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Musanga cecropioides - R.Br.

Common Name Corkwood
Family Urticaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Secondary forests in recent clearings on superficially damp soils; common on old farms in closed forest; rare in rain-forest; swamp forest; along rivers; often in pure regular stands; at elevations from near sea level to about 1,200 metres[328 ].
Range Tropical Africa - Guinea to DR Congo and Uganda.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Musanga cecropioides Corkwood

Musanga cecropioides Corkwood


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Corkwood or Musanga cecropioides is a fast-growing and short-lived tree with an umbrella-shaped crown and a straight bole that can be up to 50 cm in diameter. It reaches a height of 45 m with prop roots that are 2 - 3 m tall. The trunk is rough and whitish-yellow. The whitish gray to pink wood has a wide range of uses including rafts, toys, floatation device, etc. It is also used as a cork substitute. Colorless, odorless, and sweet sap can be obtained from the aerial stilt-roots and young branches. The yellowish-green fruit has a succulent flesh and small seeds. It is edible but not commonly preferred by locals. Wood ash are used in cooking as vegetable salt. Medicinally, the plant and its plant parts, in various forms, have a wide range of uses including treatment for dysmenorrhea, asthenia, appetite loss, pulmonary diseases, toothache, cough, lumbago, wounds, leprosy, etc. Corkwood bark produces strong fibers that is commonly processed into resistant paper and twine.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Musanga cecropioides is an evergreen Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 5 m (16ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Birds. The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Musanga smithii R.Br.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Inner bark  Sap
Edible Uses: Drink  Salt

The aerial stilt-roots, and also the younger branches, are noted for their capacity of yielding a large amount of potable sap. ‘Half a bucketful’ is said to be obtainable from a single tree overnight[332 ]. The sap is colourless, odourless and of an insipid sweetish taste[332 ]. This source of drinking water is of great importance in some areas of the tree's range, where whole villages can depend upon it in dry seasons. Hunters and others break off stems to draw an impromptu drink, and even monkeys have learnt to do this. A renewed flow can be obtained by re-cutting the cut surface and beating the severed limb[332 ]. Fruit[332 ]. A succulent flesh with embedded small seeds[332 ]. Although edible, the fruit does not seem to be much relished by local people[332 ]. The yellowish-green fruit is 10 - 13 cm long by 5 - 6 cm wide[332 ]. Bark-scrapings are added to fermenting sugar-cane sap to increase the potency[332 ]. Wood-ash from freshly felled trees provides a vegetable salt for use in cooking[332 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Analgesic  Antirheumatic  Antitussive  Appetizer  Blood purifier  Diuretic  Emmenagogue  Epilepsy  
Expectorant  Febrifuge  Galactogogue  Leprosy  Odontalgic  Skin  Tonic

