African locust bean

Parkia biglobosa

''Parkia biglobosa'', also known as the African locust bean or néré, is a perennial deciduous tree of the Fabaceae family. It is found in a wide range of environments in Africa and is primarily grown for its pods that contain both a sweet pulp and valuable seeds. Where the tree is grown, the crushing and fermenting of these seeds constitutes an important economic activity. Various parts of the locust bean tree are used for medicinal purposes. As a standing tree, locust bean may have a positive effect on the yield of other nearby crops.
Parkia biglobosa (Néré) Bandiagara Escarpment, Mali. Feb 19, 2014. Geotagged,Mali,Parkia biglobosa,Winter

Appearance

''Parkia biglobosa'' is a dicotyledonous angiosperm belonging the family Fabaceae – Mimosoideae. It is categorized under spermatophytes, vascular plants.
It is a deciduous perennial that grows to between 7 and 20 metres high, in some cases up to 30 metres. The tree is a fire-resistant heliophyte characterized by a thick dark gray-brown bark. The pods of the tree, commonly referred to as locust beans, are pink in the beginning and turn dark brown when fully mature. They are 30-40 centimetres long on average, with some reaching lengths of about 45 centimetres. Each pod can contain up to 30 seeds.
Parkia biglobosa (Néré) pollinated inflorescence Bandiagara Escarpment, Mali. Feb 19, 2014. Geotagged,Mali,Parkia biglobosa,Winter

Food

The yellow pulp, which contains the seeds, is naturally sweet “and is processed into a valuable carbohydrate food known as sikomu and daddawa among the Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa people of Nigeria, respectively.” However the most valuable parts of the locust bean, and possibly the entire tree, are the seeds themselves which are high in lipid , protein , carbohydrate , and is a good source of fat and calcium for rural dwellers. Seeds are often made into a nutritious spice or condiment, called dawadawa, which is beloved in large parts of Africa. The seed is first cooked to remove the seed coat and then fermented to produce the desired result. In a study conducted on the fermentation of dawadawa, it was found that ''Gmelina arborea'' as well as banana leaves accelerated fermentation of seeds, while also bringing “an increase in protein, crude fat and moisture contents with corresponding decrease in carbohydrate.”
Parkia biglobosa (Néré) developing fruit Bandiagara Escarpment, Mali. Feb 19, 2014. Geotagged,Mali,Parkia biglobosa,Winter

Evolution

In West Africa the bark, roots, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds are commonly used in traditional medicine to treat a wide diversity of complaints, both internally and externally, sometimes in combination with other medicinal plants. The bark is most important for medicinal uses, followed by the leaves. Medicinal applications include the treatment of parasitic infections, circulatory system disorders, such as arterial hypertension, and disorders of the respiratory system, digestive system and skin. In veterinary medicine, a root decoction is used to treat coccidiosis in poultry. Green pods are crushed and added to rivers to kill fish.
The tree locust bean was first written of by Michael Adamson in 1757’s West Africa. The use of fermented locust beans in Africa, however, dates as far back as the 14th century.

Geographically, ''Parkia biglobosa'' can be found in a belt stretching from the Atlantic coast in Senegal to southern Sudan and northern Uganda. The tree currently exists within a wide range of natural communities but is most abundant in anthropic communities – places where cultivation is semi-permanent.

Annual production of seeds in northern Nigeria is estimated at around 200 000t. While the products of the tree are not common in international trade, they form an important part of local and regional trade in West Africa. The seeds are especially prized, and much trade occurs locally in the Sahel region where they are transferred between borders.

Uses

Indigenous healers in Africa use different parts of the locust bean tree for health benefits. In a survey conducted on healers in Togo, Parkia biglobosa was one of the highest cited plants used for treating hypertension. The tree was also one of two plants “listed as having real wound-healing properties in South-Western Nigeria, influencing the proliferation of dermal fibroblasts significantly.” In a similar survey conducted in Guinea relating to their use of antimalarial plants, ''Parkia biglobosa'' was cited among those most often successfully used. In an analysis on the antibacterial properties of the plant, another study found that “these properties compare favourably with those of streptomycin, making it a potential source of compounds used in the management of bacterial infections.”

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Taxonomy
KingdomPlantae
DivisionAngiosperms
ClassEudicots
OrderFabales
FamilyFabaceae
GenusParkia
SpeciesP. biglobosa
Photographed in
Mali