Staudtia pterocarpa is a Vulnerable species endemic to São Tomé Island (Gulf of Guinea, central Africa). It can reach considerable sizes, with a diameter of over 130 cm at breast height and a height of 50 m. The trunk is a reddish brown with flakes giving it a very distinctive appearance.
It grows in the lowland forests of São Tomé Island, up to 1000 m above sea level. It can be found in the dry forests of the North to the rainforests of the Southwest, spanning a wide range of annual rainfall, from under 2000 mm to over 7000 mm. It can be abundant in some areas of old-growth forest and it occurs in secondary forests, but it is rare in plantations. It regenerates well in forested areas, producing numerous plantules and growing relatively fast.
Staudtia pterocarpa is threatened by habitat loss and overexploitation. The conversion of native forest to plantation is likely to have greatly reduced its range since the island was discovered in the late 15th century, especially during São Tomé’s cocoa period in late 19th and early 20th century. During the second half of the 20th century its range might have recovered due to agricultural abandonment.
Its bark is used to cure anaemia and bruising (contusions), and to massage fractured or disjointed bones. Its timber is very valuable for construction. The local name, pau-vermelho, means redwood, referring to the lively red colour of its timber. Logging seems to be the biggest threat to this species, since its core areas are hard to access and unlikely to be lost to agriculture.
Did you know?
The African zebrawood is one of 175 tree species native to Cameroon that are threatened with extinction.