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This species is accepted, and its native range is Cameroon to Central African Republic.


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


The lack of collection in recent years is considered due to lack of botanical survey rather than to the loss of the species. Significant areas of suitable habitat seem to survive within the known range of the species. Allophylus bertoua is here assessed as Vulnerable, VU B2ab(iii) using the criteria of IUCN (2012) in view of the numbers of locations and threats stated, and an area of occupancy estimated as 44 km2 Currently there is no evidence that this species occurs in any protected area, and a public awareness campaign is suggested in order to alert the public to the existence of this species and support its survival. Should the range of this species be extended to the Central African Republic (see Notes below), then it is possible that the species will be reassessed as Near Threatened in future.

This species is known from 11 specimens at 6 locations centred around Bertoua all collected between 1955 and 1966. At about three of the locations nearest to Bertoua, agricultural fields cleared (visible on Google Earth imagery viewed 9 April 2016) since the species was last seen c. 50 years ago, may have resulted in local extinction. However currently at three locations, levels of threat appear low.
Endemic to East Region, Cameroon. Possibly in Central African Republic (see notes below).
In swamps or in gallery forest and woodland along the edges of rivers; 500 – 650 m asl.
Morphology General Habit
Monoecious evergreen shrub or tree 3 – 6 m tall, with ball-shaped crown (Letouzey 1597)
Morphology General Spines
Spines 1.5 – 2 cm long, present on stems 6 – 8 mm diam., inserted c. 2 cm above the leaf axils (fide Breteler 2853)
Morphology Leaves
Leaves alternate, leaflets papery, drying black on adaxial surface, abaxial surface dark orange-yellow, median and lateral leaflets usually more or less equal in shape and size, elliptic, 8.2 – 12 × 4.1 – 5 (– 5.8) cm, sometimes the terminal leaflet obovate and up to 30% larger than the lateral leaflets; apex acute or shortly acuminate, acumen 0.2 – 0.8 cm long, base acute, lateral leaflets markedly asymmetric, margin serrate, not conspicuously indurated, teeth 6 – 8 (– 9) per side, with a mucro, sinuses c. 2 mm deep, 0.6 – 1.1 cm apart, more widely spaced towards petiolule; secondary nerves 6 – 7 per side, each terminating in a marginal tooth, tertiary & quaternary nerves conspicuous on both adaxial and abaxial surfaces; domatia absent; midrib, margins and secondary nerves very sparsely hairy (2 – 5% cover) with simple straight hairs 0.15 – 0.2 (– 0.25) mm long, adaxial surface of midrib 10 – 20% covered in simple hairs 0.15 mm long, the blade otherwise subglabrous; petiolules of terminal leaflets 0.4 – 0.7 cm long, those of lateral leaflets 0.3 – 0.4 cm long, glabrous
Morphology Leaves Petiole
Petioles 4.9 – 9 × 0.11 – 0.2 cm, glossy, midbrown, plano-convex in transverse section, the flattened adaxial surface 10 – 20% covered in hairs as in the adaxial leaflet midrib, otherwise glabrous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Male flower as the female, but staminal filaments 1.75 mm long; pistillode globose to subcylindrical 0.2 × 0.3 mm, sparsely hairy; stigmas vestigial, arms appressed together 0.05 mm long Female flower: buds near anthesis 1.5 – 1.6 mm diam., flowers at anthesis c. 2 mm diam. Outer sepals 2, elliptic, concave, c. 1.3 × 0.8 mm, outer surface subglabrous with 10 – 25 simple hairs 0.15 – 0.25 mm long in proximal half; marginal hairs 0.05 – 0.08 mm long, patent; inner surface glabrous; inner sepals 2 orbicular to suborbicular, concave, 1.5 × 1.5 – 2 mm, outer and inner surface glabrous; marginal hairs as outer sepals
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 8, included, filaments 0.7 mm long, glabrous; anther 0.5 × 0.5 mm
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 4 obovate, margin irregularly lobed, 0.9 – 1.2 × 0.7 – 0.8 mm, claw not conspicuous; adaxial surface with a deeply bifid ligule, the 2 lobes rounded-equilaterally triangular, 0.25 × 0.3 mm, the apices of the lobes long hairy, the hairs erect, simple, 0.2 – 0.5 mm long, also present in a transverse, equatorial line immediately below the insertion of the ligule, otherwise glabrous; abaxial surface and margin glabrous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Disc
