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This species is accepted, and its native range is Guinea to Liberia.


Cheek, M. & Haba, P. 2016. Spiny African Allophylus (Sapindaceae): a synopsis. Kew Bulletin 71: 57. DOI 10.1007/S12225-016-9672-3


We here assess Allophylus samoritourei as Endangered under Criterion D of IUCN (2012), because 180 (less than the threshold of 250) mature individuals are known from targeted searching of all known surviving habitat within the known range of the species, principally by the second author, but also by P. K. Haba and the first author. As data on loss of trees is accumulated, it is anticipated that this species will be assessed as Critically Endangered under Criterion C2, since with a life-cycle anticipated of 100 years, it is expected that losses of more than 25% of mature trees will be registered within this window. However it cannot be ruled out that additional pockets of surviving habitat, previously overlooked, will be found of this species, and/or that a range extension of this species, such as into neighbouring Sierra Leone, might increase the number of known mature individuals above the threshold number of 250, and so result in a reduction of threat assessment.

Although trees can survive initial forest clearance for agriculture, over years they succumb to ringbarking by farmers. Allophylus samoritourei, although known from multiple locations in Guinée-Forestiere, and one in Liberia, faces many and extensive threats at every single known location. Specific searches for the species over many months during three years mainly by the second author, have resulted in the collection of the following data: all six trees found near the villages of Galaye and Beregna are threatened by imminent plantations of coffee (Coffea canephora Pierre ex A. Froehner) as is another tree at Beméya near Yamou (P. M. Haba pers. obs. 2013). At Mt Bero, 5 trees were cleared in 2014 (P. M. Haba pers. obs.) during a road widening and upgrading scheme (the Beyla-Nzerekoré national highway). At Mt Nimba, expected iron ore mining and infrastructure by SMFG project poses a threat to this species (P. K. Haba and M. Cheek pers. obs. 2014). At its other locations, A. samoritourei is threatened with clearance of its habitat for plantations of cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) and cola (Cola nitida L.), these being, in Guinée, near the village of Pilimou (4 trees), at Zoué (ten trees), and inside the Fôret Classée of Diecké where 150 trees at two sites have been seen (P. M. Haba pers. obs. 2013 – 2015). Juvenile trees seen at the Fôret Classés of Ziama and Pic de Fon are also at risk of clearance due to illegal farming (Cheek pers. obs. 2008 – 2015) and also at the last (Cheek pers. obs. 2015), artisanal gold mining activities. The only protection that this species has is through small incentive payments made by the second author to farmers on whose land the trees grow during his tree monitoring visits. These payments are made on the understanding that if the trees are not present on the next visit, no more payments will be forthcoming.
Guinea-Conakry, Guinée-Forestiere Province. Liberia, Mt Nimba.
Evergreen submontane, less usually lowland forest; (350 –) 585 – 1200 m asl.
Morphology General Habit
Monoecious evergreen tree 16 – 18 m tall, trunk cylindric, 16 – 25 cm diam. at 1.5 m above the ground; basal 30 – 50 cm of trunk with c. 6 fluted buttresses each projecting c. 20 cm from the trunk (Fig. 1B); trunk surface, grey, smooth, matt; slash medium yellow (outer), pale yellow (inner); wood extremely hard
Morphology General Spines
Spines extra-axillary 0.6 – 1 cm long, 0.2 cm wide at the base, present on lower parts of leafy stems, 0.4 cm or more in diam., and branches subtending them (Fig. 1C); epidermis dull grey with raised, elliptic, grey-white lenticels 0.5 – 1 mm long (Fig. 1D); leafy-internodes of flowering stems (0.6 –)1.8 – 2.4 cm long, 2 – 3 mm diam., epidermis grey-brown, longitudinally ridged (drying artefact?), lenticels white, longitudinally elliptic 0.3 – 0.8 mm long, epidermis densely minutely puberulent, hairs simple, patent, grey 0.04 – 0.075 mm long (Fig. 1E & F)
