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:


Dalbergia melanoxylon - Guill. & Perr.

Common Name African Blackwood, Grenadilla, Mpingo
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Grows under a wide range of conditions including semi-arid, subhumid and tropical lowland areas[ 303 ]. It is often found on dry, rocky sites but is most frequent in the mixed deciduous forests and savannahs of the coastal region[ 303 ].
Range Africa - drier areas from Senegal to Ethiopia, south to S. Africa.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Dalbergia melanoxylon African Blackwood, Grenadilla, Mpingo

Dalbergia melanoxylon African Blackwood, Grenadilla, Mpingo


Translate this page:


Dalbergia melanoxylon or commonly known as African Blackwood, Grenadilla, or Mpingo is a flowering plant native to Africa. It is an important timber species used in making musical instruments and furniture. It is a small tree that grows usually 4 - 15 m in height with grey bark, spiny shoots, pinnately compound leaves that are arranged alternately, and white flowers that form into dense clusters. The fruit is a pod with one or two seeds per pod. D. melanoxylon is relatively slow growing. It is used medicinally to prevent miscarriage and to treat abdominal pain, diarrhoea, gonorrhoea, syphilis, colds, headaches, bronchitis, wounds, joint pain, and inflammation.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Dalbergia melanoxylon is a deciduous Tree growing to 6 m (19ft) by 6 m (19ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees. The plant is not self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
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. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Amerimnon melanoxylon (Guill. & Perr.) Kuntze

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

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  Antidiarrhoeal  Antifungal  Antiinflammatory  Aphrodisiac

The roots are said to be anthelmintic and aphrodisiac[ 299 ]. A decoction is used to prevent miscarriage, to treat abdominal pain, diarrhoea, gonorrhoea and syphilis[ 303 ]. The wood smoke is inhaled to treat headaches, colds and bronchitis[ 299 , 303 ]. The stem and root bark is used in traditional medicine to treat diarrhoea in combination with baobab or tamarind fruits[ 299 ]. A bark decoction or bark powder is used to clean wounds[ 299 ]. A leaf decoction is used to relieve pain in the joints[ 299 ]. The leaf sap is taken to treat inflammations in mouth and throat[ 299 ]. Bark extracts have shown antibacterial and antifungal activities, thus supporting the traditional application for cleansing wounds[ 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  Fencing  Fuel  Furniture  Mulch  Shelterbelt  Soil stabilization  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: The tree provides good mulch and may improve the soil by nitrogen fixation[ 299 ]. It can be used to avoid soil erosion because of its extensive root system. It is also useful in windbreaks and live fences[ 299 ]. Other Uses The heartwood is purplish black, sometimes darker towards the outside, with light streaks and not always uniform in colour; it is sharply differentiated from the up to 12cm wide band of white or yellowish-white sapwood[ 303 ]. The timber is slightly oily, exceptionally hard and very heavy, brittle and somewhat fissile[ 303 ]. The heartwood is extremely durable and resistant to all forms of biological deterioration[ 303 ]. The sapwood, however, is susceptible to fungal or insect attack[ 303 ]. The dry wood is difficult to saw or plane; it blunts saws and cutters and cannot be nailed or screwed without drilling; it is, however, among the finest of all turnery timbers, cutting exactly and finishing to a brilliantly polished, lustrous surface, dry and cold to the touch[ 303 ]. Other products made from the timber include carvings, turnery and marquetry to produce sculptures, musical instruments, ornaments, inlays, chess pieces, walking sticks, bearings and many other products[ 303 ]. The main industrial use, long supporting an export trade from East Africa and Mozambique, is the manufacture of musical instruments, especially woodwinds. With its high density and fine texture, the wood produces a beautiful musical tone[ 303 ]. It is stable, stands up to metalwork processes, and takes an excellent finish[ 303 ]. The wood is used as a fuel and to make charcoal[ 299 ]. Its calorific value is more than 49,000 kcal/kg. Heat generation is so high that fires of D. Melanoxylon have been reported to melt cooking utensils[ 303 ].

