Hidden Treasure in a Christmas tree!

Hildegardia barteri tree during fruiting

Hildegardia barteri tree during fruiting

I bet you, it’s more than the beauty seen on the outside of this tree species found in West Africa; it’s called Krobo Christmas tree. There is a hidden treasure that gives multiple benefits from this species. Aside the aesthetic value it adds to the environment, one of the hidden potentials discovered is what you and I can hardly do without everyday of our life. You wonder what this could be? Here are questions that give clues about what it is.

oil samples

Oil samples extracted

Did you have your bath with soap this morning? Did you cream your body? Did you eat anything at all that involves frying? I am sure you beginning to guess right but wait a minute. Do you that this same ingredient has the ability to power your vehicle and supply power? Yes! It’s the oil content extracted from the kernel of the seeds of Hildegardia barteri it bears with beautiful flowers on leafless stems during the Christmas season. It has been observed that the kernel which has oil content is edible but only few amongst where it is found consume it. So I decided to check out the inherent properties that could be derived from the oil.

Firstly, I have to use two methods of extraction (Mechanical and Solvent) to determine the one with higher yield. Of course, that of solvent gave oil yield that falls within range reported for commercial vegetable oil (Dawodu, 2009 and Matchet 1963). I went on to evaluate other physicochemical properties such as specific gravity, acid value, iodine value, calorific value, flash and fire points, conradson carbon fatty acid profile; elemental properties such as Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Sulphur, Nitrogen, Lead, Nickel, Cobalt and Cadnium; proximate composition of moisture content, crude protein and ash of both oil and oil-free kernel. Whoa! It’s so amazing that the values of these properties favor its uses both for human consumption and industrial application in the production of bio-fuel (Oluwadare and Adeniyi, 2015). Check out the profile of the oil and oil-free kernel of this species and you will know it worth exploring.

The proximate analysis conducted on the oil-free kernel shows higher constituents after extracting the oil; especially the high content of crude protein in the seed cakes (25.9%) compares favorably with seeds like cowpea (22.7%) and water melon seeds (26%) (Taiwo et al, (2008) indicates that the species could can serve as supplement in the formulation of livestock feed and for human consumption. Lower values of heavy metals was also obtained in the oil free cake .

Lower moisture content was obtained in the oil samples and this optimizes the keeping quality and makes it suitable for biodiesel production. From the elemental analysis, all elements except for carbon and hydrogen content are lower in the oils samples when compared to the seed cake. The sulphur content which is of environmental concern, value obtained compares favorably with the ASTM D6751 standard (0.05 % max) to an extent. While the lower values of heavy metals (Pb, Cd, Ni and Co) obtained in the oil sample, gives a basis for the exploitation of oil from H.

barteri seed as a potential source for clean renewable biodiesel. The values obtained for the physicochemical properties such as specific gravity, viscosity, iodine value, cloud point conradson carbon residue from the physicochemical analysis indicate a good promising quality of biodiesel that will be produced from the oil of H. barteri fruit. Except for the flash and fire point which occurred to be lower than the required ASTM standard. Observations made from the fatty acid profile of the oil samples suggest that the common functional groups are characterized by saturated bonds. Thus, the oil from H. barteri fruit is a stable oil. The calorific or heating value obtained, also compares favorably with that of some oil bearing seeds such as corn oil, rapeseed oil, Jathropha seed oil and soya bean oil and it indicates good combustion quality.

Apart from the few parts of west Africa that consumes the kernel, presently, H. barteri fruit does not have any major applications hence, the natural production of seeds itself remain underutilized. Going by the result obtained from the proximate analysis, the higher percentage of constituents found in the seed cake samples makes the subject species a good source of supplement either for human consumption or animal feed and oil for biodiesel concurrently without causing destructive impact on the trees which could in turn cause hazards to the environment.

Blogpost and pictures submitted by Evelyn Adeniyi Adenike (Nigeria) – evelynadeniyi2004(at)yahoo.com

The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.


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5 thoughts on “Hidden Treasure in a Christmas tree!

  1. This is really interesting. I think from the aesthetic attribute of this tree, this tree specie could be used as an ornamental plant which its seed would be useful for this very purpose.

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    • i have not looked into the cost of production but of course when it comes to the extraction for commercial purpose, solvent extraction method proves to be more economical than the mechanical method.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting.- I have two questions:
    1. how long does it take for the tree to reach seed-production age?
    2. although a very attractive option for the future of West African #bioeconomy, wold you see any potential issues of mass commercializing this tree, e.g., land use issues (indirect land use change), environmental concerns (what about soil and water), social aspects (do farmers use this tree, could they benefit from its production).

    Thanks

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    • @ alexgiurca
      It is a pioneer species, and can flower as early as its 2nd year and can begin to produce its seeds.
      To your second question as regarding the mass commercializing the tree species, the attributes of the species is a plus (aside the inherent potentials and aesthetic values being discussed). It’s a highly specialized species, which colonizes rock outcrops and exposed areas with shallow soils and can be propagated by cuttings, bud grafting and by seeds (IITA, 2012). As for land use issues, it can be incorporated into agro-forestry systems and would not pose any threat to arable or other crops planted. For the social aspects, the importance of this species is not well recognized by farmers based on researches that are beginning to open our eyes to the potentials that can be derived from the species. For instance, I learnt from literature that the mature pods drop and are disposed as refuse in many places, only in few parts of West Africa the kernels are eaten raw or roasted like peanuts.

      Liked by 1 person

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