The Tree That “Bleeds” When You Cut It

Native to southern Africa and northern Australia, the Pterocarpus Angolens is a fairly normal-looking tree until it is chopped into as It flows an alarming amount of red sap which looks much like human blood. In fact, its whole purpose is to seal wounds which is a lot like our own blood. But despite its horrifying appearance, the sap actually has a surprising amount of benefits as it is commonly used by Australian Aboriginals in traditional medicine for treating many illnesses such as ringworms, malaria, severe sharp shooting pains, eye pain, blackwater fever, and stomach problems, and used as an antiseptic for sores and cuts.

The tree that "bleeds"

Pterocarpus Angolensis has a variety of names such as bloodwood, sealing-wax tree, kiaat, paddlewood, wild teak, and Transvaal teak.


Pterocarpus Angolens is very much alive as it seems! Studies show the tree has very thick bark and leaves which collect water in them and the leaves turn away from the sun so the water contained in them doesn’t dry up. It also has really thick long roots that are in constant search for water, and occasionally when the weight becomes too much, it drops extra branches and bark to save its energy and strength.

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It grows in woodland where the rainfall is above 500mm per year and even in the driest areas while being fire-tolerant, living amicably in warm frost-free areas accompanied by deep well-drained soil and rocky slopes.  In Africa in parts of Zimbabwe, northern Botswana, Mozambique, and Namibia, the trees are very abundant. The uses of this amazing tree are a lot as the tree falls very gracefully allowing them to make furniture, implements, and curios. the “blood” of the tree is also used as medicine in Africa like in Australia, and also used for dye, polish, and in some areas, the sap is mixed with animal fat to make a cosmetic to use for faces and bodies. Cultivation of these trees is not common because of the difficulty of seed germination as the seeds need to be removed and treated by filling the seed coat to allow the seed to absorb water for germination to occur.  Even with precise treatment, the germination of the seeds is uncertain.


The unique leaves of the Pterocarpus Angolensis.

The tree usually grows to 16 m tall and has very robust shiny leaves that look much like fried eggs. In poorly drained locations the tree still grows but not as healthy as they grow in well-drained areas. In wetter locations, this tree can grow to a generous 18-19 m tall. The leaves appear at the same time when the tree flowers or shortly after.



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