The variation of the morphological characters of bitter and sweet African bush mango trees (Irvingia species) was investigated in the Dahomey Gap which is the West African savannah woodland area separating the Upper and the Lower Guinean rain forest blocks. African bush mangoes have been rated as the highest priority multi-purpose food trees species that need improvement research in West and Central Africa. A total of 128 trees from seven populations were characterized for their bark, fruits, mesocarp and seeds to assess the morphological differences between bitter and sweet trees and among populations. Multivariate analysis revealed that none of the variables: type of bark, mature fruit exocarp colour, fruit roughness and fresh mesocarp colour, could consistently distinguish bitter from sweet trees in the field. The analysis of the measurements of fruits, mesocarps and seeds demonstrated that bitter fruits have the heaviest seeds and this consistently distinguishes them from sweet fruits. However, the measurements of the fruit, mesocarp and seed did not have a joint effect in grouping types and populations of ABMTs. This indicates high diversity with a potential for selection existing across all phytogeographical regions investigated. The sweet trees of Couffo and those of Dassa in Benin are clearly different from all other populations. This can be attributed to traditional domestication (bringing into cultivation) and climate, respectively. The large fruits and the heavy seeds of the cultivated populations are evidence of successful on-going traditional selection of sweet trees in the Dahomey Gap.
- phenotypic variation
- indigenous fruits