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Milicia excelsa - (Welw.) C.C.Berg

Common Name African Teak
Family Moraceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The wood and sawdust may cause dermatitis, irritation to nose and throat, and asthmatic reactions, due to the presence of the phenol chlorophorin[299 ].
Habitats Deciduous, semi-deciduous or evergreen, primary or secondary forest, with an apparent preference for drier forest types, at elevations up to 1,200 metres. Often occurs in gallery forest and in forest islands or as lone trees in savannah regions[299 ].
Range Tropical Africa - Guinea Bissau east to Ethiopia and south to Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Milicia excelsa African Teak

Milicia excelsa African Teak


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Milicia excelsa or African Teak is a nitrogen-fixing tree that can also be used as a shade tree. It is large and deciduous, growing up to 50 m high and 350 cm in trunk diameter. The trunk is often buttressed and can be branchless for up to 20 m. The crown is wide and flat. The bark is pale, thick, and produces milky latex once damaged. The leaves are green, long, and ovate with toothed edges. The fruits are green, wrinkled, long, and fleshy. African Teak is threatened by habitat loss. It is one of the two species producing timber known as iroko. Iroko is used for construction, furniture, flooring, panelling, etc. As herbal medicine, various plant parts of African Teak are used in the treatment of a wide range of conditions such as coughs, heart problems, inflammation, female sterility, asthma, stomach pain, abdominal pain, wounds, scabies, diarrhea, dysentery, and skin problems. The fruits are edible and the fruit juice is used for flavoring. Young leaves are cooked.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Milicia excelsa is a deciduous Tree growing to 50 m (164ft) by 35 m (114ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The plant is not self-fertile.
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. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Chlorophora excelsa (Welw.) Benth. Maclura excelsa (Welw.) Bureau. Milicia africana Sim Morus excels

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves
Edible Uses: Condiment

Young leaves - cooked[299 ]. The ripe fruits are edible[299 ]. The fruit juice is used for flavouring[299 ]. The fruit is green, wrinkled, fleshy and resembles a fat green caterpillar[299 ]. It is up to 7.5cm long and 2.5 cm wide[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.
Antiasthmatic  Antidiarrhoeal  Antihaemorrhoidal  Antiinflammatory  Antirheumatic  Antitussive  Aphrodisiac  Cardiac  
Dysentery  Eczema  Febrifuge  Galactogogue  Ophthalmic  Purgative  Skin  

African teak is widely used in African traditional medicine. Research has shown that chlorophorin, a phenolic compound found in the plant, has inhibitory effects on melanin biosynthesis. Its more stable derivative, hexahydrochlorophorin, may have potential for use in skin-whitening agents and for treating disturbances in pigmentation[299 ]. Two phenolic compounds (chlorophorin and iroko) have shown in-vitro anti-amoebic activity[299 ]. A methanol extract of the stem bark has shown in-vivo anti-inflammatory properties[299 ]. A root decoction is taken to treat female sterility. A decoction of the root and stem bark is taken as an aphrodisiac[299 ]. The bark is aphrodisiac, galactagogue, purgative and tonic[299 ]. It is used to treat a wide range of conditions including cough, asthma, heart trouble, lumbago, spleen pain, stomach pain, abdominal pain, oedema, ascites, dysmenorrhoea, gonorrhoea, general fatigue, rheumatism, sprains[299 ]. Bark preparations are externally applied to treat scabies, wounds, loss of hair, fever, venereal diseases and sprains[299 ]. They are also applied as an enema to cure piles, diarrhoea and dysentery[299 ]. The latex is considered to be galactagogue[299 ]. It is taken in the treatment of stomach problems, hypertension, tumours and obstructions of the throat[299 ]. Externally, it is applied on burns, wounds, sores and against eczema and other skin problems[299 ]. The leaves are galactagogue[299 ]. They are eaten to treat insanity, and a decoction is taken for the treatment of gallstones[299 ]. Externally, leaf preparations are used in the treatment of snakebites and fever, and as eye drops to treat filariasis.