The bark is intricately layered: light grey outer layer, then green, white, pink, white, all becoming brown on exposure. The outer part exudes a red-brown juice[332 ]. This exudate is mixed with maize pap and then eaten in the belief that it is a galactagogue. Women who have been taking it over a period of several days experience an increased milk flow, and even those who have no child to breastfeed can experience a flow of milk[332 ]. The sap of this plant has been investigated and found to contain the female hormone oestrogen and a galactagogue that can stimulate milk flow[332 ]. The use of this plant to treat dysmenorrhoea may perhaps be explained by the presence of these hormones[332 ]. The plant is said to have some analgesic properties and is used in the treatment of asthenia and loss of appetite[332 ]. Fumigation of the bark and leaves, mixed with the leaves of Adenia lobata, acts as an expectorant and dehydrator, it is given to infants in order to relieve asthenia[332 ]. A decoction of the bark-macerate is used as a treatment for pulmonary troubles[332 ]. This decoction is also used as a gargle for treating toothache[332 ]. A strip of the heated bark is placed over the lumbar region to relieve lumbago[332 ]. The root bark, combined with kola nuts (Cola spp.) is chewed as a cure for coughs[332 ]. Bark obtained from calluses on the tree is tied onto wounds where it is supposed to effect a rapid healing - although this seems a case of sympathetic treatment, perhaps it has some justification[332 ]. The sap from the stilt roots is considered to be medicinal for women[332 ]. Sap from the larger roots is drunk as a galactagogue; blood-purifier; to clean the stomach; and for treating blennorrhoea, cough and chest affections[332 ]., The sap is applied as a wash for persons with sleeping sickness; leprosy; fevers; and to relieve aches and pains, asthenia, rheumatism etc[332 ]. The root-sap is used in a topical embrocation for treating pulmonary congestion[332 ]. Ash from the powdered roots, mixed with palm oil into a paste, is applied as a healing dressing to circumcision wounds[332 ]. The leaf and inflorescence buds are enclosed in a red stipular sheath which may be 20 cm long. This attracts attention, in part, at least, on the Theory of Signatures, for the treatment of gynaecological conditions. To hasten childbirth, the whole sheath is boiled in soup is used as a powerful emmenagogue[332 ]. The leaves are a popular medicine, especially to treat a range of feminine complaints. They are used in a prescription to prepare a vaginal douche for painful menstruation; whilst the pulped buds are given to women with leucorrhoea and other vaginal affections[332 ]. The buds are crushed and boiled in water which, after filtering, is taken by draught and by enema to treat abdominal troubles. They are combined with the bark of Uapaca guineensis; pepper (either a red chilli or other pungent seed); salt and newly deposited soil from the top of a termite mound, then boiled up - the liquid after filtering is taken by mouth to treat swollen stomach and swellings in other parts of the body. The action is presumed to be diuretic[332 ]. The terminal bud is crushed whole and taken, often with the sap added, to calm attacks of epilepsy and insanity, to treat blennorrhoea and heart-pains[332 ]. Sap expressed from the bud is used as an eardrop for treating earache and is applied topically for localized swellings[332 ]. Hairs from the inside of the stipule are considered good for healing burns and sores[332 ]. The catkins are cooked with groundnuts (Arachis hypogaea) and are taken to facilitate childbirth[332 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Basketry  Cork  Fencing  Fibre  Fuel  Furniture  Ink  Insulation  Mulch  Paper  Pioneer  Roofing  Soap making  Soil conditioner  String  Teeth  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: A pioneer plant of rapid growth, but short-lived; often gregarious[328 ]. It rapidly occupies old clearings, first singly, but then gregariously by coppicing from the stilt-roots[332 ]. The tree canopy produces a dense leaf-litter which creates a heavy layer of humus. This serves as a nursery for other hardwood species which take over in succession[332 ]. The tree's rapid growth may be an adverse factor in forest management if left unchecked, but with suitable control practices it could no doubt be used to good effect in regeneration after felling[332 ]. The tree is sometimes used as a shade plant for coffee plantations[332 ]. Other Uses The wood is used as a cork substitute. Its extreme lightness lends itself to make fishing-net floats and rafts[332 ]. Wood-ash from freshly felled trees provides a lye for soap-making[332 ]. The sap, which tends to be tacky, turns black on exposure to air and is used as ink[332 ]. The sap from the stilt roots is used to produce a protective film on earthenware pots[332 ]. Long strong fibres can be extracted from the bark amounting to 25 - 30% by weight. They can be bleached and turned into a resistant paper, or made into twine[332 ]. The heartwood is white; the sapwood is white and with a slight sheen. The wood is a whitish grey to slightly pink. It is exceptionally light, and is one of the lightest African woods. It is soft, coarse-grained, easily worked though not planing, nor finishing well; strength is poor but it is said that with proper seasoning this can be improved. It is easily split and is used for making palings for enclosing compounds and fields, rough partitions in temporary huts, shingles for interior lining of roofs having an insulating effect. As roof-rafters it is said to last two years. It can be worked into a variety of domestic articles such as stools, musical instruments, walking-sticks, trays, baskets, toy popguns, etc. It has been used to float heavy bridging timbers to inaccessible river-bank sites, and it is recorded that on Lake Bosumtwi in Ghana where canoes or constructed craft are taboo rafts of it are used instead. Larger trunks are used to fashion out canoes and dugouts, long drums and blacksmith’s bellows. The wood is currently recommended in Ghana for use in industrial insulation and in aircraft construction and for models[332 ]. The wood yields a strong paper and has found recommendation as pulp[332 ]. The wood is sometimes used as firewood, though it is of low quality[303 , 332 ]. In olden times it provided the fuel for anyone condemned to death by burning[332

Special Uses

Coppice  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A tree of the wet, lowland tropics, where it can be found at elevations up to 200 metres[418 ]. It grows best in areas where the mean maximum and minimum temperatures are within the range 28 - 36°c, though it can tolerate 20 - 40°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 3,000 - 4,000mm, tolerating 2,000 - 5,000mm[418 ]. Requires a sunny position[332 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 4.5 - 5.5, tolerating 4 - 6.5[418 ]. Although we have seen no reports of this species becoming invasive, it produces fruits embedded with small seeds. These fruits are much relished by wildlife, which thus spread the seed widely. Within the plants native range it is a vigorous pioneer, rapidly invading cleared land. This habit gives it the potential to escape from cultivation and invade non-native areas if it is cultivated outside is native range[K ]. A very fast-growing tree when young, with some plants reaching a height of 5 metres within 12 months[303 ]. The tree is short-lived, with a life span of around 20 years. It generally dies even before it is overshadowed by taller species[303 ]. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed is required.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed -

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Corkwood, Aga, Amonia, Angope, Assan, Asseng, Bokombo, Bossengue, Dwumma, Kode, Kombo, Leseng, Lisseng, Litumbe, Ogoken, Senga.

Angola; Benin; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; Liberia; Nigeria; Sao Tomé and Principe; Sierra Leone; Togo; Uganda, Africa, Central Africa, CAR, Central African Republic, Congo DR, Côte d'Ivoire, East Africa, Equatorial-Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinée, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda, West Africa.

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.

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.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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