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Cordeauxia edulis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Cordeauxia
Species: C. edulis
Binomial name
Cordeauxia edulis

Cordeauxia edulis is a plant in the Fabaceae family and the sole species in the genus Cordeauxia. Known by the common name yeheb bush, it is one of the economically most important wild plant at the Horn of Africa, but it is little know outside of its distribution area. It is a multipurpose plant, which allows the survival of nomads by providing them with seeds. Further the bush serves forage for livestock, firewood and dye.[1] Its wild population is currently declining. Because it is potentially valuable for other hot, dry regions as a resource for food and fodder, it's recommended to take measures against its extinction.


Cordeauxia edulis Hemsl. is a leguminous plant (Fabaceae) from the genus Cordeauxia. The genus Cordeauxia is closely related to Caesalpinia and Stuhlmannia. There are at least two varieties of the species C. edulis: Moqley and Suley.[1][2] Moqley has smaller and darker leaves as well as a smaller stem diameter than Suley. Furthermore, the pods of the Moqley include just one seed whereas the pods of Suley contains several smaller seeds. The seeds of Moqley are claimed to be sweeter.[2] The common name of C. edulis is Yeheb-Nut (English) or Yeheb (French).[2][3] Other names are Yebb, Hebb, Ye’eh, Yi-ib, Yehib or Yicib.[4] In amharic it is called Ehb, Qud or Quda.[5]


The yeheb nut bush has been know to the Somali nomads for centuries. The first recovery of his existence dates back to the 1871, when the Italian Robecchi noticed the plant when traversing Somalia to Bari.[1] The bush has been named after Cordeaux, a botanic who first obtained botanical specimens in the Ogaden province (Ethiopia) which where found to be a leguminous plant belonging to a hitherto unknown genus in the Caesalpinaceae.[6] Afterward, Hemsley gave the plant the generic name Cordeauxia, with the specific epithet edulis (edible).[1] In 1929, the yeheb bush covered half of the vegetation of large territories in Somalia and south-east Ethiopia. In 1983 the distribution has been reduced to small regions.[2]


The yeheb tree is native in the arid and semi-arid areas in Somalia (Central) and Ethiopia (Ogaden).[2][3][7] Its distribution has rapidly declined from 50% coverage down to only small locations nowadays. This regions are often semi-deserts or open bushy steppes located at altitudes from 100 to 300m. The rainfall rates are very low and frost does not occur. The ground is a very poor red sandy soils.[4] The existence of C. edulis is threatened by war, over-utilization[4] and by drought.[6][7] Another cause for the decrease of C. edulis is the loss of seeds removed through the local people, eaten by wildlife and destroyed by insects.[8] Its extinction would represent an irreplaceable loss for the long-term survival of the nomadic populations.[6] In 1975, the National Range Agency of Somalia protected an area of about 50ha by prohibiting grazing. Since then, lots of other areas have been protected from grazing. In these areas and in all the native areas, the situation of Yeheb bush had considerably improved according to a 1983 study[4] however a mission in 2015[9] found that the species had disappeared from the Haud plateau of Somaliland, although still to be found on the Ethiopian side of the border.

It is exotic in Israel, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and in the Republic of Yemen.[3] It is a wild species, but also subject to domestication trials, where it was sent to other arid regions, but with poor response, except for Voi, Kenya, where fruits are produced successfully since 1957.[10] Today there is germplasm collection in Ethiopia (ILRI Addis Ababa), Kenya (National Genebank, Kikuyu) and the USA (Southern Regional Plant Introduction Station, Griffin, Georgia).[2]


It is an evergreen, multistemmed shrub[3] of about 1.6m height[5] but it also can grows up to 4 m.[6] The Yeheb tree has a taproot system, which can go 3m deep.[3] Like that it reaches deep water and can stay green all the year round.[4]