Disc lobes 4, obovoid, fleshy, dorsiventrally compressed, 0.4 × 0.6 mm, apices truncate-retuse, glabrous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
Gynandrophore accrescent, 1.1 × 0.25 mm Gynandrophore 0.2 × 0.3 mm, glabrous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Carpels
Aborted carpel globose, c. 0.25 mm diam. Fig. 3.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary bilobed, c. 7 × 6 mm, glabrous apart from 15 – 25 scattered simple erect hairs 0.2 mm long; style stout, 1 × 0.3 mm, glabrous; stigma shortly exserted, bifid, each arm 0.25 – 0.35 mm, diverging, papillate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit shining, orange-red, 10 × 9 × 8 mm when live (Breteler 1203) when dried obovoid, 7 × 5 mm, glabrous, apart from 10 – 20 very sparse, simple hairs c. 1 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences axillary, single (rarely paired), (3 –) 6 or more per leafy stem, indumentum moderately densely puberulent, 10 – 20% covered in simple hairs 0.15 – 0.25 mm long, spreading, peduncle 3.5 – 6.5 cm long, primary branches (2 –) 4 – 7 from the basal 1 – 2 cm of the rachis, each (1.2 –) 2.8 – 4 cm long, spreading; bracts inserted 2 mm below the branches, narrowly triangular, 0.9 – 1.5 × 0.3 – 0.5 mm, midbrown, sparsely hairy; partial-peduncles (2 –) 3 – 8 (– 11) mm long, rachis completely concealed by numerous cymules, cymules (2 –) 4 – 6-flowered, c. 3 mm long, bracteoles resembling bracts, c. 1 × 0.3 mm; pedicels 1 – 1.5 mm long, articulated at the base, drying black, c. 50% covered in bright white robust, acute hairs 0.15 – 0.2 mm long
Morphology Stem
Leafy stems with internodes 2 – 4.3 cm long, 3 – 4 mm diam., epidermis grey to black, finely longitudinally ridged, lenticels linear, 0.4 – 2.5 mm long, dull white to pale brown, slightly raised, epidermis sparsely, minutely puberulent, hairs simple, patent, 0.1 mm long, glabrescent (Fig. 3B)
Avea-zok in Bobili (Fouilloy & Hallé 1973: 42, 201). Named as a noun in apposition for the town of Bertoua, capital of E Region, Cameroon, since on current evidence the species is globally unique to the surviving natural habitat within a radius of up to 110 km around this settlement. Similar to Allophylus samoritourei Cheek, but shrubs or trees 3 – 5 m tall in lowland swamp or gallery forest (not 16 – 18 m tall trees, of well-drained, predominantly submontane forest); leaves without domatia, lower surface of midrib with 2 – 5% cover of hairs 0.15 – 0.2 mm long (not with domatia, lower midrib surface puberulent, with c. 40% cover of hairs 0.1 – 0.2 mm long). In the final stages of completing this paper, references were found to “Allophylus hamatus” in the Central African Republic (CAR), which may be referable to A. bertoua. Fay 6362 and 6460 (both MO, WAG image!), collected respectively on 10 Jan. and 20 March 1984, both from the Manovo-Gounda-St. Floris National Park (8°22′N, 21°19′E), are situated in the NE quadrant of CAR, far from the Cameroonian locations of A. bertoua. Yet since they are recorded as being trees 10 cm diameter at breast height, in flower at only 4 m tall, growing along a river, and having a spiny stem, it is perfectly possible that they represent A. bertoua, if not a further undescribed species. Both appear on the Naturalis website (, but image resolution is insufficient to positively identify the species. A further specimen from CAR, which has been identified as being A. hamatus and therefore may represent A. bertoua, is D. Harris 1039 (MO data), from Dzanga-Zanga (in the southern extension) of CAR that contains evergreen forest. However, spines are not mentioned in the notes, and other Allophylus specimens from this collector at this location have proved to be misidentified (Cheek & Etuge 2009). Loans have been sought of all three specimens in order to resolve identification, but may take some months before they are available for study. Specimens cited above which have not been seen by the authors were taken from Fouilloy & Hallé (1973).
Type: Cameroon, Nguelemendouka, près Nanga-Eboko, fl. 11 April 1959, Letouzey 1597 (holotype K!; isotypes P, WAG 0295726 image!, 1369953 image!, YA).

The uses, if any, are unknown or not recorded.

Native to:

Cameroon, Central African Repu

Allophylus bertoua Cheek appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Kew Bull. 71(4)-57: 7 (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.


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© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

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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.