Millettia stuhlmannii

Family: Fabaceae (Papilionoideae)

Millettia stuhlmannii is one of 10 hardwood timber species – including Mpingo – that are managed and traded by the rural communities MCDI support in south-eastern Tanzania. The Swahili name for this tree is mpangapanga and it is also called mnyamawezi in the Kilwa area. Beware that several other quite different species are known as mpangapanga, including the highly distinctive Euphorbia candelabrum, which resembles a cactus.

The Tree

Millettia stuhlmannii is a very distinctive, quite common tree that has thin, papery white bark over a tall, straight unbranched trunk. Older trees sometimes coppice, producing several stems from the ground (called suckers) in a clump near the original stem; the tree can also regenerate by sending up more distant suckers from the roots. Sometimes M. stuhlmannii forms pure patches of just this species (monospecific stands), but is more usually found with species such as Sterculia.

At the start of the rains M. stuhlmannii produces prominent purple pea-like flowers (it is closely related to peas and flowers this shape are characteristic of the sub-family). Its leaves, which are made up of an odd number of leaflets, emerge before the flowers. In the dry season the tree is bare, apart from a few long, flat, tan seed pods from the previous growing season. These attain a length of over 30cm and contain large flattened seeds.

Ecology & Distribution

Millettia stuhlmannii is restricted to southern Tanzania, eastern Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The tree occurs in deciduous woodland up to 900 m altitude and develops best in high-rainfall and riverine forest. It is locally dominant and sometimes forms pure patches of just this species (monospecific stands), although it is more usually found with species such as Sterculia.

Timber

The dark brown, durable timber of M. stuhlmannii is harvested from Kilwa District for export as a flooring material.

Physical & Woodworking Properties
Density (kg/m3)High (881)MachiningModerate
Hardness (Kgf)Moderate (739)Response to hand toolsModerate
Bending strength (kg/cm3)High (1,033)PlaningGood
DurabilityModerateTurningGood
GrainStraightResistance to splittingPoor
TextureFine-mediumResistance to impregnationModerate


Other similar timbers

M. stuhlmannii is similar to wenge, doussie and bubinga in terms of density, hardness and stability. Whilst the timber is as dense as Macassar ebony, and has similar machining qualities and stability, it is significantly less hard. Wenge is used as an alternative in trade, despite M. stuhlmannii being easier to machine and slightly less durable.

Uses

Timber

Millettia stuhlmannii is a well known timber that is sold internationally to make flooring, furniture and musical instruments. Although one of the most important export timbers in Mozambique, because a large proportion of the trade is unregistered, specific volumes are unknown. The dark brown durable timber is now being harvested from Kilwa District for export as a flooring material. China is the primary importer, where processed wood (mainly for flooring) is used domestically and re-exported to markets in the West.

Other uses

Rural farmers in south-eastern Tanzania use M. stuhlmannii as a live fence to mark their home compounds; they plant a cut pole in the soil during the rainy season which later grows roots and branches.