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Moringa stenopetala - (Baker f.) Cufod.

Common Name African horseradish tree, cabbagetree
Family Moringaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The glucosinolates in the leaves were found to cause goitre but to a lesser extent than expected on the basis of their concentration. However, in a diet poor in iodine it may be a contributing factor[299 ].
Habitats Acacia tortilis woodland, riverine woodland of Hyphaene, Acacia, etc.; Acacia, Delonix, Commiphora associations, scrub and succulent steppe; usually on rocky ground by permanent water; at elevations from 390 - 1,200 metres[328 ].
Range East tropical Africa - Ethiopia and Kenya.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Moringa stenopetala African horseradish tree, cabbagetree

Moringa stenopetala African horseradish tree, cabbagetree
Trees ForTheFuture - Flickr


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African Horseradish Tree or Moringa stenopetala is a cultivated food plant reaching a height of up to 15 m. It has a smooth bark, soft branches, compound leaves, and white scented flowers. The fruits are yellow, long pods that split open to release winged seeds. Leaf infusion is a remedy for leprosy, hypertension, retained placenta, asthma, colds, and wounds. Roots are burned and the smoke is inhaled as a treatment for epilepsy. The leaves and roots are used in the treatment of malaria, stomach conditions, and diabetes. Young leaves are eaten raw or cooked. Young fruits, flowers, and seedpods are all edible as well. The seeds are used to purify water. Seed oil is used as a lubricant, and in perfumery and soap making. The wood is used for paper making, and as firewood and charcoal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Moringa stenopetala is a deciduous Tree growing to 9 m (29ft) by 9 m (29ft) at a medium 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 dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Donaldsonia stenopetala Baker f. Moringa streptocarpa Chiov.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Fruit  Leaves  Oil  Seedpod
Edible Uses: Oil

Young leaves - raw or cooked and eaten as a vegetable[301 , 317 ]. A larger leaf with a milder flavour than the leaves of M. Oleifera[301 ]. Traditionally, the leaflets are separated from the rachis and plunged into boiling water. Salt or sodium carbonate is added to the water. While the leaves are cooking, a mixture of flours is prepared, then kneaded and made into balls 2 - 5cm in diameter. These are tossed into the water as well and after about 10 minutes the balls and the leaves are ready to serve[299 ]. The addition of fat (grease or butter), small-sized cereal balls and a large amount of leaves are considered to make this dish a good-quality meal[299 ]. The young, soft fruits can also be added, but the slightly bitter taste restricts the use to periods when food is in short supply[299 ]. Flowers - cooked and eaten as a vegetable[418 ]. Seedpods - cooked[418 ]. This probably refers to the young seedpods, as mentioned above, which have a bitter flavour[K ].

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  Antiasthmatic  Antidiarrhoeal  Antitussive  Epilepsy  Hypoglycaemic  Hypotensive  Leprosy  

An infusion of the leaves is used as a remedy against leprosy[299 ]. They are also used to treat hypertension, retained placenta, asthma, colds, as an anthelmintic, to induce vomiting and to promote wound healing[299 ]. The leaves of certain trees of this species are renowned for their effectiveness against diarrhoea. The smoke of burning roots is used as a treatment for epilepsy[299 ]. The smoke is said to be inhaled by women in Sudan during a difficult labour, but as the species has not been collected so far in Somalia, this record is probably incorrect[299 ]. The leaves and roots are used as a cure for malaria, stomach problems and diabetes[299 ]. The bark is chewed as a treatment against coughs, and is also used to make fortifying soups[299 ]. Ethanol extracts of the leaves and roots have shown promise in control of Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania donovani in in-vitro experiments[299 ]. The leaf extract causes increased uterine smooth muscle contractions[299 ]. The medicinal use of leaves to expel a retained placenta may be related to these increased contractions[299 ]. A crude seed extract strongly inhibited growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi, Shigella sp. And Candida albicans[299 ]. An aqueous extract of the leaves has been found to lower blood glucose concentration although it was less potent than glibenclamide. The effect was observed to increase with time and with increasing dose of the extract[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Cosmetic  Fencing  Filter  Fuel  Oil  Paper  Shelterbelt  Soap  Soil stabilization  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: The tree is used as a living fence[317 ]. Although in cultivation the primary goal is vegetable production, the tree can also play a role in erosion control, as a live fence, as a windbreak, for shade and as a bee plant[299 ]. Traditionally, the trees are mainly grown in home gardens of up to 0.1 ha with 5 - 15 trees per garden. Other crops usually grown in these gardens are papaya, coffee, banana, cassava, maize, sugar cane, cotton and Capsicum peppers[299 ]. Other Uses The seeds of this species are very effective for water purification[299 , 317 ]. The seed contains a protein (cationic polyelectrolyte) that acts as a flocculent in water purification. It can be extracted from the ground seed with salt water[299 ]. Even very muddy water can be cleared when the crushed seeds are added[418 ]. Solid matter and some bacteria will coagulate and then sink to the bottom of the container of water[418 ]. The cleaned water can then be poured off and boiled[418 ]. The seed oil is used as a lubricant, in perfumery and in soap production[299 ].. The wood is very soft and is useful for making paper[299 ]. The wood makes low-grade firewood and poor-quality charcoal[299 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Coppice  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Oil

