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Gyrocarpus americanus Jacq.

Protologue  
 Select. stirp. amer. hist.: 282 (1763).
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Family  
 Hernandiaceae
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Chromosome number  
 2n = 30
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Synonyms  
 Gyrocarpus jacquinii Gaertn. (1791), Gyrocarpus asiaticus Willd. (1806).
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Vernacular names  
 Propeller tree (En). Mbamba-mweupe, mbawa, mbomba (Sw).
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Origin and geographic distribution  
 Gyrocarpus americanus is extremely widespread, occurring in Central America and northern South America, in the drier parts of tropical Africa, throughout tropical Asia, in northern Australia, and on islands in the Pacific Ocean towards Tahiti. In tropical Africa it is found from eastern Senegal, Guinea and Mali east to Eritrea and Kenya, and south to Namibia and South Africa; it is also found in western and southern Madagascar.
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Uses  
 The boles of Gyrocarpus americanus are traditionally used for dug-out canoes. The wood is used for roof laths, wall covering, insulation, toys, model making and carvings. In tropical Asia it is additionally used for wooden clogs, light furniture, boxes, crates, trays and floats. It is suitable for sporting goods, turnery, veneer, plywood, hardboard, particle board and pulpwood. It is also used as firewood.
Bark infusions are taken to treat cancer and kidney pain, whereas pounded roots or root decoctions are applied to wounds. Root decoctions are also administered to treat diarrhoea. In Mali crushed leaves are applied to treat scabies. In Bangladesh twigs are used as toothbrush. The yellowish bark exudate has been used as a substitute of rubber.
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Production and international trade  
 The wood is seldom traded and on a local scale only.
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Properties  
 The heartwood is greyish white to pale yellow, sometimes with a pink tinge, darkening to greyish brown upon drying, and indistinctly demarcated from the sapwood. The grain is straight , sometimes slightly interlocked, texture coarse but even. The wood is lustrous, particularly when quarter-sawn.
The wood is lightweight, with a density of 250–440 kg/m³, and soft. It air dries easily. The rates of shrinkage are low, from green to oven dry 1.6–3.5% radial and 4.2–6.4% tangential. Once dry, the wood is fairly stable in service. At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is 39–96 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 4510–10,750(–13,900) N/mm², compression parallel to grain 19–33 N/mm² and Chalais-Meudon side hardness 0.3–1.8.
The wood saws and works easily, both with hand and machine tools, but sharp tools are recommended because it has a tendency to crumble. In finishing, it often produces woolly surfaces. The wood nails and screws easily, and the holding power of nails and screws is satisfactory. It glues and stains satisfactorily. It is not durable, being liable to termite, pinhole borer, Lyctus and marine borer attacks. The wood is easy to impregnate with preservatives.
The presence of alkaloids has been demonstrated for several plant parts. One of these is magnocuranine, which has ganglion-blocking activity. Gyrocarpine showed moderate antileishmanial activity in mice. Twig extracts showed antibacterial activity against Bacillus pumilus.
In Australia some tests have been done on the essential oil from the leaves of Gyrocarpus americanus. The yield was 0.2–0.7%, and the composition of the oil was quite variable, with up to 40% α -pinene and β-pinene, but sometimes sesquiterpenes were dominating with germacrene D as the major component (31%).
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Botany  
 Deciduous small to medium-sized tree up to 20(–30) m tall; bole cylindrical, up to 80(–100) cm in diameter, without buttresses; bark surface smooth to scaly, greyish white to whitish brown or greenish brown, inner bark straw-coloured with greenish margin, with a yellowish exudate; crown open, rounded, with often short branches; twigs brittle, short-hairy, with lenticels. Leaves arranged spirally, clustered near twig ends, simple; stipules absent; petiole 4–18 cm long, channelled; blade ovate-lanceolate or 3–5(–7)-lobed to near the middle, 4–25 cm × 4–22 cm, obtuse to heart-shaped at base, acuminate at apex, papery, glabrous to short-hairy, 3–5(–7)-veined from the base and with 3–6 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary, much-branched cyme up to 15 cm long, hairy, with long peduncle. Flowers bisexual or male, regular or slightly zygomorphic, scented, yellowish to greenish brown; perianth lobes 4–8, c. 2 mm long, equal or unequal with 2 larger ones, hairy; stamens (1–)4(–7), up to 4 mm long, hairy or glabrous, anthers opening with 2 flap-like valves, alternating with rudimentary stamens up to 1 mm long; ovary inferior, 1-celled, style recurved or S-shaped. Fruit a dry, ovoid nut 1–2 cm long, with c. 8 longitudinal ridges, with 2 large brown to blackish wings (enlarged perianth lobes) up to 11 cm × 1.5 cm, 1-seeded. Seed with spongy seed coat. Seedling with epigeal germination; cotyledons leafy, 2-lobed; first few leaves entire, subsequent ones 3-lobed.
Growth is fairly rapid, with a mean annual growth rate in height of 45 cm in Madagascar. In the nursery seedlings reach 50–100 cm in height after one year. In West Africa trees usually flower at the end of the dry season, shortly before new leaves develop. In Madagascar new leaves develop at the beginning of the rainy season, usually in early November. The leaves fall at the end of May, about one month after the end of the rainy season. Trees regularly flower in September–October and fruit 1–2 months after flowering. Pollination is probably by wind. The winged fruits are an obvious adaptation for wind dispersal. They rotate when falling. Dispersal may also be by water as the fruits can float for several months. The viability of fruits having floated in water for 2 months was not affected.
Gyrocarpus comprises 4 species, 3 of which are found in tropical Africa. Gyrocarpus angustifolius (Verdc.) Thulin is a shrub or small tree up to 15 m tall, occurring in scrub and open bushland in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Gyrocarpus hababensis Chiov. has a similar habit and occurs in the same region and additionally in Eritrea and Djibouti. The wood of both species works easily and is occasionally used for utensils and carvings.