  • Leaves: The lower surface of the leaves is green with glandular hairs. The hairs contain cordeauxiaquinone, a magenta-red pigment.[6] The upper surface is olive green. The leaves are alternate and leathery. They have an oval shape and form an asymmetrical pinna with 1-6 pairs but mostly 4.[7] The leaves measure 3–5 cm.[6] They curl when the soil moisture gets low.[8]
  • Flowers: The flowers are yellow and contain both sexes.[3] They are 2–5 cm in diameter and have 5 petals. They are grouped in corymbs with very few flowers at the end of the branch.[6] Flowering occurs throughout the year but is more profuse during the rainy season.[6] They are pollinated by insects.[7] The flowers develop at the first stage of the fruit formation, exhibit a dormancy through the dry season and continue the development at the onset of the next rainy period. After that, they mature within a few days.[8]
  • Seeds: They have the size of a big hazel-nut,[4] weight 1–3 g[2] and are red-brown.[7] The indehiscent pods includes 1–4 round or ovoid seeds, they are by mistake called nuts.[3] The germination rate is about 80% growth.[6]
  • Trunk and Bark: They have a yellow-brownish color.[7]
  • Growth: The growth in the first developing stages is slow due to small proportion of reserve proteins and the development of the taproot system.[3][6]
  • Chromosome number: 2n=24[2][6]
  • Inflorescence: The inflorescence is a terminal few-flowered raceme.[2]


C. edulis is cultivated on a small scale in Somalia and near Voi in Kenya. It has only recently been a subject to domestication, therefore little knowledge about propagation, the agronomic practices and its potential for selection as well as breeding exists.[2][11] The potential of this multipurpose plant is very promising, especially for other arid, hot regions as an important food and fodder resource.[12]

Environmental requirements

C. edulis is a drought resistant plant and tolerant to desertification. For optimal plant development, average temperature and rainfall requirements are 25 °C and 250 - 400mm/year (two rainy seasons).[6] Occasionally the Yeheb tree can also cope with minimal precipitation levels of 150–200 mm/year. It grows on red sandy soils (called Haud) with a low nitrogen content. The soils are alkaline and their texture is fine to coarse sand or grit to loamy sand.[3][7][13] C. edulis prefers elevated stands, where no water accumulates. It grows in altitudes between 100–1000 m and is found in vegetation with acacia-commiphora deciduous bushland and thickets.[10]


The seed is often said to be viable for a few months only, but seed coated in wood ash and stored in a sack is reputed to remain viable for at least a year. The seeds should be sown on soils where the taproot can develop. There is no information available on optimal density and spacing. Under natural conditions there are up to 320plants/ha. The seedlings need ample water after planting. A transplantation of the plant destroys the taproot and leads to mortality.[2] C.edulis grows slowly in the early stages, because of the buildup of the strong taproot and the small proportion in reserve proteins.[3] Once the plants are established, they need almost no care.[2] The plant is self-reseeding, but due to the fact that seeds are often infested by weevils and larvae or roasted in the post-harvest treatment, it is difficult to obtain viable seeds for planting. The plantation established near Voi, Kenya, is currently the sole source of germplasm.[12]


  • AMF: Arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi (AMF) are known to exert beneficial efforts on germination, growth and yield by changing the root architecture and contributing to a successful propagation.[14]
    • Enhanced level of Ca, Mg and Na content in C.edulis shoot as a results of AMF inoculation.[14]
    • Enhanced P level when inoculated with the mycorrhiza Vaminoc.[14]
    • Mixed inoculum with more C.edulis bacteria enhanced the plant growth, but not to the same extent as the singular bacterial inoculations. This shows that the plant germination and growth is better in non-sterile conditions (natural Habitat).[14]
    • Plants do not harbor only AMF but also bacteria antagonistic for Aspergillus niger, A. biciliate and A.versicolor, which have the potential to affect both germination and growth.[14]
    • Increased growth due to bacterial is probably caused by reducing the effects of antagonist, by enhancing the plant defense responses or due to nutrient competition between Aspergilli and bacteria.[14]
  • PGPB: Plant growth promoting bacteria belong to the AMF. They increases crop productivity by different mechanism. Those include enhanced nutrient uptake, phytohormone production, competition for substrate and site, niche exclusion and through bio-control of plant pathogens.[14]

