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Anogeissus leiocarpa - (DC.) Guill. & Perr.

Common Name African Birch
Family Combretaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Found from the driest savannah to the wetter forest borders, in wooded grassland and bushland and on riverbanks[ 299 ]. Often grows gregariously on fertile soil in moist situations, from sea-level up to 1,900 metres[ 299 ].
Range Tropical Africa - Senegal to Eritrea and Ethiopia, south to DR Congo.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Anogeissus leiocarpa African Birch

Anogeissus leiocarpa African Birch


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African birch or Anogeissus leiocarpa is a small to medium-sized evergreen shrub with an open crown. It grows up to 15 m tall with a straight bole of up to 100cm in diameter. It is native to savannas of tropical Africa. Flowering occurs in the rainy season. Decoctions of the bark, leaves and roots are used in traditional medicine for its antimicrobial and anthelmintic activity. Stem and root bark extract have exhibited antifungal activity. Leaf or leafy twigs decoction is used for treating yellow fever, jaundice, hepatitis, colds, and headache. It is also applied externally against haemorrhoids and skin diseases. The bark is powdered and used for wounds, eczema, psoriasis, and boils among others. A gum can be extracted from the bark. It is used in pharmacy as an emulsifying agent. Moreover, the fleshy roots are used against labour pains. Pulped roots, on the other hand, are applied to sores as it accelerated wound healing. The seeds have antibacterial and antifungal properties as well. The gum extracted from the bark is edible and is considered as the best chewing gum substitute for gum Arabic. Young leaves are cooked and eaten as vegetable. The leaves, as well as the bark and roots, are used in dyeing. The wood is hard and heavy, an excellent fuel and produces quality charcoal. African Birch is slow-growing during its initial stages and is very sensitive to bush fires.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Anogeissus leiocarpa is an evergreen Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Anogeissus schimperi Hochst. ex Hutch. & Dalziel Conocarpus leiocarpus DC. Conocarpus schimperi Hoch

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Inner bark  Leaves
Edible Uses: Gum

An edible gum is obtained from the bark[ 299 ]. Fairly soluble in water, it is chewed and, in northern Niger, it is considered the best chewing gum substitute for gum arabic[ 299 , 332 ]. It contains 22% uronic acid. It is of good viscosity and is usable as a substitute for or adulterant of gum-arabic[ 332 ]. A cold water infusion of the gum is considered a palatable beverage[ 332 ]. A decoction is given to a new-born baby to drink[ 332 ]. The fruit and the calyx are used in the preparation of sauces or to make a tea[ 301 ]. Tender young leaves - cooked and eaten as a vegetable[ 617 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Anthelmintic  Antibacterial  Aphrodisiac  Eczema  Febrifuge  Laxative  Skin  Stimulant

The bark, leaves and roots are all used in traditional medicine usually in the form of decoctions[ 299 ]. They have antimicrobial and anthelmintic activity and are usually taken as decoctions[ 299 ]. Extracts of the stem and root bark and of the leaves have shown antifungal activity against a number of pathogenic fungi. Moderate antibacterial activity of the bark was also demonstrated[ 299 ]. Extracts of the plant have exhibited in-vitro activity against chloroquine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum strains[ 299 ]. A decoction of the leaves or leafy twigs is used against yellow fever, jaundice, different kinds of hepatitis, common cold and headache. Externally, a leaf decoction is applied against haemorrhoids and skin diseases. The root-bark is considered to be aphrodisiac and stimulant[ 332 ]. In some regions the bark is used as a febrifuge in hot lotions and infusions[ 332 ]. The powdered bark and a bark decoction are used externally to treat wounds, eczema, psoriasis, anthrax, carbuncles, boils and several kinds of ulcers. The bark decoction is also known as a muscular tonic. The bark and the exuding gum have been shown to prevent and cure dental caries and toothache and are commonly used in Africa[ 299 ]. The gum obtained from the bark is laxative[ 332 ]. It can be used in pharmacy as an emulsifying agent[ 332 ]. The bark itself is chewed to obtain the gum[ 332 ]. The fleshy roots are used against labour pains[ 299 ]. The pulped roots are applied to sores to promote healing, and to accelerate wound healing[ 299 , 332 ]. The seeds have a wide bactericidal and fungicidal activity in humans and animals[ 299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Adhesive  Charcoal  Dye  Fuel  Gum  Mordant  Pioneer  Soap making  Soil stabilization  Tannin  Wood

