Guide to plants of northern and east-central Mali

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Fabaceae (=Leguminosae )

subdivided into Faboideae (= Papilionoideae), Mimosoideae, Caesalpinioideae

these were formerly families: Papilionaceae, Mimosaceae, Caesalpinaceae

of these, Caesalpinioideae is the most problematic genetically (perhaps paraphyletic)

characters: always have stipules, leaves usually alternate and compound, leaflet margin normally entire, flowers with 5 petals; pods usually dehiscent (open along a seam)



tribes: Cassieae, Caesalpinieae, Deteriae; the Cercideae are thought to be sisters to the others

characters: flowers are usually zygomorphic but highly variable, petals are normally the showy parts
Cassia (see also Senna, Chamaecrista): yellow flowers, alternate paripennate leaves, leaflets opposite

Cassia absus 50268 (syn Chamaecrista absus)

records: Sanga, Koulikoro, Bamako (Boudet); Tupere, Beni, Walo, Kikara, Boro, but not as widely known to Dogon as other Cassia spp. (JH)

habitat: gardens

notes: annual herb to 60 cm; stem bends at leaf axils (cf. Faidherbia); leaves 4-6 cm long with 2 pairs of oval leaflets 2-4 cm long, upper pair more developed, pubescent on both sides; petiole 3-5 cm before first pair of leaves; paired linear stipules; yellow flowers do not open fully, red on back, on terminal raceme or opposite a leaf; flat thin pod 4-5 cm x 6-7 mm covered with short erect hairs, with 6-8 shiny black seeds

Cassia italica subsp. italica 50269 (syn Senna italica)

records: Sanga, Kanioume, Adrar, Timbktu (Boudet); Niafounke, Walo, Boui, particularly common as bushy weed in millet fields in sandy plains from Mondoro south (JH)

habitat: dry areas

notes: annual or biennial herb 30-50 cm;leaves 7-12 cm with 5-6 pairs of glabrous obovate leaflets 1.5-3 cm x 1-1.7 cm 1.5-3 cm x 1-1.7 cm, base disymmetric, tip broadly rounded and mucronate; petiole 1.2-1.5 cm before first pair of leaves; paired oval-acuminate stipules; yellow flowers in terminal racemes; broad, arc-ed pod, 4-5 cm x 1.2-1.3 cm, about 12 seeds, separated by transverse wrinkles in pod

ethnobotany: pods medicinal, sold in markets (hence known outside of its range as a plant)

native name: known in some areas as Fulfulde debba-lobbo ‘pretty woman’ (but see C. occidentalis)
Cassia mimosoides 50270 (syn Chamaecrista mimosoides, thus in UPWTA2) (slender straight stem superficially resembles Sesbania and Aeschynomene spp.)

records: Nioro, Niono, Gao, Bamako, Bandiagara (Boudet); Hombori, Boni, Kikara, Douentza, Beni (abundant), Anda, plains near Segue (JH)

habitat: moist areas, overgrazed pastures (Boudet); common weed in and beside millet fields in sandy plains (JH)

notes: annual herb 30-70 cm or more, leaf 4-7 cm long with 25-40 pairs of tiny thin acacia-like subsessile leaflets declining in length from base to tip; 1-3 yellow flowers above leaf axils; flat pubescent pods 4-5 cm x 4-5 mm with 12-25 yellowish seeds

Cassia nigricans 50271

records: Gao, Bamako, Menaka, Sanga (Boudet); Tin Hamma north of Gao, Beni, Pergue, Djenne (JH)

habitat: wet sandy areas

notes: annual herb 30-80 cm, dark green leaf 7-10 cm long with 10-20 pairs of leaflets, each leaflet oblong 1.5-2.4 cm x 3-5 mm, with disymmetric base, mucronate tip (cf. Sesbania spp.); leaves follow the sun; open yellow flowers in fascicles of 2-4 just below leaf base; sessile pods 2.5 cm long, facing upward along stems, finely pubescent, in bunches of 2-4

Cassia obtusifolia 50272 (syn Senna obtusifolia [thus UPWTA2], Cassia tora [thus Berhaut])

records: Gossi, Niono, Sanga, Adrar, Sikasso, Bamako (Boudet); ubiquitous in central Mali (JH)

habitat: wet sands, overgrazed or trodden areas (Boudet); forms dense stands, extremely common along roads and beside fields (JH)

notes: annual to 1-3 m; leaf 5-15 cm long with 3 pairs of obovate leaflets 2-6 cm x 1.5-3 cm with widest part not far from upper tip, leaflets increasing in size toward summit of leaf, tips rounded; paired stipules; flowers in short bunch at axil of leaves, corolla open; long thin arc-ed pod 10-15 cm x 0.5 cm (when dry, otherwise wider and straighter) (cf. Sesbania spp.), acuminate tip

ethnobotany: eaten with millet grain, this combination sold in markets, well known as Fulfulde uulo.