The yeheb bush is difficult to cultivate outside its native environment, which may is partly due to a lack of sufficient beneficial microorganism. If provided with inoculation, the species can be grown outside its native environment.[14]


The yeheb seeds are usually harvested from wild plants.[2] The recommended harvest time is in June,[15] but in Somalia nowadays the harvest is reported to occur twice a year.[16] This is possible if both rainy seasons occur within their normal extent and contribute enough rain for the plant. The Yeheb-Nut is mainly harvested manually by children and women,[16] and the harvest process is described as hard work. Due to the high demand and many droughts in the last few years, the shrub is often harvested immature at an age below 3 years.[12] The plants are often overused as the people remove all seeds at the same time.[2]


Yeheb produces few fruits in the first three years, but it can live up to many years. The quantity of the yield increases with higher age, but also depends on the amount of rainfall. The yield is about 5–8 kg seeds.[17] The estimated average forage production is 325–450 kg/ha.[2]

Postharvest treatment and storage

The seeds are rarely eaten fresh from Somali children, more often they are first dried in the shade during 7–10 days and then the hard seed coat is removed. For storage, the seeds have to be roasted or boiled to prevent fungal attack, to kill insects eggs and larvae inside the seeds and to harden the seed coat.[2] After roasting in the hot ash, which leads to yield losses due to damage of the seeds, the seeds are coated in weed ash and stored in sacks in the house for personal use or for trade at local markets at a later time.[16] The seeds treated this way are storable for about one year.[7] Pastoralists keep the seeds in containers out of dried and tanned camel leather, where they can be stored for many years.[2] The firewood for roasting is often taken from the shrub, which hampers the regeneration of the population in addition to the complete removal of all the seeds.[7]


The seeds are usually consumed by local people and rarely sold in town. The demand exceeds the supply, because the plant population is declining.[2]

Human Use

  • Food: The seeds are eaten dried, boiled, roasted or raw.[3][13] Sometimes the seeds of C. edulis is the only available food for Somali nomads during droughts. The seeds are nutritious and taste sweet with a chestnut flavour after roasting.[1][2] Fresh or dried seeds taste sour. Local people like its taste so there is a saying Fadhi iyo Fuud Yicibeed lays la waa”, which means: Those who remain seated and laze will not get Yihib.[4] The raw seeds contain a considerably amount of serine protease (trypsin) inhibitors, causing nausea or stomach distress. These inhibitors are destroyed by heating during cooking or roasting.[6]
  • Drinks: People made a tea out of the leaves[3][13] or drink the sweet water in which the seeds have been boiled as a baverage.[1][2]
  • Medicine: C. edulis can regulate gastric secretion. A study showed that the consumption of the plant enhances the production of erythrocytes and is therefore used as a remedy for anemia.[2]


C. edulis is an important bee forage.[5] Furthermore, it serves as fodder for camels, goats, sheep and cattle in dry season[2] but the shrubs cannot withstand long-term grazing pressure.[3][13] It is essential for the livestock production, especially in central Somalia and eastern Ethiopia where C. edulis can cover 85% of the good-quality feed during the dry season.[18] During the rainy season, the animals usually avoid the plant because of its high content of tannins in the leaves (see table below).[3][13] The leaf content of K, Ca, Mg, S, Ni, Cr, V and Ti is adequate. The content of N and P is low, whereas the latter is probably a consequence of the low P stock in the soil. Al and Fe content is high, probably due to dust. Also, the Ca/Mg and Ca/P ratio is too high. Overall, there could be problems to cover the demand of P, Mg, Mn and partly Zn of grazing stock by feeding only Yeheb.[19] C. edulis can cause intestinal disorders in goats when eaten as the sole diet.[2]

