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Colophospermum mopane - (J.Kirk ex Benth.) J.Kirk ex J.L?onard

Common Name Rhodesian ironwood, Rhodesian mahogany
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats The dominant species over great areas in hot, dry, low-lying areas; often found on alluvial soils, but also tolerating alkaline and poorly drained soils. It is found at elevations of 60 - 1,000 metres, occasionally to 1,300 metres[308 , 328 ].
Range Southern Africa - Gabon, Congo, Angola, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, south to S. Africa.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Wet Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Colophospermum mopane Rhodesian ironwood, Rhodesian mahogany

wikimedia.org Ji-Elle
Colophospermum mopane Rhodesian ironwood, Rhodesian mahogany
wikimedia.org Steven Haw


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Colophospermum mopane is a deciduous Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 12 m (39ft) 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, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Copaiba mopane (J.Kirk ex Benth.) Kuntze Copaifera mopane J.Kirk ex Benth. Hardwickia mopane (J.Kirk ex Benth.) Breteler

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[303 ]. Only used in times of shortage[303 ].

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.

An extract of the bark is used as a remedy for syphilis and as an application to inflamed eyes[303 ]. A deep red decoction of the bark is drunk to cure stomach pains[303 ]. Stubborn wounds can be treated with the gum that is exuded from the heated wood[393 ]. The leaves are used for healing wounds[295 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Agroforestry Uses: The plant is useful in stabilizing dry, alkaline soils. It is listed as one of the tree species used in sand-dune stabilization in India[303 ]. The ash is rich in calcium and potassium and is a useful fertilizer[303 ]. A very shallow rooting plant, it can therefore survive on low mounds in wet areas, or under saline conditions as long as salinity in the topsoil is low[418 ]. It thrives only where there is little competition from deep-rooting trees[418 ]. The open crown casts little shade[418 ]. In the heat of the day, in order to save water, the leaflets fold together and present the smallest surface area toward the sun, thereby reducing exposure to the leaf surface. This also prevents much shade from being cast[295 ]. Other Uses: A small fibre is said to be obtainable from the bark of some trees[303 ]. It is used to make twine[295 ]. Tannin is obtained from the bark[295 ]. The tree is the source of the resin Angola, or Congo, copal[46 , 303 ]. Copal is a hard resin, obtained from various tropical trees, and mainly used in making varnish[K ]. Some trees yield no copal but ooze a clear yellow gum when the bark is incised.[303 ]. The wood ash is high in lime (approximately 50%) and can be used to make whitewash[303 ]. The twigs are used as toothbrushes[295 ]. The dark-grey wood is hard, heavy, quite durable but difficult to work with [303 , 308 ]. It is used as mine timbers, fence posts, house poles, bridge timbers, railway material, carved ornaments, parquet flooring and furniture[418 ]. Due to its great durability and resistance to termites, it is widely used for construction, tool handles and other implements[303 ]. The wood is used for fuel and to make charcoal[308 , 418 ]. Excellent firewood, burning with great heat and very little ash; it burns easily, even when green[303 ]. However, the hardness makes it difficult to fell, chop or split[303 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Fodder: Bank  Fodder: Insect  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  New Crop

A plant of the drier, lowland tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,200 metres, growing best below 900 metres[418 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range of 26 - 36c, but can tolerate 12 - 50c[418 ]. It can be killed by temperatures of -1c or lower[418 ]. The plant only withstands mild frosts - heavy frosts may cause the branches to die back[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 250 - 500mm, but tolerates 150 - 900mm[418 ]. Grows best in a sunny position, tolerating light shade[418 ]. Succeeds in most soils of moderate to low fertility[418 ]. It prefers a well-drained soil, though can tolerate some water-logging[418 ]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7.5, tolerating 5 - 8.5[418 ]. Trees can commence flowering when they are 5 years old[303 ]. The sticky seeds cling to the hooves of passing animals and are dispersed. They are also wind dispersed[303 ]. The leaves and fruits are very glandular and smell strongly of turpentine[308 ]. The tree coppices vigorously after fire, frost or felling[418 ]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Fodder: Bank  Fodder banks are plantings of high-quality fodder species. Their goal is to maintain healthy productive animals. They can be utilized all year, but are designed to bridge the forage scarcity of annual dry seasons. Fodder bank plants are usually trees or shrubs, and often legumes. The relatively deep roots of these woody perennials allow them to reach soil nutrients and moisture not available to grasses and herbaceous plants.
  • Fodder: Insect  Plants grown for useful fodder insects.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • New Crop  Most new crops were important wild plants until recently, although some are the result of hybridization. They have been developed in the last few, decades. What they have in common is that they are currently cultivated by farmers. Examples include baobab, argan, and buffalo gourd.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - retains its viability for at least 3 years[303 ]. The seed pods do not split open of their own accord and the seeds can germinate while still in the pod[295 ]. Removing the seed from the pod does speed up germination but needs to be done carefully. They should be sown in flat seedling trays in river sand. Place the seeds on the sand surface. Keep the trays moist so that the seed can absorb water to germinate[295 ]. The seedlings are initially slow growing but the growth rate speeds up once a height of about 20cm is reached. Transplanting will need to be done with care, try to avoid damaging the roots[295 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Butterfly tree, Canye, Cungua, Iphane, M'sanha, Massamba, Mopane, Mopani, Mophane, Mopanie, Mohlanare balsam tree, Mupane, Musharu, Mwaani, Ntsono, Sanya, Tsanya, Turpentine tree,

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Found In

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

Africa, Angola, Botswana, Central Africa, Central African Republic, CAR, Congo, East Africa, Gabon, India, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Southern Africa, Swaziland, 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


(J.Kirk ex Benth.) J.Kirk ex J.L?onard

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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