1. Michelsonia microphylla (Troupin) Hauman

    1. Michelsonia microphylla is a forest tree belonging to the pea and bean family (Leguminosae - or Fabaceae sensu APG (2009)). It is the only species in the genus Michelsonia. Genera comprising a single species are called monospecific.


Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Michelsonia microphylla is a rare, although once locally abundant, tropical African forest tree from the Congo basin.

Michelsonia microphylla is a forest tree belonging to the pea and bean family (Leguminosae - or Fabaceae sensu APG (2009)). It is the only species in the genus Michelsonia. Genera comprising a single species are called monospecific.

Species Profile

Geography and distribution

Michelsonia microphylla is limited to the sub-montane area at the eastern rim of the Congo basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it once formed extensive, single species stands. However, it is now considered to be rare. 

Michelsonia microphylla forest has been recorded as interdigitating (interlocking like the fingers of two clasped hands) with forest dominated by Gilbertiodendron dewevrei, another leguminous tree species. In the hilly terrain where they grow, trees of M. microphyllaoccupy the upper slopes and hilltops, whereas trees of G. dewevreiare found on the lower slopes, particularly in the valley bottoms.


Overview:A forest tree up to 30 m tall, with leaves that bear 10–16 pairs of leaflets.

Flowers:The small flowers are arranged in compound inflorescences (flower-bearing structures). Flowers have five white petals, each about half a centimetre long.

Fruits: The pods (fruits) are woody, flat, broader towards the tip, measure up to about 10 cm long and 7 cm wide and are heavy, sinking in water even when dry. The glossy, brown faces of the pods each have a distinct nerve running lengthways at or just above the midpoint of each face of the pod.

Threats and conservation

Michelsonia microphylla has not been formally assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria.

The distribution described above is based on historical records from collections made almost exclusively in the 1940s and 1950s. During that period there was extensive logging activity in the Congo basin that is thought to have been responsible for a dramatic reduction in the species’ range.

The most recent herbarium collection of Michelsonia microphylla was made in 1972. Attempts to locate individuals in places where they had previously been recorded have so far been unsuccessful.


Reports suggest that historically the timber was considered of good quality and easy to process.

This species at Kew

Pressed and dried specimens of Michelsonia microphylla are held in Kew’s Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment.

Primary forest, mainly on hilltops and slopes, at 650–1,200 m above sea level.
Not formally assessed according to IUCN criteria, but there is concern that the species has become rare.

None known.



Common Names


Michelsonia microphylla (Troupin) Hauman appears in other Kew resources:

Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
Sep 30, 1999 Leonard, A. [1800], Congo, DRC K000622205
Sep 30, 1999 Leonard, A. [3744], Congo, DRC K000622206
Sep 30, 1999 Leonard, A. [1710], Congo, DRC K000622207

First published in Bull. Séances Inst. Roy. Colon. Belge 23: 478 (1952)

Accepted in:

  • [3] (1999) Wageningen Agricultural University Papers 99-4: 1-320
  • [5] Lock, J.M. (1989) Legumes of Africa a check-list . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.


  • [1] Angiosperm Phylogeny Group. An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 161: 105-121.
  • [2] Lewis, G., Schrire, B., Mackinder, B. & Lock, M. (eds.) (2005). Legumes of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • [4] Wieringa, J. J. (1999). Monopetalanthus exit. A systematic study of Aphanocalyx, Bikinia, Icuria, Michelsonia and Tetraberlinia (Leguminosae, Caesalpinoideae). Wageningen Agricultural University Papers 99: 4.
  • [6] White, F. (1983). The vegetation of Africa, a descriptive memoir to accompany the UNESCO/AETFAT/UNSO vegetation map of Africa. UNESCO, Natural Resources Research 20: 1-356.


Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
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World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families(2016). Published on the Internet http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
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