Cassia occidentalis 50273 (syn Senna occidentalis)

records: Macina, Niafounke, Bandiagara, Timbuktu (Boudet); Kikara, Douentza, Anda, Boui, Bendiely (planted), Goumbol (JH)

habitat: gardens, disturbed areas (Boudet); sometimes planted in gardens for medicinal use (JH)

notes: annual or semi-perennial herb 0.5-1 m or more, leaf 10-25 cm with 3-5 pairs of oval-elliptical leaflets 3-8 cm x 1.5-4 cm, disymmetric base, acuminate tip, increasing in size toward tip; petiole 2-4 cm before first pair of leaves; open flower; long slightly curved pod 10-15 cm x 7-8 mm (cf. Sesbania spp.) with obtuse tip, 30-50 seeds

taxonomy: may have the same native name as nonligneous Sesbania spp. (i.e. not Sesbania sesban) which have similar habitat, habit, and pods

Cassia senna (Saharan)

records: Adrar, Tabankort, Kidal-Gao (Boudet)

ethnobotany: good pasture for camels

Cassia siamea 50274 (syn Senna siamea) (planted)

records: Sevare, Segou, Bamako (JH)

notes: non-native tall ornamental tree 5-10 m, planted in well-watered areas in towns; leaves to 35 cm or more with 8-13 pairs of oblong leaflets becoming glabrous and shiny; flowers in terminal bunch

Cassia sieberiana 50275

records: Bamako, Sanga (Boudet); Adia, Kubewel, Kikara, Tongo Tongo, locally common in northern Dogon country, e.g. abundant along highway halfway from Douentza to Sevare, and on the plateau between Borko and Tongo Tongo (JH)

habitat: gravel, colluvia

notes: tree up to 20 m but often smaller; leaf 20-30 cm with 6-10 pairs of leaflets of equal size; rarely there is a terminal leaflet; 15-25 lateral nerves; petiole 3-4 cm before first leaf, thickened at base; gold-yellow flowers 25-40 cm in hanging bunches (giving the tree a conspicuous yellow look even from a distance); fruit is long brown-black woody cylindrical pod 40-60 cm x 1.5 cm

Cassia tora (misapplied term, see C. obtusifolia)

Chamaecrista absus (see Cassia absus)

Chamaecrista mimosoides (see Cassia mimosoides)

Chamaecrista nigricans (see Cassia nigricans)

Senna italica (see Cassia italica)

Senna obtusifolia (see Cassia obtusifolia)

Senna occidentalis (see Cassia occidentalis)

Senna siamea (see Cassia siamea)
Caesalpinieae (also Delonix)

Burkea africana

records: southern Mali (Boudet)

notes: tree


Erythrophleum africanum

records: rare in southern Mali (Boudet)

Erythrophleum suaveolens

records: southern Mali (Boudet)
Parkinsonia (=Cercidium)

Parkinsonia aculeata 50280 (planted)

habit: small tree with widely spreading branches

records: Sikasso, Mopti, Dire; widely planted in and around towns (JH)

Detariae (also Cynometra, Isoberlinea)
Afzelia [trees often used for lumber]

Afzelia africana

records: southern Mali, occasionally farther north in ravines etc. (Boudet)

notes: tree


Daniellia oliveri 50277

records: Yanfolila, Sanga, Ouarsada (Boudet); Kikara (rare), Anda, Songho, Yanda, Segue, an impressive grove between Bamba and Yendouma in well-watered valleys between hills; rare around Douentza and absent from Boni-Hombori area (JH)

habitat: gravel and colluvia, riverbanks, fields

notes: very large tree to 15-20 m tall with massive trunk to over 1m diameter; alternate paripennate leaves, leaflets opposite

ethnobotany: reddish bark sold in markets (e.g. Douentza) for medicinal use, so the species is known beyond its range as a tree


Detarium microcarpum 50278

records: Sanga, Yanfolila, Fana (Boudet); Walo, Anda, Songho (JH)

habitat: colluvia

notes: tree to 9 m, twisted trunk, widely spreading crooked branches, leaves with alternate leaflets

ethnobotany: primary source of a fruit sold in markets with large, hardy pit (often seen on streets), called konkooje in Fulfulde

Detarium senegalense 50279

records: Bandiagara (Boudet); Walo (JH)


notes: tree to 20 m, straight cylindrical trunk, leaves with alternate leaflets, crown large, very leafy

ethnobotany: has fruit similar to that of D. microcarpus, some forms have edible fruit, others inedible

native name: "hyena's kola" (Pergue)


Tamarindus indica 50282 (tamarind tree)

records: Sanga, Timbuktu, Bougouni, Djenne, Segou (Boudet); widespread in central and northern Mali (JH)

ethnobotany: fruits (pods) sold everywhere, used as flavoring for cream of millet, also made into juice (a powerful laxative)

Cercideae (now thought to be a sister to the rest of Caesalpinioideae)

Bauhinea rufescens 50267

records: Timbuktu, Sanga, Gao, Koulouba, Gossi (Boudet); Gao area, Walo, Djenne, Songho, Segue (JH)

habitat: widespread but requires deep water

notes: tree 4-15 m, small alternate bilobate leaves with lobes separated nearly to base (much smaller than Piliostigma) to 2.5 cm long and wide, sharply curling flattened black pods 5-10 cm x 0.8-1 cm, usually bent into a circle or spiral, with 4-10 brilliant oval red-black seeds

Piliostigma reticulatum 50281

records: Sanga, Sotuba, Niono, Gossi, Bamako, Hombori (Boudet); common in Hombori and northern Dogon country, becoming the dominant tree in some parts of the savanna near the cliffs around Bamba/Yanda (JH)

habitat: sandy fields

notes: tree; deeply fissured fibrous bark; distinctive deeply emarginate leaf, long broad flat pod

Piliostigma thonningii

records: Kita, Yanfolila (Boudet); present but rare in northern Mali, much less common than P. reticulata (JH)

habitat: deep soil, riverbanks

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