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Dye  Fuel  Furniture  Hair  Mulch  Pioneer  Roofing  Sandpaper  Soil conditioner  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: The tree is used for soil improvement through its leaf mulch, and soil conservation[299 , 325 ]. A natural pioneer species within its native range, supplying a high-grade timber. It could be a useful addition in reforestation projects to restore native woodland[K ]. Other Uses The mature leaves have been used as sandpaper[299 ]. The bark is used for dyeing leather and cloth[299 ]. The bark is used for making the roofs of houses[299 ]. The bark of young trees has been used for making loincloths[299 ]. The heartwood is pale yellow to yellow, darkening on exposure to yellowish or greenish brown or sometimes to chocolate brown; it is clearly demarcated from the 50 - 75mm wide band of yellowish white sapwood. The grain is interlocked; texture medium to coarse; figure mottled. The wood is somewhat greasy and is odourless[299 ]. The wood is of medium weight, moderately hard, of good durability, being resistent to fungi, dry wood borers and termites. Working properties for hand and machine tools are generally good but variable; the interlocked grain may hamper sawing and planing. The wood is rather abrasive due to the presence of hard deposits (‘iroko stones’, mainly consisting of calcium carbonate), which can blunt cutting edges. Tearing in planing can be avoided by using cutting angles of 15° or less. The wood has good nailing, screwing, mortising and gluing properties and turns easily. It finishes well, but filler is needed. The wood contains the stilbene derivative chlorophorin, which prevents oil-based paints from drying, and which corrodes metal in contact with it. Steam-bending properties of the wood are moderate[299 ]. The wood is a highly valued commercial timber in Africa, for which demand is large. It is used for construction work, shipbuilding and marine carpentry, sleepers, sluice gates, framework, trucks, draining boards, outdoor and indoor joinery, stairs, doors, frames, garden furniture, cabinet work, panelling, flooring and profile boards for decorative and structural uses. It is also used for carving, domestic utensils, musical instruments and toys. As it is resistant to acids and bases, it is used for tanks and barrels for food and chemical products and for laboratory benches. It is used as sliced veneer but only rarely as rotary veneer[299 , 848 ]. The wood is also used as firewood and for making charcoal.[299 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A tree of moist to wet tropical forests at low to medium elevations from sea level to 1,600 metres[325 ]. It occurs in regions with an average annual temperature of 25 - 35°c and an average annual rainfall of 1,150 - 1,900mm[299 ]. The tree can tolerate a dry season of up to 6 months and can grow in areas with mean annual rainfall as low as 700mm provided it has access to extra water from a perennial stream or underground source[303 ]. African teak succeeds on a large variety of soils so long as they are fertile, it is especially sensitive to low levels of potassium and phosphorus[299 ]. Its presence is considered to be an indicator of fertile soil suitable for cultivation[299 ]. It prefers well-drained soils and does not tolerate impeded drainage[299 ]. It is a pioneer species, demanding intense light and unable to stand deep shade[299 ]. Young trees grow continuously, but growth of adult trees is periodical[299 ]. Trees are fairly fast growing - in a 6-year-old plantation some trees were over 6 metres tall, although the variability was large[299 ]. On average it takes 130 years here for a tree to reach a trunk diameter of 80cm[299 ]. Male trees can start flowering within 10 years from seed, but females can take 15 years[325 ]. It takes 5 - 6 weeks from fertilization to fruit maturation. Seed dispersal is mostly by birds, bats and squirrels[299 ]. Trees respond well to pruning and coppicing[299 ]. In the dry season Milicia excelsa is deciduous for a short period[299 ]. Dioecious - both male and female forms need to be grown if seed is required[325 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - can be stored at room temperature for at least 12 months[325 ]. When sown fresh it normally gives good germination rates of 90% or more within 2 - 4 weeks[299 ]. Seeds are sown in a seedbed and transplanted to pots or nursery beds 3 weeks after germination. Seedlings should be grown under shade to limit attacks by Phytolyma spp[299 ]. About 4 months after sowing the seedlings are around 30cm tall and ready for planting out in the field[299 ]. Young plants transplant well[299 ]. Stem cuttings[299 ]. Successful propagation has been achieved using stem cuttings from 1- and 2-year-old trees, but from mature trees cuttings should be taken from coppice shoots[299 ]. Root cuttings[299 ]. Grafting[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

African Teak, Abeng, Ala, Bang, Bangi, Bangui, Diedie, Iroko, Kambala, Mucuco, Murritulula, Muule, Mvule, Ngunde, Odum, Tule, Uloko, african oak, loko, msule, mwala, orjih, roko, sanga, semo.

Angola; Benin; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Ghana; Kenya; Malawi; Mozambique; Nigeria; Rwanda; Sao Tomé and Principe; Sierra Leone; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Zimbabwe, Africa, Asia, Burkina Faso, Central Africa, East Africa, Guinea-Bissau, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Sierra Leone, Southern Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, West Africa, 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.

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Milicia regiaOroko, IrokoTree30.0 10-12 FLMNM225

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


(Welw.) C.C.Berg

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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