Voacanga africana Stapf, Journ. Linn. Soc., Bot. 30: 87 (1894)

(Latin for 'from Africa')

Voacanga africana var. glabra (K. Schum.) Pichon
Voacanga africana var. lutescens (Stapf) Pichon
Voacanga angolensis Stapf ex Hiern
Voacanga angustifolia K.Schum.
Voacanga bequaertii De Wild.
Voacanga boehmii K.Schum.
Voacanga eketensis Wernham
Voacanga glaberrima Wernham
Voacanga glabra K.Schum.
Voacanga klainii Pierre ex Stapf
Voacanga lemosii Philipson
Voacanga lutescens Stapf
Voacanga magnifolia Wernham
Voacanga puberula K.Schum.
Voacanga schweinfurthii Stapf
Voacanga schweinfurthii var. parviflora K. Schum.
Voacanga schweinfurthii var. puberula (K.Schum.) Pichon
Voacanga spectabilis Stapf

Shrub or small tree up to 10(–25) m tall, repeatedly dichotomously branched, glabrous to hairy in all parts; trunk up to 30(–40) cm in diameter; bark pale grey-brown, smooth or shallowly fissured, with some white latex. Leaves opposite, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 0–2 cm long with a short ocrea at base; blade elliptical or narrowly elliptical, 7–42 cm ื 3–20 cm, base cuneate or decurrent into the petiole, apex acuminate, pinnately veined with 8–22 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence a fairly lax cyme, 2 together in the forks of branches, usually many-flowered; peduncle 6–25 cm long, slender; bracts as long as the calyx, ovate, obtuse, deciduous, leaving a conspicuous scar. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, with bad smell; pedicel 3–20 mm long; calyx campanulate, tube 3.5–9 mm long, twisted, lobes broadly ovate to oblong, 3.5–8 mm long, with rounded to truncate or emarginate apex, usually partly recurved, imbricate in bud, pale green, deciduous; corolla tube almost cylindrical, 7–15 mm long, twisted, lobes obovate, narrowly obovate or elliptical, 12–37 mm ื 7–16 mm, rounded, spreading and often recurved later, creamy, greenish-creamy, yellow or less often white; stamens inserted 2–3 mm below the corolla mouth, slightly exserted, anthers sessile, narrowly triangular, 4–5 mm long, base sagittate; ovary superior, consisting of 2 carpels connate at base, surrounded by a ring-shaped disk, style narrowly obconical, split, twisted and curled at the base, pistil head 1–1.5 mm long, with a thin ring at base and 5 short lobes, coherent with the anthers. Fruit consisting of 2 separate globose follicles, but often only one developing, 3–8 cm in diameter, green with numerous whitish spots, yellow when mature, 2-valved, many-seeded. Seeds obliquely ellipsoid, 7–10 mm long, laterally with 5 grooves, rough, minutely warty, dark brown, aril yellow or orange, pulpy. Seedling with epigeal germination. [info from PROTA]

Growing in the understorey of open forest, often secondary forest, and in gallery forest in savanna areas. It is often gregarious in coastal forest. It occurs from sea-level to 1100 m altitude. In Asia usually planted.

Widespread in mainland tropical Africa, from Senegal east to Kenya and south to Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Also introduced in other tropical regions of the world, but not common in Asia.

Different plant parts of Voacanga africana are used medicinally throughout its distribution area. The latex or decoctions or infusions of the stem bark, leaves or roots are put on wounds, boils and sores, and used to treat gonorrhoea, eczema, fungal infections and scabies. They are also taken to treat heart problems, hypertension and rheumatic afflictions. The latex is put in teeth to treat caries or dripped in the eye to cure ophthalmia. In Senegal a leaf decoction is drunk as a tonic and against fatigue. A root decoction is drunk three times daily to treat post-partum pains and hernia. In C๔te d’Ivoire a decoction of the leaves is applied as a wash against diarrhoea, put into a bath against oedema, and is used as a friction and in a drink in the treatment of leprosy. Pulp from the leaves or stem bark is applied to soothe convulsions in children and the juice is put in the nostrils as a tranquilizer. In Cameroon the fruit is used in infusion to treat peptic ulcers. In DR Congo the bark in decoction is taken against intestinal worms, but this is considered a dangerous remedy. An infusion of the twigs is applied in bronchitis. A paste of the roots is applied to the head to kill lice. The dried and powdered roots without the outer bark are mixed with porridge and taken against kidney troubles and menstruation problems in women. In Tanzania the fruit and seeds are extracted with cold water and the extract taken against internal sores. The seeds are also used to treat high blood pressure. The root bark of Voacanga species is generally ingested to combat fatigue and increase endurance of drummers and hunters and, in higher doses, also for magic and religious purposes. Pharmaceutical companies in Europe extract tabersonine from the seeds, which is readily converted into vincamine, a compound widely used in medicines for geriatric patients. Seed extracts are also used in medicines to treat heart diseases, to lower blood pressure and to treat cancer. In Senegal the fruits are considered edible. In West Africa the copious latex has been used for adulterating Hevea rubber and children use it to make balls to play with. As it is sticky, it is used to catch birds. In Zambia and Ghana wood is burnt to obtain salt. Voacanga africana supplies poles for building purposes but the wood is considered inferior. Arrows and knife sheaths are made from the branches. In DR Congo, the wood is used to make musical instruments. The wood is also used for firewood. Good fibre can be obtained from the bark and is made into rope. In Nigeria, a yarn is made, which is mixed with cotton or other fibres to make mats. In Tanzania Voacanga africana is planted for ornamental purposes because of its sweet-scented white flowers. [info from PROTA]

Local names
English: ; Small-fruit wild frangipani.
French:Voacanga d’Afrique.
Portuguees: Cata grande.