Special Uses

Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of low to moderate elevations in the tropics, being found at elevations from sea level to 1,200 metres[ 303 ]. It grows in areas where the mean annual temperature is in the range 18 - 35°c and the mean annual rainfall is 700 - 1,200 mm[ 303 ]. Succeeds in a variety of soils, from loamy sands to clayey Vertisols (black cotton soils)[ 303 ]. This species demands water and light and therefore is common near water and will not regenerate under heavy cover[ 303 ]. When introduced into India and Australia, the plant became naturalized[ 299 ]. In western Australia it behaved as a very aggressive weed and was quickly eradicated[ 299 ]. The species is extremely slow growing. Seven year old trees are only up to 4 metres tall and it takes 70 - 100 years for trees to attain timber size[ 303 , 774 ]. Trees coppice successfully and also produce root suckers[ 299 ]. Trees generally exhibit heavy annual seed production[ 299 ]. Mature trees are fire tolerant[ 303 ]. 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[ 755 ]. Small growers in Naples, Florida have been successful in growing African blackwood there. Growth habit in Florida yields taller, larger trees, and the rich soil combined with ample nutrients and long growing season yields timber of superior quality at more sustainable rates.

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 extracted from pods germinate readily without pre-treatment[ 303 ]. They should be kept in the shade for 2 weeks after sowing, but can then be placed in full sun[ 299 ]. They germinate 8 - 20 days after sowing, with a germination rate of 50 - 60%[ 299 ]. Although pre-treatment of seeds is not necessary, soaking the seeds in water accelerates germination[ 299 ]. Experimental work in Tanzania suggests that survival and growth are improved by planting 2-year-old stumps that are 14 cm long, comprising 12 cm of root and 2 cm of shoot[ 303 ]. These should be planted in the early or middle part of the rainy season, followed by intensive weeding. Potted seedlings may also be used, but they tend to grow more slowly. When seedlings are raised in pots, frequent root pruning is mandatory[ 303 ]. Delayed pruning leads to seedling shock[ 303 ]. Like many species within the family Fabaceae, once they have been dried for storage the seeds of this species may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing[ K ]. Seed storage behaviour is orthodox; viability can be maintained for several years in hermetic storage at 3?c with 9 - 12% mc[ 303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Angola; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Ethiopia; Kenya; Malawi; Mali; Mozambique; Namibia; Nigeria; Senegal; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; 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.

A very aggressive weed in Western Australia but due to overuse, the mpingo tree is severely threatened in Kenya and is needing attention in Tanzania and Mozambique.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Lower Risk/near threatened

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Dalbergia baroniiPalissandre rouge des marais, hitsika, sovodranoTree20.0 10-12 MLMNMwe004
Dalbergia cochinchinensisSiam Rosewood, Thailand RosewoodTree25.0 10-12 SLMHNM004
Dalbergia greveanaMadagascar RosewoodTree15.0 10-12 SLMHNDM024
Dalbergia hupeana Tree15.0 -  LMHSNM113
Dalbergia latifoliaBlack Rosewood, East Indian Rosewood, Kala sheeshan, SatisalTree30.0 10-12 MLMHNM024
Dalbergia louveliiAndramena, Volombodipona, Violet rosewoodTree15.0 10-12 MLMHNM024
Dalbergia monticolaHazovola, tsiandalana, voamboanaTree12.0 10-12 SLMHNM004
Dalbergia nigraBrazilian RosewoodTree20.0 10-12 MLMHNDM004
Dalbergia oliveriRedwoodTree23.0 10-12 SLMHSNM004
Dalbergia retusaCocoboloTree20.0 10-12 SLMHNM004
Dalbergia stevensoniiHonduras RosewoodTree20.0 10-12 SLMHNM004

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


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.

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 : Dalbergia melanoxylon  
© 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.