Other uses rating: High (4/5). Agroforestry Uses: The tree is planted in Eritrea to stabilize river banks[ 299 ]. Within its native range it is a pioneer species on open forest clearings[ 325 ]. However, the tree has very slow initial growth and is very sensitive to bush fires, which somewhat limit its usefulness[ 325 , K ]. When grown gregariously it effecively kills out grass[ 332 ]. Other Uses The leaves are rich in tannins and are used to dye cloth a yellow colour[ 299 ]. In West Africa, they are commonly used in the oldest African traditional dyeing process of cotton textiles known as 'basilan'[ 299 ]. Dyeing with the leaves of this plant has even become a full-time occupation for many people[ 299 ]. The bark, and roots are also a source of tannins and dyes[ 299 , 332 ]. The ash of the leaves, the bark and the wood are used as mordants to improve the fastness of many other dyes and in the indigo dyeing process to maintain the necessary alkaline pH[ 299 , 332 ]. The wood ash is used as a lye in washing clothes and as a basis for making soap[ 332 ]. The damaged bark exudes a partially soluble gum which contains 22% uronic acid. It is of good viscosity and can be used as a substitute for or adulterant of gum-arabic (Senegalia species). It is used in various ways, including for beating cloth; to make ink more viscous; as an adhesive; medicinally; and for food[ 299 , 325 , 332 ]. In Ghana and Nigeria the roots are used and traded as chewing sticks[ 299 , 301 , 325 ]. The chewing sticks have shown strong activity against a wide spectrum of bacteria, including some contributing to tooth-deterioration[ 299 ]. The heartwood is a dark, dull brown, streaky, becoming almost ebony-black; it is distinctly demarcated from the wide band of whitish yellow sapwood. The texture is fine; the grain wavy or interlocked. The wood is heavy and hard; it is not durable in contact with the soil, but is resistant to the attacks of termites and insects, though not of marine borers. It is extremely resistant to preservatives. It seasons rapidly, but with some distortion. The wood is moderately easy to saw, but difficult to plane, mortise and bore; it finishes and polishes well and is easy to turn and glue, but nailing is difficult. It is much used for piles and rafters in house construction, for agricultural implements, tool handles and occasionally in cabinet making. It is a favoured wood for use in carving[ 299 , 325 , 332 ]. The wood is an excellent fuel and yields good charcoal[ 299 , 325 , 332 ]. In the whole Sahel region fuel has become so scarce that even these useful trees are being sacrificed[ 299 ].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the African tropics, from lowland to moderate elevations, able to grow in semi-arid to much moister areas where annual rainfall can range from 200 - 1,200mm[ 299 ]. Prefers a moist, fertile soil[ 299 ]. Succeeds on a range of soils, including compact clays[ 325 ]. Prefers an acid pH[ 332 ]. A slow-growing tree, it flowers year-round but most abundantly at the beginning of the rainy season[ 299 ]. The flowers have a strong sweet smell[ 299 ]. The tree can be pollarded and has some ability to coppice[ 299 ]. It is very sensitive to fire[ 299 , 774 ]. In regions where African birch is collected, the harvesting contributes to the growing scarcity of the tree populations, which is exacerbated because little rejuvenation appears to be taking place[ 299 ]. The tree used to occupy whole forests on fertile soils but it is becoming rarer because land is being cleared for agriculture, wood is collected for timber and fuel and the seeds are difficult to germinate[ 299 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

The seeds are very small and soon lose their viability (within 6 months); in addition, their germinating capacity is rather low, with only 10 - 15% of the seed proving to be viable[ 299 , 325 ]. The germination of the seeds takes a long time and seedlings are not easy to obtain

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

African birch or Anogeissus leiocarpa

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Found In

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Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(DC.) Guill. & Perr.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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