C. edulis also contains a naphthoquinone, cordeauxione (cordeauxiaquinone). It is found in the glands of the leaves and is unique for C.edulis. It is used as a red dye. If goats browse on the leaves of C. edulis, their feet become light-orange in color and their urine turn purple.[4][18] As Cordeauxione makes calcium complexes, teeth of animals get orange-red and their bones pink when they eat the leaves.[2] The pink bones are considered a sign of good meat quality in Somalia and Saudi Arabia.[2]

Density and available forage[8]
Density (plant/ha) Forage (kg/ha) Forage (kg/plant)
162 325.62 1.99
226 334.48 1.48
319 452.98 1.42
Leaf nutrient levels (%)[19]
N P K Ca Mg S Si Cl
Moqley variety 1.49 0.13 0.71 1.49 0.18 0.17 0.55 0.23
Suley variety 1.27 0.11 0.65 1.75 0.11 0.14 0.40 0.09
Leaf nutrient levels (ppm)[19]
Al Fe Mn Cu Zn B Ni Cr V Ti Sr
Moqley variety 913 735 46 14 24 18 - - - - -
Suley variety 593 438 39 8 21 48 2.2 2.8 1.1 12.6 81.7
Other leaf contents[2]
Protein (%) Energy (KJ/100g dry matter) Digestibility of dry matter (%) Tannin Content (%) Cordeauxione (%)
7.5-11.8 559-586 27.2-39.8 2.5-2.7 0.7-0.8%

Industrial Use

  • Fuel: The wood is a good firewood, also when wet.[2][3][13]
  • Insect defence: Roasting or boiling of freshly picked seeds provide a good insect defence.
  • Industry: The red dye in the glands of the leaves can be used for dyeing textiles.[3][13] The dye can also be extracted by alkaline or acid dissolver, whereas first leads to a more intense violet color.[2]
  • Soap: Soap can be made out of the seed oil.[2]
  • Construction timber: The wood is popular as a building material due to its resistance to termites.[16]

Other Uses

International trade

There is some trade between Ethiopia, Somalia and Arab, but no quantitative information available.[2] The Yeheb seed is suggested by many studies to have a potential market in Europe as a "dessert nut".[2]

Pests and diseases

  • Seeds: weevils and moth larvae[7]
  • Shrubs: rarely any insect pests

Nutritional aspects

The seeds are rich in starch, sugar, protein and fat.[13] The Suley variety shows higher protein and fat content than the Moqley variety. Their carbohydrate and protein contents are less than those of most other legumes eaten in the Horn of Africa. However, C. edulis grows where it is impossible for the usual legumes to grow.[13] The amino-acid composition of C.edulis is close to that of the Papilionaceae (e.g. Methionine-deficient).[6]

Chemical composition of Yeheb seeds (%)[13]
Moqley variety Suley variety
Moisture 16.9 16.2
Protein 12.6 14.4
Fat 9.9 10.8
Starch 34.0 31.4
Reducing sugars 2.3 2.2
Sucrose 19.5 20.1
Ash 2.7 2.9
Fibre 2.1 2.0

The seeds of yeheb are rich in sodium, potassium and phosphorus; thus they contain a small amount of calcium and magnesium.[13]

Element composition of Yeheb seed ash [mg/100g] (%)[13]
Element Moqley Suley
Sodium 452 493
Potassium 625 633
Calcium 31 33
Magnesium 82 79
Phosphorus 221 232
Chlorine 92 94

Both varieties contain a lot of amino acids; yeheb seeds have a high content of the essential amino acids lysine and arginine, but are deficient in tryptophan and isoleucine. Phytohaemagglutinin, a toxic lectin often present in leguminous, is absent in Yeheb seeds; this is an additional nutritional advantage.[6][13]

Amino acids composition of Yeheb seed protein (var. Moqley) [%][13]
Amino Acid Lysine Histidine Arginine Aspartic acid Threonine Serine Proline Glycine Alanine Cystine Valine Methionine Isoleucine Leucine Tyrosine Phenylalanine
 % 3.9 1.3 9.1 18.7 2.1 6.7 8.8 8.2 8.6 tr. 1.3 2.4 tr. 3.8 2.9 1.4