Gyrocarpus americanus has been subdivided into 8 subspecies. Within mainland Africa 3 subspecies are found: subsp. africanus Kubitzki occurring from Eritrea, through Kenya and Tanzania, southward to South Africa; subsp. americanus in Kenya and Tanzania; and subsp. pinnatilobus Kubitzki in West Africa. In Madagascar 3 more subspecies occur: subsp. capuronianus Kubitzki, subsp. glaber Kubitzki and subsp. tomentosus Kubitzki.
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Description  
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Other botanical information  
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Growth and development  
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Ecology  
 Gyrocarpus americanus occurs in hot and dry areas, in Madagascar up to 600 m altitude, in southern Africa up to 1200 m and in Eritrea up to 1400 m, often in deciduous woodland on rocky ridges or stony slopes, also in riverine thickets. In Madagascar it occurs in regions with a mean annual rainfall of 500–1000(–1200) mm, with 5–7 dry months, and a mean annual temperature of 24°C. It prefers sandy soils with good drainage, but can locally also be found on humid clayey soils. Gyrocarpus americanus is not resistant to fire and does not tolerate periodic waterlogging.
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Propagation and planting  
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Management  
 In Madagascar natural regeneration is said to be quite rare. Fruits are usually collected from the ground. The weight of 1000 fruits is 250–350 g. It is recommended to sow fruits as soon as possible, after removal of the wings by hand. Nevertheless, they can be stored after drying in the sun in air-tight containers for up to 1 year without losing much of their germination power. Pre-treatment is not needed, although in Madagascar it is recommended to soak fruits in water for 24 hours before sowing. The seeds start germinating after about 10 days, and the germination rate is 60–85%. However, in a trial in Malaysia seeds germinated much later: about 70% germination was achieved from 11 months to almost 3 years. In India the germination rate decreased when seeds were sown under shade.
Seeds can be sown directly into the field, but in Madagascar the survival rate of seedlings was only 9% after 15 months. Planting of 6–12-month-old, bare-rooted seedlings raised in the nursery showed better results, with a survival rate of 70% after 2 years.
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Genetic resources and breeding  
 Gyrocarpus americanus is extremely widespread and locally common, and not easily liable to genetic erosion. In West Africa (subsp. pinnatilobus) it occurs very localized, and there it may be more vulnerable.
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Prospects  
 Commercial interest in Gyrocarpus americanus is unlikely to increase because it is often a smaller tree with moderate wood properties. However, its utilization for carving in cottage industry may attract interest in the future.
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Major references  
 • Arbonnier, M., 2004. Trees, shrubs and lianas of West African dry zones. CIRAD, Margraf Publishers Gmbh, MNHN, Paris, France. 573 pp.
• Blaser, J., Rajoelison, G., Tsiza, G., Rajemison, M., Rabevohitra, R., Randrianjafy, H., Razafindrianilana, N., Rakotovao, G. & Comtet, S., 1993. Choix des essences pour la sylviculture à Madagascar. Akon’ny Ala: Bulletin du Département des Eaux et Forêts 12–13. 166 pp.
• Boer, E. & Sosef, M.S.M., 1998. Gyrocarpus Jacq. In: Sosef, M.S.M., Hong, L.T. & Prawirohatmodjo, S. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 5(3). Timber trees: Lesser-known timbers. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 277–278.
• Chikamai, B.N., Githiomi, J.K., Gachathi, F.N. & Njenga, M.G., undated. Commercial timber resources of Kenya. Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), Nairobi, Kenya. 164 pp.
• Randrianasolo, J., 1989. La germination du mafay (Gyrocarpus americanus). Fiche Technique du Centre de Formation Professionnelle Forestière de Morondava 17: 27.
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Other references  
 • Bein, E., Habte, B., Jaber, A., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 1996. Useful trees and shrubs in Eritrea: identification, propagation and management for agricultural and pastoral communities. Technical Handbook No 12. Regional Soil Conservation Unit, Nairobi, Kenya. 422 pp.
• Bolza, E. & Keating, W.G., 1972. African timbers: the properties, uses and characteristics of 700 species. Division of Building Research, CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia. 710 pp.
• Brophy, J.J., Goldsack, R.J. & Forster, P.I., 2000. Leaf essential oils of the Australian species of Gyrocarpus and Hernandia (Hernandiaceae). Journal of Essential Oil Research 12(6): 717–722.
• Burkill, H.M., 1994. The useful plants of West Tropical Africa. 2nd Edition. Volume 2, Families E–I. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, United Kingdom. 636 pp.
• Capuron, R., 1966. Mafay (Gyrocarpus americanus Jacquin - Hernandiaceae). Etudes sur les essences forestières de Madagascar. Centre Technique Forestier Tropical, Antananarivo, Madagascar. 6 pp.
• CFPF (Centre de Formation Professionnelle Forestière), 2008. Fiches techniques: version française. Centre de Formation Professionnelle Forestière, Morondova, Madagascar. 14 pp.
• Coates Palgrave, K., 2002. Trees of southern Africa. 3rd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 1212 pp.
• Gelfand, M., Mavi, S., Drummond, R.B. & Ndemera, B., 1985. The traditional medical practitioner in Zimbabwe: his principles of practice and pharmacopoeia. Mambo Press, Gweru, Zimbabwe. 411 pp.
• Inngjerdingen, K., Nergård, C.S., Diallo, D., Mounkoro, P.P. & Paulsen, B.S., 2004. An ethnopharmacological survey of plants used for wound healing in Dogonland, Mali, West Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 92: 233–244.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
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Afriref references  
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Sources of illustration  
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Author(s)  
 
