Monday, May 20, 2013

Tree Profile: Millettia Ferruginea

Man climbs Millettia ferruginea to check on seed maturity

Exploding pods releasing seeds of fish poison?  This is Millettia ferruginea.  In Ethiopia, people refer to it as birbirra.  Millettia ferruginea is endemic to Ethiopia and Ethiopians have known for some time that its seeds (when crushed and dumped upstream in a river) can stun or kill a lot of fish at one time.  Another interesting fact about Millettia ferruginea is that when its seed pods have dried, they blow apart and send their seeds flying.    

Exploded seed pod and immature seed pod of Millettia ferruginea

But this tree has other benefits besides.  Agroforestry practices have pegged Millettia ferruginea as a tree providing animal fodder, firewood (the dried pods burn just as well), charcoal, posts for construction or fences, mulch, nitrogen for the soil, shade for coffee, and beauty. 

Millettia ferruginea can be observed growing in a variety of climates but thrives between 1,000 – 2,500 meters above sea level.


A Selection of Ethiopia's Indigenous Trees: Biology, Uses and Propagation Techniques - Legesse Negash

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