Morphology Leaves
Leaves alternate, papery, trifoliolate, drying dark green above, pale green below; leaflets usually more or less identical in shape and size, elliptic, (4.5 –) 5 – 10 × (2 –) 2.6 – 3.8 (– 4.7) cm, rarely the terminal leaflet oblanceolate and up to twice as large as the laterals; apex shortly acuminate, acumen 4 – 5 mm long, or acute, base acute, symmetric (rarely asymmetric), margin minutely (0.6 – 0.9 mm wide) indurated, serrate-crenate, teeth (3 –) 4 – 10 per side, 0.3 – 2 cm apart, sinuses 0.5 – 1 mm deep, becoming more widely spread towards the petiole, terminating in a subulate mucro 0.2 mm long; secondary nerves 5 – 8 per side, each terminating in a marginal mucro (Fig. 1H), tertiary and quaternary nerves visible on both adaxial and abaxial surfaces; abaxial surface with midrib moderately puberulent, 20 – 40% covered in 0.1 – 0.2 mm long erect hairs, secondary nerves and margin more sparsely hairy, domatia c. 1 mm diam., conspicuous, densely hairy, hairs 0.3 – 0.4 (– 0.5) mm long, in axils of secondary nerves and midrib (Fig. 1J), adaxial surface glabrous; petiolules of terminal leaflets (5 –) 8 – 11 mm long, those of lateral leaflets 4 – 8 mm long; petioles (2.2 –) 3 – 3.8 cm long, glabrous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Male flowers: buds near anthesis 1.75 mm diam., flowers at anthesis green Female flowers: similar to male flowers in dimensions and structures, except staminal filaments 0.8 mm long, more densely hairy; ovary bilobed, 0.5 × 1 mm; style stout, cylindric, erect, 1.2 – 1.4 × 0.3 – 0.4 mm, sparsely appressed-hairy, hairs 0.2 – 0.3 mm long; stigmas 2, curved, 0.4 – 0.7 mm long, long-papillate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 8, long-exserted, filaments 1.5 mm long, moderately densely pubescent with patent hairs 0.2 – 0.3 mm long; anther 0.3 × 0.3 mm
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Outer sepals 2, elliptic, concave, 1.3 – 1.4 × 1 mm, outer surface moderately puberulent, indumentum as abaxial leaflet midrib, inner surface glabrous; inner sepals 2, transversely oblong-elliptic, concave, c. 1 × 1.5 cm, with c. 6 parallel longitudinal nerves (Fig. 1N) indumentum as outer sepal, excepting the glabrous distal outer surface
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 4, slightly exserted at anthesis, ± clawed, 0.9 – 1.1 × 0.8 – 0.9 mm, the blade irregularly transversely elliptic c. 0.6 × 0.8 mm, the claw c. 0.6 × 0.2 mm; adaxial surface with a deeply bifid ligule, the lobes each c. 0.1 × 0.3 mm, long hairy, the hairs 0.1 – 0.2 mm long, spreading, otherwise glabrous, the margins, especially those of the claw, also hairy, also the abaxial surface in a transverse line dividing the blade and claw
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Disc
Disc lobes 4, obovoid, fleshy, dorsiventrally compressed, 0.6 × 0.6 mm, apex retuse; glabrous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Gynandrophore inconspicuous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Pistillodes
Pistillode subglobose 0.3 × 0.5 mm, densely appressed hairy, hairs simple straight, appressed, 0.2 mm long; vestigial style-stigmas 2, appressed, stout, erect 0.2 – 0.3 mm long, papillate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruits ripening orange-red (from photos by P M Haba) Fruit (immature) stipe (gynandrophore) accrescent, 0.25 – 0.5 mm long, mericarps 1, rarely (c. 1 in 20) 2 developing to maturity, each obovoid 2.5 × 2 mm, sparsely appressed hairy (5 – 10% of surface), hairs 0.2 – 0.3 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences 2 – 4 per leafy stem, axillary, 7 – 10.5 cm long, indumentum as abaxial leaflet midrib but 90% cover; peduncle 3 – 4.5 cm long, primary branches 1 – 3 from base of the rhachis, each 2.5 – 3.5 cm long, ascending; bracts patent, narrowly triangular, c. 1.25 × 0.5 mm, persistent; partial-peduncles 0.5 mm long, rachis largely concealed by cymules, cymules 2 – 3 (– 4)-flowered, c. 2 mm long, bracteoles narrowly triangular, 0.3 – 0.5 mm long; pedicels 0.8 mm long, hairs simple, appressed, 0.2 – 0.3 mm long
