According to Kew Species Profiles[KSP]
Kew Species Profiles
- General Description
A beautiful tree from African mountain forests, hagenia is much-used in local medicine.
An attractive African tree with soft leaves and hanging flower sprays, Hagenia abyssinica also has many uses. The wood is used for carving, carpentry, firewood and charcoal, and the flowers, roots and bark are used for medicinal purposes. An infusion of the flowers is used widely against tapeworms, and in Ethiopia this has been in use for so long that ‘the master has taken his kosso’ is a well-understood excuse meaning ‘he cannot see you’.
- Species Profile
Geography and distribution
Hagenia abyssinica is native to Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi.
It occurs in montane forests, especially in the upper forest region, at 2,300–3,300 m.
On most East African mountains, Hagenia abyssinica is common just below the tree-line (at about 3,000 metres above sea level), where it may form almost pure woodlands.
Overview: A tree up to 25 m tall, often with a crooked bole (unbranched part of the trunk). The bark is reddish brown, fissured and peeling. Trees are either male or female and only rarely are flowers of both sexes found on the same tree.
Leaves:Pinnate (divided like a feather) with 11–16 hairy, toothed leaflets (and sometimes additional, minute leaflets in-between). Each leaf is held on a winged leaf-stalk, measuring 30–40 cm long in total.
Flowers: Male flowers are orange to brown or white with 12–20 stamens (male, pollen-bearing parts); female flowers are red. The flowers do not have petals, and the colour is mostly due to the bracts (modified leaves). Flowers are borne in large, many-flowered, hanging groups, 30–60 cm long and up to 30 cm across.
Fruits: Small and dry, remaining hidden within the dried flower parts.
Threats and conservation
Hagenia is widespread and often common where it occurs, and plant parts are harvested sustainably for many of their uses (rather than, for example, by cutting down the whole tree).
Highly valued by locals for its uses, Hagenia abyssinica is often left standing when forest is cleared.
It has been suggested that hagenia needs fires to regenerate, and it is true that it often occurs in even-aged stands.
An infusion made using dried and pounded female flowers has been used widely against tapeworms. This treatment has been used for centuries in Ethiopia, but its use is now in decline due to availability of reliable alternatives. Health organisations discourage the use of this infusion as the dosage cannot be controlled, and serious side-effects of over-dosage have been reported.
Roots of Hagenia are cooked with meat to produce a soup that is consumed as a treatment for general illness and malaria. The bark has been used in treatments for diarrhoea and stomach ache.
The dark red wood is used for furniture, flooring and carving, but is not durable. An attractive tree, hagenia is sometimes planted as an ornamental.
This species at Kew
Specimens of Hagenia abyssinica flowers, stem, bark and wood are held in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where they are available to researchers by appointment.
- Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia
- Montane forests, forming dominant stands just above the moist forest/bamboo zone.
- Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria. Widespread and common.
Side-effects resulting from consumption of infusions of hagenia flowers have been reported.
According to Flora Zambesiaca[FZ]
Rosaceae, E. J. Mendes. Flora Zambesiaca 4. 1978
- Tree up to 18 m. high, with globose or umbrella-shaped open crown; bark ridged and flaky, red-brown to brown.
- Branchlets densely sericeous-villous with golden antrorse hairs 3–4 mm. long, ringed by the scars of the fallen sheathing leaf-bases; scars at first villous, later glabrescent.
- Leaves imparipinnate, up to 40 cm. long, viscid; leaflets 5–7(8) on each side, usually 12–15 x 3·5–5·5 cm., subopposite, sessile or almost so, narrowly oblong, acuminate at apex, obliquely rounded to subcordate at the base, ± glabrescent above, densely silvery sericeous-villous to glabrescent below; margins finely dentate; main leaflet pairs alternating with 1(3) reduced subcircular ones, the latter with up to 5 teeth or minute and entire; rhachis and petiole with soft patent hairs up to 4 mm. long; petiole up to 15 cm. long; stipules (3)6–9 cm. long, membranous, reddish at first but becoming brown, adnate to petiole throughout almost their whole length.
