Irvingia wombolu

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Local names:
English (bitter bush mango)

Irvingia wombolu is a tree to 25-30 m tall, butressed up to 2 m. The stem is often leaning and glabrous. The first branches are usually at a height of 7-10 m. Foliage regular, not as dense as in the Irvingia gabonensis.

Leaves simple, alternate, entire, obovate, and less leathery, length 10.5-14 cm, width 4-8.5 cm, leaf apex rounded, often with a barely distinct blunt acumen, base obtuse to acute, occasionally very shortly cuneate. Leaf stipules leave an annular scar around the stem when they fall off.

Fruit with green skin which may turn yellow on ripening. Flesh of fruit yellow, soft, juicy and fibrous, extremely bitter and inedible. When the flesh rots away the fruit the shell may have some curly fibres attached to it. The shell wall is less than 7 mm thick and is easy to break open using a wooden club or a stone.

This tree closely resembles Irvingia gabonensis, genetic data indicates significant differences between the two, supporting (Harris 1996) conclusion that the taxa are distinct genetic entities. 

The genus name commemorates E.G. Irving, 1816-1855, a Scottish botanist.

Ecology

The bitter bush mango shows a wider rainfall regime tolerance than the other Irvingia species. It occurs in dry land forest in areas with more than 1 500 mm rainfall across the southern half of the Central African Republic from Cameroon in the west to Sudan in the east. In some localities it is common in swamps and seasonally flooded forest than in adjacent dry land forest.

Native range
Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda

Tree management

The members of the genus Irvingia are fire tender.

Germination is epigeous and phanercotylar, beginning at about 1 month and occuring faster under the mother tree. The seeds of I. wombolu are recalcitrant and should be sown fresh.

The bitter bush mango shows a wider rainfall regime tolerance than the other Irvingia species. It occurs in dry land forest in areas with more than 1 500 mm rainfall across the southern half of the Central African Republic from Cameroon in the west to Sudan in the east. In some localities it is common in swamps and seasonally flooded forest than in adjacent dry land forest.

  The seeds are collected and their cotyledons grilled or dried in the sun, pounded then used in preparation of a local dish 'gumbo'. The mesocarp is inedible. I. wombolu seeds give a more mucilaginous texture to food, this attribute makes the seeds command a higher market price. Overcooking causes the loss of sliminess. The sauce keeps for several days without refrigeration. The dried kernel can be stored for up to a year, as can the paste if it is thoroughly dried in the sun.

Apiculture:  Insects visit the flowers for pollen.

Shade or shelter:  The bitter bush mango provides adequate shade.

Medicine:  The fresh bark of the tree is considered to be a powerful antibiotic against scabies, a cure for diarrhoea when mixed with palm oil and a toothache remedy.

Intercropping:  I. wombolu has high agroforestry potential. In its native range it is found cultivated with other crops in farm systems.