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
D. Louppe
CIRAD, Département Environnements et Sociétés, Cirad es-dir, Campus international de Baillarguet, TA C 105 / D (Bât. C, Bur. 113), 34398 Montpellier Cédex 5, France


Editors  
 
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
D. Louppe
CIRAD, Département Environnements et Sociétés, Cirad es-dir, Campus international de Baillarguet, TA C 105 / D (Bât. C, Bur. 113), 34398 Montpellier Cédex 5, France
A.A. Oteng-Amoako
Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), University P.O. Box 63, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana
Associate editors  
 
E.A. Obeng
Forestry Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), University P.O. Box 63, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana
Photo editor  
 
G.H. Schmelzer
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Correct citation of this article  
 Lemmens, R.H.M.J. & Louppe, D., 2012. Gyrocarpus americanus Jacq. [Internet] Record from PROTA4U. Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Louppe, D. & Oteng-Amoako, A.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp>. Accessed .



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General importance
Geographic coverage Africa
Geographic coverage World
Timber use
Fuel use
Medicinal use
Essential oil and exudate use



Gyrocarpus americanus
wild



Gyrocarpus americanus
Gyrocarpus americanus



Gyrocarpus americanus

obtained from Zimbabweflora



Gyrocarpus americanus
Gyrocarpus americanus



Gyrocarpus americanus

obtained from Zimbabweflora



Gyrocarpus americanus

obtained from Zimbabweflora



Gyrocarpus americanus

obtained from The Virtual Field Herbarium



Gyrocarpus americanus

obtained from TopTropicals



Gyrocarpus americanus
wood in transverse section



Gyrocarpus americanus
wood in tangential section



Gyrocarpus americanus
wood in radial section


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