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Králová, B.; El-Zeany, B. A.; Gutale, S. F. (1982). "The nutritional value of Yeheb-nut (Cordeauxia edulis Hemsl.)". Food / Nahrung. 26 (9): 797–802. doi:10.1002/food.19820260919. 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 Belay, editors M. Brink, G. (2006). Cereals and pulses. Wageningen: PROTA Foundation. ISBN 90-5782-170-2. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 AgroForestryTree Database [1] 13.10.13
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Baumer, Michel (1983). Notes on trees and shrubs in arid and semi-arid regions. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 92-5-101354-3. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Birnie, Azene Bekele-Tesemma with Ann; Tengnäs, Bo (1993). Useful trees and shrubs for Ethiopia : identification, propagation, and management for agricultural and pastoral communities. Nairobi, Kenya: Regional Soil Conservation Unit, Swedish International Development Authority. ISBN 9966-896-15-5. 
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 Jacques; Miège, Marie-Noëlle (1978). "Cordeauxia Edulis — A caesalpiniaceae of arid zones of east africa". Economic Botany. 32 (3): 337–345. doi:10.1007/BF02864707. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 Mahony, Desmond (1990). Trees of Somalia (Rev. ed.). Oxford: Oxfam. ISBN 0-85598-109-1. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Ali, Hussein Mohamed (1988). Cordeauxia edulis: Production and forage quality in Central Somalia. Somali National University, Somalia. Thesis for the degree of Master of Science in Rangeland Resources. 
  9. Ismail, Muna (2015). Report of a scoping mission to examine the restoration and possible domestication of the Yeheb plant in Somaliland. London: Initiatives of Change. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Booth, F.E.M.; Wickens, G.E. (1988). Non-timber uses of selected arid zone trees and shrubs in Africa. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9251027455. 
  11. Bosch, C.H.; Borus D.J.; Brink M. (2007). "Cereals and pulses of Tropical Africa. Conclusions and recommendations based on PROTA 1: Cereals ans pulses.". Wageningen, NL: PROTA Foundation. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Wickens, G. E. (1999). Edible nuts (Repr ed.). Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 92-5-103748-5. 
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 13.12 13.13 Mansfeld's World Database of Agriculture and Horticultural Crops [2] 13.10.2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 Mekonnen, B.; Yahya A.; Alström S. (2010). "red C. edulis affect its growth and inhibit pathogens". African Journal of Agricoltural Research. 5 (24): 3360–3368. doi:10.5897/AJAR10.224. 
  15. Wickens, G.E.; Storey, I.N.J. (1984). "Cordeauxia edulis Hemsley. Survey of the economic plants of the arid and semi-arid tropics (SEPASAT).". Royal Botanic Gardens. Dossier No. 5 (revised). 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Yusuf, Mussa; Zewge Teklehaimanot; Mark Rayment (1 June 2013). "Traditional knowledge and practices on utilisation and marketing of Yeheb (Cordeauxia edulis) in Ethiopia". Agroforestry Systems June 2013. 87 (3): 599–609. doi:10.1007/s10457-012-9580-y. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  17. Baumer, Michel (1983). Notes on trees and shrubs in arid and semi-arid regions. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. pp. 157–160. ISBN 92-5-101354-3. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Söderberg, Vera (2010). "The importance of Yeheb (Cordeauxia edulis) for Somali livestock production and its effects on body tissues when fed to Swedish domestic goats". Departement of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry, Swedish University of Agricultural Science. p. 41. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Drechsel, Pay; Zech, Wolfgang (1988). "Site conditions and nutrient status of C. edulis (Caesalpiniaceae) in its natural habitat in Central Somalia". Economic Botany. 42 (2): 242–249. doi:10.1007/BF02858926.