Boscia senegalensis

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Abelmoschus moschatus
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Acacia nilotica subsp nilotica
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Acacia pennatula
Acacia polyacantha ssp. polyacantha
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Acacia senegal
Acacia seyal
Acacia sieberiana
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Local names:
Arabic (shagara al muknet,moheb,makhei,kursan,hemmet,bokkhelli), Bambara (bere), Bislama (hamta), Hausa (hansa,dilo,anza), Wolof (diendoum)

Boscia senegalensis is an evergreen undershrub or more rarely a shrub, usually 1-2 m tall, but sometimes up to 4 m, particularly in good conditions;stem darkish.

Leaves of a greenish mat hue, coriaceus, spread or erect, elliptic, or ovate-elliptic, obtuse or mucronate, reaching 12 cm x 4 cm, with 5-6 lateral veins arranged in arcs ending at the tip of the following vein and linked together by a network of smaller veins producing a polygonal pattern on the lower side of the leaf. Veins protruding on the lower face; white veins very conspicuous on the upper side, contrasting with the green of the leaf blade.

Flowers have a tiny pedicel, they are hairy, greenish-white with four valvular, hairy sepals, no petals, 6-20 free stamens inserted at the base of a short gynophorum inside a thick disc sometimes somewhat fringed. Ovary ovoid with very short style and only one loculum with many ovules.

Fruit a spherical berry, 1.5 (1.2) cm in diameter, yellow when mature, shortly subsessile, clustered in small bunches (with usually 2-3 fruits only). Slightly but not always hairy. The epicarp is crustaceus; the pulp is translucent, of jelly-like texture, slightly sweet but otherwise tasteless. It contains 1-2 (1-4) ventrally flattened seeds, greenish when mature.

Ecology

B. senegalensis is often a common tree in open scrub or savanna woodland, but can also form a thick understorey in woodland and dry forest. It occurs in Pteleopsis, Acacia-Ziziphus, Anogeissus and Acacia-commiphora woodlands. This is a sahelo-saharan species which, in Mauritania and the Sudan, occurs below the 20th parallel, while its southern limit runs from Dakar to northern Burkina Faso, the Niger-Nigerian border, the southern bank of lake Chad and southern Kordofan. It may also exist in south-east Egypt. It is mainly found under rainfalls of 100-300 mm. The type B. octandra is reckoned to be more xerophytic and therefore better adapted to very arid sites.

Native range
Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo

There are 2 500-3 500 seeds/kg.

B. senegalensis is often a common tree in open scrub or savanna woodland, but can also form a thick understorey in woodland and dry forest. It occurs in Pteleopsis, Acacia-Ziziphus, Anogeissus and Acacia-commiphora woodlands. This is a sahelo-saharan species which, in Mauritania and the Sudan, occurs below the 20th parallel, while its southern limit runs from Dakar to northern Burkina Faso, the Niger-Nigerian border, the southern bank of lake Chad and southern Kordofan. It may also exist in south-east Egypt. It is mainly found under rainfalls of 100-300 mm. The type B. octandra is reckoned to be more xerophytic and therefore better adapted to very arid sites.

As there have not been any agricultural trials for this species, it is not possible to assess production potential, but there should be much potential for yield if domesticated. Some work on its yield shows that B. senegalensis may yield up to 3.9 kg /ha of fruit in drought years and even in extreme drought conditions can yield 0.22 kg/ha.

Poison: The leaves are used to protect stored food against parasites in granary. Leafless twigs contain glucosinalates, which can hydrolyze to mustard oils, which are highly toxic and irritant to mucous membranes.

 The fruit is often gathered for human consumption; usually very acid, it becomes edible after soaking in water for about a week. In the eastern Sudan for instance, men and women may spend up to 8 hours a day searching for B. senegalensis. The fruits are frequently sold in the markets for food. It is a regular item of diet in saharo-sahelian zone and sahel, further south, they are mainly supplementary, but their main value is as an emergency food. Seeds are a staple food of the Peuhls of Senegal, but also an important famine food.

Fodder: It is generally not valued for forage; but has potential if leaves could be debittered and prepared as a powder or granules and made appetizing to livestock. The leaves are little sought after by camels, at least in Niger and in the Sudan. Small livestock occasionally consume them during the bridging period. 

As firewood, it burns making much smoke.

Timber:  Wood is soft and workable when boiled and in Mauritania, when large enough, is used in house construction.

Medicine:  In Niger, an infusion of leaves is used to remove intestinal parasites from camels. Leaves contain the alkaloids L-stachydrine and hydroxy-3 stachydrine. Stachydrine affects aggregation of thrombocytes and shortens the bleeding time. Roots are vermifuge and leaves mixed with millet flour taken each morning on an empty stomach is anthelminthic; draught from leaves or dried bark taken for schistosomiasis. Infusion of the leaves used as an eyewash in Sudan and for pruritus of the eye due to syphilis in Senegal. 

In some areas of the Sudan, the tree is being cut increasingly for dead hedging. It is however unsuitable for this purpose and live hedging using other species should be encouraged.

Alcohol: The fruit is fermented into a beer in the Sudan.