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Myrianthus arboreus Cecropiaceae (soup tree, ìbisèrè)

There is no mistaking this tree with its enormous leaves that reach 70cm in diameter, with 7 to 9 leaflets up to 50cm long and 25cm across. Commonly known as the soup tree, young leaves are an ingredient of a very popular soup in southeast Nigeria. The leaves are also an ingredient of medicine to treat dysentery and relieve fever in infants, and the leaf stalks are mashed as a poultice for boils.

 The timber is no good for construction but the bark has various medicinal uses in Nigeria, mainly to expel intestinal parasites. When in bloom from January to April, the male flowers are conspicuous, being yellow and resembling branches of coral. The female flowers are insignificant but are followed by large irregularly shaped yellow fruits, which are 10-15cm across and contain up to 15 large seeds, each enclosed in a polygonal segment. The flesh is edible raw and the seeds, which are about 1 cm long, are very nutritious, containing oil, proteins, sugars and significant amounts of cystine, an amino acid which is often deficient in the typical West African diet. They can be shelled and cooked in various ways.

Soup trees occur in secondary forest, often near streams and in damp places where they produce stilt roots to give greater stability in wet conditions. They reach about 20 m and develop several trunks and numerous low branches that make an ideal climbing frame for youngsters. Women often gather under the shade of soup trees to carry out tasks and chat while the children play.

 Myrianthus-arboreus-(soup-tree)

Myrianthus-arboreus-leaves-&-fruits

 
PLANT OF THE MONTH

African whitewood (Triplochiton scleroxylon)

The African whitewood (Triplochiton scleroxylon), known as arere in Yoruba and obeche in Bini, is a large fast-growing tree, reaching 65 m (213 ft), usually with a straight trunk and buttresses up to about 8 m (26 ft) high. It belongs to the family Sterculiaceae and is common in semi-deciduous rainforests from Sierra Leone to Gabon and Congo, including secondary forests where it may fill gaps as a pioneer species.

 
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