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Balanites aegyptiaca

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Balanites aegyptiaca - MHNT

Balanites aegyptiaca is a species of tree, classified either as a member of the Zygophyllaceae or the Balanitaceae.<ref name=aluka>Aluka Species Profile</ref> This tree is native to much of Africa and parts of the Middle East.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

There are many common names for this plant.<ref name=purdue/> In English the fruit has been called desert date, soap berry tree or bush, Thron tree, Egyptian myrobalan, Egyptian balsam or Zachum oil tree;<ref name=Iwu>Template:Cite book</ref> in Arabic it is known as lalob, hidjihi, inteishit, and heglig (hijlij). In Hausa it is called aduwa, in Swahili mchunju and in Amharic bedena.<ref>Yves Guinand and Dechassa Lemessa, "Wild-Food Plants in Southern Ethiopia: Reflections on the role of 'famine-foods' at a time of drought" UN-OCHA Report, March 2000 (accessed 15 January 2009)</ref>



Balanites aegyptiaca is found in the Sahel-Savannah region across Africa. It is one of the most common trees in Senegal and Mauritania, one of its local names is teishit.<ref name=ndoye>Ndoye, M., et al. (2004). Reproductive biology in Balanites aegyptiaca (L.) Del., a semi-arid forest tree. African Journal of Biotechnology. 3:1 40-46.</ref> It can be found in many kinds of habitat, tolerating a wide variety of soil types, from sand to heavy clay, and climatic moisture levels, from arid to subhumid.<ref name=fao>Indigenous Multipurpose Trees of Tanzania</ref> It is relatively tolerant of flooding, livestock activity, and wildfire.<ref name=fao/>


The Balanites aegyptiaca tree reaches Template:Convert in height with a generally narrow form. The branches have long, straight green spines arranged in spirals. The dark green compound leaves grow out of the base of the spines<ref name=Iwu/> and are made up of two leaflets which are variable in size and shape.<ref name=waf>World Agroforestry Centre</ref> The fluted trunk has grayish-brown, ragged bark with yellow-green patches where it is shed.<ref name=Iwu/>

The tree produces several forms of inflorescence bearing yellow-green bisexual flowers with five long greenish petals.<ref name=Iwu/><ref name=ndoye/> In Senegal, they are pollinated by halictid bees, including Halictus gibber, and flies, including Rhinia apicalis and Chrysomia chloropiza.<ref name=ndoye/> The carpenter ant Camponotus sericeus feeds on the nectar exuded by the flowers.<ref name=ndoye/> The larva of the cabbage tree emperor moth Bunaea alcinoe causes defoliation of the tree.<ref name=fao/>



Balanites aegyptiaca has been cultivated in Egypt for more than 4000 years, and stones placed in the tombs as votive offerings have been found as far back as the Twelfth Dynasty. The tree was figured and described in 1592 by Prosper Alpinus under the name 'agihalid'. Linnaeus regarded it as a species of Ximenia, but Adanson proposed the new genus of Agialid. The genus Balanites was founded in 1813 by Delile.<ref></ref>

The yellow, single-seeded fruit is edible, but bitter.<ref name=fao/> Many parts of the plant are used as famine foods in Africa; the leaves are eaten raw or cooked, the oily seed is boiled to make it less bitter and eaten mixed with sorghum, and the flowers can be eaten.<ref name=purdue>Purdue Horticulture: Famine Foods</ref> The tree is considered valuable in arid regions because it produces fruit even in dry times.<ref name=fao/> The fruit can be fermented for alcoholic beverages.<ref name=waf/>

The seed cake remaining after the oil is extracted is commonly used as animal fodder in Africa.<ref name=waf/> The seeds of the Balanites aegyptiaca have molluscicide effect on Biomphalaria pfeifferi.<ref name="Hamidou">Hamidou T. H., Kabore H., Ouattara O., Ouédraogo S., Guissou I. P. & Sawadogo L. () "Efficacy of Balanites aegyptiaca(L.) DEL Balanitaceae as Anthelminthic and Molluscicid Used by Traditional Healers in Burkina Faso". International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases 2002. page 37. PDF</ref>

Where the species coexist, African elephants consume the desert date.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>


Desert date fruit is mixed into porridge and eaten by nursing mothers, and the oil is consumed for headache and to improve lactation.<ref name=purdue/> Oil from the fruit is used to dress

Bark extracts and the fruit repel<ref name=agro/> or destroy<ref name=Iwu/> freshwater snails and copepods, organisms that act as intermediary hosts host the parasites Schistosoma, including Bilharzia, and guinea worm, respectively. Existing worm infections are likewise treated with desert date, as are liver and spleen disorders. A decoction of the bark are also used as an Abortifacient and an antidote for arrow-poison in West African traditional medicine.<ref name=Iwu/>

The seed contains 30-48% fixed (non-volatile) oil, like the leaves, fruit pulp, bark and roots, and contains the sapogenins diosgenin and yamogenin.<ref name=Iwu/><ref name=agro>International Agroforestry Resources</ref> Saponins likewise occur in the roots, bark wood and fruit.<ref name=Iwu/> Diosgenin can be used to produce hormones such as those in combined oral contraceptive pills and corticoids.<ref name=ndoye/>


The tree is managed through agroforestry. It is planted along irrigation canals and it is used to attract insects for trapping.<ref name=fao/> The pale to brownish yellow wood is used to make furniture and durable items such as tools, and it is a low-smoke firewood and good charcoal.<ref name=fao/><ref name=waf/> The smaller trees and branches are used as living or cut fences because they are resilient and thorny.<ref name=fao/><ref name=waf/><ref name=agro/> The tree fixes nitrogen.<ref name=fao/> It is grown for its fruit in plantations in several areas.<ref name=waf/> The bark yields fibers, the natural gums from the branches are used as glue, and the seeds have been used to make jewelry and beads.<ref name=waf/>



External links

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