Allophylus samoritourei is among a host of new species that have been brought to light and published from Guinea-Conakry in the last six years, following decades of relative inactivity in plant species discovery in that country and its neighbours. Examples of such newly discovered species in Guinea are: Xysmalobium samoritourei Goyder (2009), Gymnosiphon samoritoureanus Cheek (Cheek & van der Burgt (2010), Eriosema triformum Burgt (van der Burgt et al. 2012), Brachystephanus oreacanthus Champl. (Champluvier & Darbyshire 2009), Striga magnibracteata Eb. Fisch. & I. Darbysh. (Fischer et al. 2011), Eriocaulon cryptocephalum S. M. Phillips & Mesterházy (2015) Napoleonea alata Jongkind (Prance & Jongkind 2015) and Psychotria samoritourei Cheek (Cheek & Williams 2016). Just over the border in Mali, Calophyllum africanum Cheek & Luke (2016) was recently found, and in Ivory Coast Macropodiella cussetiana Cheek (Cheek & Ameka 2016). Even a new genus, Karima Cheek & Riina has come to light (Cheek et al. 2016). The scientific name signifies “Samori Touré’s Allophylus” (Allophylus de Samori Touré). It is named for the West African founder of the Wassoulou empire, partly the basis for modern Guinea (c. 1830 – 1900). He resisted colonial occupation in the nineteenth century for several decades before being captured. He died in exile in Libreville (Wikipedia contributors 2006). It is particularly apposite that this species is named for a resistance fighter since among the West African (Upper Guinea in the sense of White 1983) species of its genus, A. samoritourei is unique in being armed (with spines). Differs from Allophylus hamatus Hauman in being a tree 16 – 18 m tall of terra firma (not a liana to 5 m tall of swamps), the leaves with conspicuous domatia (vs none), the fruits being sessile (not stipitate). Within Upper Guinea (sensu White 1983), this species can easily be recognised even when only 1 – 2 m tall since it is the only Allophylus with spiny stems. The fruits of Allophylus samoritourei are consumed (Pepe Haba pers. obs. 18 May 2013 at Pilimou, Guinea) by firstly, the Raphia Bulbul (Bulbul des Raphias), Tesselocichla leucopleura, and secondly, by the Policeman Bird (Oiseaux Gendarmes), Ploccus cocullatus. Over the course of a day, swarms of birds would arrive, feed for 1 – 5 minutes, fly away, and be replaced by another swarm of birds. Finally, fallen fruits are consumed (but probably not dispersed) by mice, Mus musculus. Seeds left out to dry on the ground overnight were nearly all destroyed.
Type: Guinea-Conakry, Guinée-Forestiere, Diéké Forest Reserve, Pepe Haba 403 (holotype HNG; isotype K!).
KOON (Kpèlè language), meaning 'hard', since the wood is so hard that, in clearing forest for agriculture, this tree is not cut (“You can spend a whole day cutting this tree and get nowhere”).

The bark of this tree is used for treating fevers and epilepsy. Both leaves and fruit have a peppery scent when crushed (Pépé Haba pers. obs. 2012; P. M. Haba 389).

Native to:

Guinea, Liberia

Allophylus samoritourei Cheek appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Kew Bull. 71(4)-57: 4 (2016)

Accepted by

  • Govaerts, R., Nic Lughadha, E., Black, N., Turner, R. & Paton, A. (2021). The World Checklist of Vascular Plants, a continuously updated resource for exploring global plant diversity. Scientific Data 8: 215.


Kew Bulletin

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The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

Kew Bulletin
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Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.