The mystery behind the Bloodwood tree in southern Africa that bleeds like humans

Ama Nunoo April 22, 2021
The Bloodwood tree oozes "blood" like humans when it is cut or a branch breaks. Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/ Wikimedia Commons

The Bloodwood tree, scientifically known as Pterocarpus angolensis, is indigenous to Southern Africa. This tree drips deep red fluid (like humans bleed) when cut. Some refer to it as a magical tree, however, there is scientific backing to this phenomenon, especially since the red sap promotes healing just as blood does for humans.

The sap is actually a gum known as “Kino” and the blood-red color is a chemical called tannin, the same ones found in wine. For regular plants, the tannin ranges from 12 to 20 percent but for Bloodwood, its tannin is 77 percent.

These tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in tree barks, seeds, and stems. They are the main compounds that cause some plants to be bitter or have color, hence the reason for the deep red fluid of the Bloodwood tree.

Unlike most trees that have yellow or white sap, the Bloodwood tree has red or dark brown sap that is released whenever there is a cut on the tree or a branch breaks, and it is redesigned to coagulate and seal wounds.

Though some say it is eerie to watch a chopped trunk of the tree dripping the deep red fluid, locals believe the tree is magical and has healing properties. The branches are used to cure malaria, ringworm, sharp pains, eye problems, blackwater fever, and stomach problems.

Breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to use the sap to increase the production of breast milk while others make cosmetics out of it, combining it with animal fat to make beauty products.

The Bloodwood trees have dark-brown rough bark, a beautiful umbrella-shaped spreading crown and bear yellow flowers. The tree grows 12 to 18 meters tall. Known by various names such as Kiaat, Mukwa, and Muninga, the Bloodwood tree can be found in South Africa, Angola, Eswatini, Zaire, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia.

Bloodwood trees have become a fascination for tourists and locals, especially because the wood itself is great for producing high-quality furniture. Locals say the tree can easily be carved and easy to work with.

It possesses some qualities that make it durable, easy to glue, screw, and takes polish very well, according to reports. Also, it has the ability to shrink very well during its drying process and this makes it a suitable material for canoes, bathroom floors and building boats.

The “magical” Bloodwood trees are now endangered because of rampant deforestation. In South Africa, the Bloodwood tree has been named a protected tree, meaning anyone found cutting it down illegally will be dealt with by the law.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 22, 2021


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