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Guild: pi

Life form: large tree

Max. height: 45 m (Voorhoeve 1965)

Max. diameter: 124 cm (inventory data Ghana)

Leaf: alternate in tufts at the end of branchlets, simple, obovate, notophyll (2.5-4.5 x 5-10 cm), entire, coriaceous

Inflorescence: axillary, not branched (7-9 cm long)

Flower: small; corolla pale yellow

Fruit: dry indehiscent, winged (1.8 x 6 cm), densely puberulous, bright brown; 1 seed

Other: it has a black bark and a graceful, spreading crown of whorled boughs and clustered leaves.

Lower branches "self-clean", leaving a clear bole even in open conditions. The base of older trees has high, but small buttresses, merging into slight flutes. Wood density is 0.53 g/cm3.


Continent: Benin to Cameroon (Voorhoeve 1965) Upper Guinea: Guinea to Togo (Voorhoeve 1965) Forest type: evergreen forest, moist semi-deciduous forest, secondary forest (Voorhoeve 1965). A Red List species (Vulnerable).


It is a strong light demander, prefers moist conditions and is often found near streams and seasonal swamps (Taylor 1960). Its abundance increases with altitude and decreases with soil fertility (regression analysis). The species showed no preference for wet or dry (base-poor or baserich) forest soils, and was not especially drought-sensitive (Swaine & Veenendaal 1994).


There is no difference between germination in the light and in the dark, and germination is equally successful in large gaps (Kyereh 1994). There is some dormancy that can be overcome partly by soaking (Jones 1968, 1969), probably due to Coumar/n-like inhibitors in the fruit (Okoro et al. 1977). Fruit maturation also influences the germination characteristics (Corbineau & Come 1993). It has a phanerocotylar epigeal seedling reserve type (De la Mensbruge 1966). Seedlings are susceptible to drought (Sawyerr 1960, but see Veenendaal & Swaine 1998). Seedlings from larger seeds grow faster than those from small seeds (Oni & Bada 1992). The red/far-red ratio strongly affects the form and leaf area of developing seedlings (Kwesiga & Grace 1986).


Seedlings shows a strong growth response over the lowest part of the irradiance gradient (from 2-10%), whereafter it remains constant (Swaine et al. 1997). It grows rapidly in medium-sized to large gaps, with trees reaching 17 m (25 cm dbh) in 8 years, or 32 cm dbh in 14 years in taungya plantations (Taylor 1960). Lamb and Ntima (1970) recorded 22 year old trees of 36.5 m (76 cm dbh). Horne (1962) recorded annual dbh increments of 1.5 to 2.5 cm in moist forest in Nigeria, and anticipated trees of 90 cm dbh in 50 years. Early optimism in the potential of this species for plantation has been dampened by frequent die-back in monospecific stands. It has been well-used in Ghana for taungya and other plantation, but in the mid 1960s these plantations suffered widespread die-back in 30 year old plantations (Annin Bonsu 1968, Ofusu-Asiedu & Cannon 1976).


Deciduousness: deciduous (Voorhoeve 1965) Dispersal: by wind (Voorhoeve 1965) Timing: flowering period from May to June; fruiting period from December to January (Voorhoeve 1965). Trees carry ripe fruits towards the end of the dry season, with flowers and new leaves appearing around the start of the rainy season. Flowering in Nigeria is significantly correlated with rainfall, temperature and humidity. Fruits are produced in large quantities (Taylor 1960). Fruit failure, and production of unripe fruits are important factors behind poor regeneration. Natural abscission accounted for half of all fruit abortion, with fungal and insect attack accounting for the other half, in a plantation in Nigeria (Oni 1990).


It is a timber species (Voorhoeve 1965).

Data sources

Sawyerr (1960), Taylor (1960), Horne (1962), Voorhoeve (1965), De la Mensbruge (1966), Annin Bonsu (1968), Jones (1968, 1969), Lamb & Ntima (1970), Ofosu-Asiedu & Cannon (1976), Okoro et al. (1977), Hall & Swaine (1981), Kwesiga & Grace (1986), Oni (1990), Akindele & Owoeye (1991), Oni & Bada (1992), Corbineau & Come (1993), Kyereh et al. (1993), Kyereh (1994), Swaine & Veenendaal (1994), Hawthorne (1995a), Veenendaal & Swaine (1998), Swaine et al. (1997), IUCN Red List (2000)

Terminalia superba Engl. & Diels

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