A plant of the arid to moist tropics, where it can be grown at elevations from 390 - 2,200 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 25 - 35°c, but can tolerate 15 - 48°c[418 ]. Plants can tolerate light frosts, even heavier frosts do not always kill the plant since it is able to resprout from the base[299 , 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 500 - 1,500mm, but tolerates 200 - 2,800mm[418 ]. Grows best in a sunny position, but tolerates light shade[385 , 418 ]. Prefers a well-drained soil with a high groundwater table, but it can also withstand dry conditions well, and consequently it is found in both wetlands and dry areas[299 , 385 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 8, tolerating 5 - 9[418 ]. Plants are very drought tolerant, remaining green and continuing to grow even during exceptionally long dry seasons[418 ]. In experimental plantings in Sudan, plants reached a height of 3 metres within 14 months. The first flowers appeared 30 months after sowing.[299 ] The first leaves can be harvested after about 3 years[299 ]. Trees are pruned every 5 years during the rainy season[299 ]. The leaves are preferably left on the trees during the rainy season when other vegetables are in ample supply[299 ]. The leaves have a better taste in the dry season than during the rains[299 ]. Yield estimates are scarce. Annual production can reach 2,000 fruits or 6 kg of seed per tree under ideal conditions[299 ]. At elevations of over 1,650 m no fruits at all are harvested and leaf production is poor[299 ]. The taste of the leaves differs between trees and ranges from sweet to bitter[299 ].

Carbon Farming

  • 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.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Oil  (0-15 percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Some of these are consumed whole while others are exclusively pressed for oil. Annuals include canola, poppyseed, maize, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut. Perennials include high-oil fruits, seeds, and nuts, such as olive, coconut, avocado, oil palm, shea, pecan, and macadamia. Some perennial oil crops are consumed whole as fruits and nuts, while others are exclusively pressed for oil (and some are used fresh and for oil).

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in individual pots in a semi-shaded position, placing the seed 1cm deep in a mixture of sand and loam enriched with compost[299 ]. Do not allow the compost to become dry. Germination rates of fresh seeds approaches 100%, they germinate fastest at 25 - 30°c. Transplanting to permanent positions can be done when the plants are 20cm tall or 6 months old, and with proper water supply (about 25 litres of water every 3 - 4 days) all plants should survive[299 ]. Seeds of up to 1 year old have a germination rate close to 100%; germination of older seeds is variable and declines as a function of age and storage method[299 ]. The most common practice in traditional cultivation is to transplant seedlings that have become established under old trees. Before transplanting, branches and roots are cut and the seedlings are left to dry for a week, roots are covered with ash and upper parts with dung[299 ]. Cuttings can be used, but trees established from cuttings were found to have a poor root system[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Cabbage tree, Eleku, Etebusoit, Heleko, Lorsanjo, Mawali, Safara, Wocheletcha, african moringa, cabbagetree, etebusoit, ethiopian horseradish tree, lorsanjo, mau, mawali, moringa éthiopien, safara.

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Found In

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

Kenya; Ethiopia, Africa, East Africa, Malawi, Senegal, Somalia, 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
Moringa oleiferaHorseradish Tree, Moringa,Tree8.0 10-12 FLMHN 445
Moringa peregrinaMoringaTree8.0 10-12 MLMHNDM223

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


(Baker f.) Cufod.

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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