Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Trees That Bleed - Kenyan Mninga Wood

Pterocarpus angolensis, also known as the bloodwood tree, dragon blood tree, or Mninga in Kenya, is a large, unique tree highly valued in East and Southern Africa. The tree is so named because it bleeds when cut and is also highly resistant to fire. Mninga tree's red sap holds antimicrobial properties, supporting ancestral beliefs in the bloodwood tree's magical healing qualities.

bloodwood tree

Mninga Tree Red Sap 

Typical plants have a tannin content that ranges from 12 to 20 percent. However, the bloodwood tree is an exception, as its red, viscous sap contains an astonishing 77% tannin. The red sap is produced by the Mninga tree because of its high tannin concentration. Tannin is a naturally occurring chemical commonly found in wine and known to have various uses in industries such as medicine, textiles, and leather production.

The Mninga tree is known for its red sap, used for centuries as a natural dye to color fabrics and other materials. The sap is also used in traditional cosmetics because it provides a natural reddish tint to the skin. The red coloration of the sap acts as a deterrent to herbivores. Some animals associate bright or unusual colors with toxicity, deterring them from consuming parts of the tree.

The Mninga tree, an indigenous tree species of East and Southern Africa, is believed to possess magical healing powers due to the resemblance of its sap to blood when the tree is cut. The sap is thick and red in color, which has led to the locals' belief that it can heal wounds and cure diseases. The belief in the healing powers of this tree is deeply ingrained in the local culture, and it continues to be revered as a symbol of health and well-being. The red sap scientifically does contain antimicrobial properties, so the belief in the magical healing properties of the tree by our ancestors is not far reached.

Uses for the Mninga Tree

The bark of young twigs on the Mninga tree is smooth, grey, and covered with hairs, while the bark on older branches and stems is dark grey, rough, and often fissured. The tree produces plentiful, pealike flowers that are orange-yellow in color, very sweetly scented, and grow in large, branched sprays. The heartwood of the Mninga tree can range from light brown to dark reddish-brown, with purplish or golden wavy streaks, while the sapwood is typically pale yellowish.

Mninga wood is a type of wood that has a very unique and beautiful look. It has a reddish-brown color and a distinctive pattern, making it perfect for making high-quality furniture, coffins and decorative items. The tree's heartwood is especially valuable because it can be used to make beautiful wood carvings, bowls, and other items. Artisans and craftspeople love to work with Mninga wood because it has a natural color and pattern that is truly special.

The Mninga tree has been an essential medicinal plant in traditional African medicine for centuries and is still widely used today. When boiled, the bark of the Mninga tree can be utilized as an astringent to treat minor cuts and wounds.

Pterocarpus angolensis, native to southern Africa, has many names depending on the region. The tree is known as Mninga in Kenya. Pterocarpus angolensis also grows well in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Eswatini, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. It is a protected tree in South Africa called Muninga or Kiaat. When the bark is slashed, a blood-red juice oozes out and congeals, and for this reason, the mninga is called the bloodwood tree, the tree that bleeds. 

Mninga Wood Prices are Moderate for Imported Hardwood.

Mninga wood is renowned for its exceptional hardness and durability. The cost of imported hardwood is influenced by market dynamics, production expenses, and global trade conditions. The geographical origin of the hardwood plays a pivotal role. Transportation costs, including shipping and customs duties, significantly impact the final price. 

The production process involves various stages, from harvesting to processing and transportation. Sustainable forestry practices, adherence to environmental regulations, and responsible sourcing can contribute to higher production costs but ensure the long-term availability of hardwood resources. Imported hardwoods may also face currency exchange rate fluctuations, affecting the final price in the importing country. 

Economic conditions, global demand, and geopolitical factors can influence exchange rates, impacting imported hardwood costs. The demand for Mninga wood in international markets has contributed to its economic significance. Its unique qualities have positioned it as a premium hardwood, and its export has become an essential component of Kenya's forestry-related economy.

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