- Panicles many-flowered, much-branched, terminal, drooping, up to 60 cm. long; female panicles bulkier than the male ones; flowers subtended by 2(3) broadly rounded bracts.
- Male flowers orange-buff to white, c. 8 mm. in diameter; calyx-tube obconical, c. 1·5 mm. long, densely hairy outside; epicalyx-lobes c. 1·5 x 0·5 mm., oblong; calyx-lobes 4–5 x 2·5–3 mm., oblong to obovate, recurved and with the abaxial surface concave, clearly veined; petals 1·5 mm. long, linear, fugacious (? or absent); stamens (8)10–15(20), anthers sparsely hairy; carpels vestigial, enclosed by the receptacle.
- Female and hermaphrodite flowers red, viscid, up to 1·5 cm. in diameter; calyx-tube c. 1 mm. long, obconical, densely hairy outside; epicalyx-lobes c. 1 x 0·4 cm., unequal, oblong-elliptic to obovate with apex obtuse, clearly veined, accrescent in fruit; calyx-lobes c. 3 x 2 mm., broadly ovate-acute with the apex acute, clearly veined; petals not seen (? absent or fugacious); stamens 0, or if present then fewer and smaller than in male flowers; carpels (1)2, apically villous, with styles c. 1·5 mm. long; stigmas 0·75 mm. wide, hairy. Male flowers orange-buff to white, c. 8 mm. in diameter; calyx-tube obconical, c. 1·5 mm. long, densely hairy outside; epicalyx-lobes c. 1·5 x 0·5 mm., oblong; calyx-lobes 4–5 x 2·5–3 mm., oblong to obovate, recurved and with the abaxial surface concave, clearly veined; petals 1·5 mm. long, linear, fugacious (? or absent); stamens (8)10–15(20), anthers sparsely hairy; carpels vestigial, enclosed by the receptacle.
- Female and Hermaphrodite
- Female and hermaphrodite flowers red, viscid, up to 1·5 cm. in diameter; calyx-tube c. 1 mm. long, obconical, densely hairy outside; epicalyx-lobes c. 1 x 0·4 cm., unequal, oblong-elliptic to obovate with apex obtuse, clearly veined, accrescent in fruit; calyx-lobes c. 3 x 2 mm., broadly ovate-acute with the apex acute, clearly veined; petals not seen (? absent or fugacious); stamens 0, or if present then fewer and smaller than in male flowers; carpels (1)2, apically villous, with styles c. 1·5 mm. long; stigmas 0·75 mm. wide, hairy.
- Achenes enclosed within the calyx-tube with its accrescent epicalyx and persistent calyx-lobes; often only one of the achenes developing; pericarp thin, fragile, brown, reticulately rugose.
According to Flora of Tropical East Africa[FTEA]
Rosaceae, R. A. Graham. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1960
- A rather slender tree up to 20 m. tall, with brown or reddish-brown, readily strip-peeling bark.
- Young twigs densely villous with yellow-brown soft ascending hairs 3–4 mm. long, with villous ring-scars of previous petiole-bases.
- Leaves petiolate, viscid, up to 40 cm. long: main leaflets commonly 6–8 on each side, sessile or almost so, narrowly oblong, commonly 12–15 × 3.5–5.2 cm., acuminate, basally rounded to subcordate, finely serrated and villous on the margins, with the primary nerves prominent beneath and the intervening veins reticulate, dark green, usually pubescent above, lighter green, densely villous with soft silvery hairs varying to glabrous beneath; rhachis usually with very small, ± orbicular secondary leaflets, 2–10 mm. long, between the main ones.
- Petioles 12–13 cm. long, winged due to the stipules being adnate for almost their whole length.
