We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Combretum imberbe - Wawra

Common Name Leadwood Tree, Ivory tree
Family Combretaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Open woodland and wooded savannah, especially along rivers; on a wide variety of soils from sandy to limestone outcrops, also on alluvial and black cotton soils, but only occasionally on heavy clay, from sea-level to 1,000 metres[ 299 ].
Range Southern and eastern Africa - Angola, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and S. Africa.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Combretum imberbe Leadwood Tree, Ivory tree

Combretum imberbe Leadwood Tree, Ivory tree
JMK wikimedia.org


Translate this page:


Leadwood Tree or Ivory Tree, Combretum imberbe, is a tropical, slow-growing, deciduous tree of about 21 m tall. Its bark cracks in rectangular flakes and the young branches and twigs have hard spines. The simple, oblong leaves are arranged oppositely and silvery grey in colour with red scales. The flowers are yellowish-green in loose spikes and with four wings. Edible gum is obtained from the tree and used for confectionary. The leaves are eaten as green vegetable. Several plant parts are used in traditional medicine. In particular, roots and leaves are powdered or formed into decoction. Both forms are used in the treatment of stomach pains, diarrhoea, coughs and colds, and chest pains among others. Leaf decoction is used to treat constipation. Leaves are burnt and the smoke is inhaled for relief from coughs, colds, and chest pains. The root is used to treat infertility in women; the flowers for coughs; and bark powder for leprosy. Further, the bark is a source of tannins. Wood ash has high lime content and can be used as toothpaste and as substitute of whitewash. The wood is used for mortars, fence poles, toys, railway sleepers, etc. It burns slowly and with great heat, therefore used as a fuel and for charcoal making.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Combretum imberbe is a deciduous Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender.
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 saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Argyrodendron petersii Klotzsch Combretum petersii Klotzsch Combretum primigenum Marloth ex Engl. Co

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves
Edible Uses: Gum

Edible portion: Gum, Leaves, Fruit, gum. An edible gum is obtained from the tree[ 299 , 775 ]. A rather clear gum of medium quality[ 775 ].

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.
Antibacterial  Antidiarrhoeal  Antiinflammatory  Antitussive  Laxative  Leprosy  Parasiticide  Urinary

Several plant parts are used in traditional medicine. The powdered roots or leaves, and decoctions from the roots and leaves, are taken to treat stomach aches and diarrhoea; coughs and colds; chest pains etc[ 299 ]. On the other hand, a leaf decoction is applied as an enema to treat constipation[ 299 ]. The smoke of burnt leaves is inhaled as a remedy for coughs, colds and chest complaints[ 295 , 299 ]. The roots are used to treat infertility in women[ 299 ]. An infusion is drunk to treat schistosomiasis[ 299 ]. The bark powder is applied externally as a treatment against leprosy[ 299 ]. The flowers are used to make a cough medicine[ 295 ]. Acetone and ethyl acetate extracts of the leaves have shown pronounced anti-inflammatory activity[ 299 ]. An aqueous extract of the leaves has shown activity against Schistosoma haematobium[ 299 ]. The pentacyclic triterpene, imberbic acid, has been isolated from the leaves; this compound has shown potent antibacterial activity against Mycobacterium fortuitum and Staphylococcus aureus[ 299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Charcoal  Fuel  Furniture  Gum  Insecticide  Paint  Parasiticide  Tannin  Teeth  Wood

Other Uses: The ash from the wood has a high lime content, and is sometimes used as toothpaste and as a substitute of whitewash to decorate walls of houses[ 299 ]. In tests the wood ash has shown good results in managing cowpea weevils in stored cowpea seeds[ 299 ]. The bark is a source of tannins[ 299 ]. The heartwood is dark brown; it is distinctly demarcated from the thin layer of yellow-brown sapwood. The grain is straight, texture fine. The wood is very heavy and extremely durable, even in contact with the ground, and is very termite resistant. It is difficult to work, rapidly blunting cutting edges, but it takes a very nice lustrous polish. The turning properties are excellent. The wood is used for fence poles, mine props, railway sleepers, mortars, walking sticks, inlay work, toys and turnery. Because of its durability, it is commonly used for the main supporting poles of huts. It is popular for sculpture and lathe work, whereas it is also used to make heavy, extremely durable furniture[ 295 , 299 ]. The wood is favoured for use as a fuel and for charcoal production; it burns slowly and with great heat[ 295 , 299 ].

Special Uses


References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A tropical plant. Plants are not tolerant of frosts[ 295 ]. Grows best in a sunny position and a well-drained soil[ 295 ]. Established trees are fairly drought resistant[ 295 ]. A very slow growing tree[ 299 ]. Under natural conditions, mean annual diameter increment rates of only 0.3 mm to 2 mm have been recorded, but under optimal conditions in cultivation young trees may reach 6 m tall in 15 years[ 299 ]. The trees can become very old. Radiocarbon dating showed that some specimens were over 1,000 years old. Dead trees can remain upright for as much as 80 years.[ 299 ]. Trees respond well to coppicing[ 299 ]. The number of shoots produced from cut stems is negatively correlated with the height at which the trees are cut, but shorter shoots are produced when the tree is cut close to the ground. A cutting height of 1 metre appears most advantageous[ 299 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown when still fresh. Pre-soak in warm water for a few hours before pressing the seed into seedling trays filled with river sand. After they have been covered with a thin layer of sand, the seeds should be kept moist. They germinate in 1 - 2 weeks, but very low germination rates have been recorded (3 - 5%), as well as high mortality among seedlings[ 299 ]. The seedlings can be transplanted into nursery bags after development of the second leaf[ 299 ]. The seed of most, if not all, species can be stored inside the fruit for several years without losing viability[ 299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Leadwood Tree or Ivory Tree, Combretum imberbe. Other Names: Hardekool, Impondozendhlovu, Lipholovu lendlovu, Loodhout, Mgodo, Mkolongonjo, Mnangali, Mocoza, Monzo, Motswere, Motswiri, Msimbiti, Muando, Muchenarota, Mukotama, Munangar, Munyondo, Mutsviri, Omukuku, Umtshenalotha, Umtshwili.

Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Africa, Angola, Australia, Botswana, Central Africa, East Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Southern Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

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



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.

Readers comment

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Combretum imberbe  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.