunus africana|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prunus africana.|
- Dailey, Bryan W.; Fernandes, Erick C.M. "The Effect of Ecological Conditions on Density and Growth of Prunus africana Seedlings in Madagascar". Cornell University.
- WWF. "Prunus africana" (pdf).
- Prunus africana in West African plants – A Photo Guide.