- Inflorescence a handsome, much-branched terminal drooping panicle 30–60 × 20–30 cm. at fullest maturity (the ♂ panicles usually relatively narrower), the branches villous, subtended by membranous and caducous leafy bracts; internodes ± zigzag; pedicels viscid; flowers subtended by 2(–3) broadly rounded bracts.
- Male flowers orange-buff to white, ± 7.5 mm. diameter at anthesis; calyx-tube 2–3 mm. long; outer calyx-lobes oblong or ovate to obovate, 1–1.5 × 0.5–0.75 mm., the inner lobes larger, 4–6 × 2.5–3 mm., reflexing and concave on the under side. Female flowers rather viscid, more red, up to 1.75 cm. in diameter; outer calyx-lobes unequal, oblong-linear varying to obovate, 7 × 3.75 to 9 × 5 mm., clearly veined; the inner lobes smaller, broadly ovate, 2.5 × 2 mm. Styles 1.25–1.5 mm. long; stigmas capitate; carpels asymmetrically ovoid, apically villous.
- Male flowers orange-buff to white, ± 7.5 mm. diameter at anthesis; calyx-tube 2–3 mm. long; outer calyx-lobes oblong or ovate to obovate, 1–1.5 × 0.5–0.75 mm., the inner lobes larger, 4–6 × 2.5–3 mm., reflexing and concave on the under side.
- Female flowers rather viscid, more red, up to 1.75 cm. in diameter; outer calyx-lobes unequal, oblong-linear varying to obovate, 7 × 3.75 to 9 × 5 mm., clearly veined; the inner lobes smaller, broadly ovate, 2.5 × 2 mm. Styles 1.25–1.5 mm. long; stigmas capitate; carpels asymmetrically ovoid, apically villous.
- Fig. 5, p. 44.
First published in Syst. Nat. ed. 13[bis]: 613 (1791)
-  Troupin, G. (ed.) (1978) Flora du Rwanda 1: 1-413. Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale.
-  Lewalle, J. (1970) Liste floristique et répartition altitudinale de la flore du Burundi occidental . Université officielle de Bujumbura.
-  (1948-1963) Flore du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi 1-10:
-  Assefa, B., Glatzel, G. & Buchmann, C. (2010). Ethnomedicinal uses of Hagenia abyssinica (Bruce) J.F.Gmel. among rural communities of Ethiopia. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 6: 20.
-  Lange, S., Bussmann, R. W. & Beck, E. (1997). Stand structure and regeneration of the subalpine Hagenia abyssinica forests of Mt. Kenya. Botanica Acta 110: 473–480.
-  Bekele-Tesemma, A., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B. (1993). Useful Trees and Shrubs for Ethiopia: Identification, Propagation and Management for Agricultural and Pastoral Communities. (Technical Handbook No. 5). Regional Soil Conservation Unit/SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya.
-  Woldemariam, T. Z., Linley, P. A. & Fell, A. F. (1990). Phytochemical studies on male and female flowers of Hagenia abyssinica by column chromatography, thin-layer chromatography and high-performance liquid chromatography. Analytical Proceedings 27: 178–179.
-  (1989 publ. 1990) Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 3: 1-659. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps.
-  Jansen, P. C. M. (1981). Spices, Condiments and Medicinal Plants in Ethiopia, their Taxonomy and Agricultural Significance (Agricultural Research Reports 906). Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands.
-  (1978) Flora Zambesiaca 4: 1-658. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
-  Kloos, H., Tekle, A., Yohannes, L., Yosef, A. & Lemma, A. (1978). Preliminary studies of traditional medicinal plants in nineteen markets in Ethiopia: use patterns and public health aspects. Ethiopian Medical Journal 16: 33–43.
-  Graham, R. A. (1960). Rosaceae. In: Flora of Tropical East Africa, ed. O. B. E. Hubbard & E. Milne-Redhead. Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom.
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