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Spirostachys africana - Sond.

Common Name African mahogany tree, African sandalwood
Family Euphorbiaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The plant produces a copious, caustic, milky latex that, upon contact, causes damage to the skin or blindness[308 , 775 ]. It is sometimes used to sturefy fish[295 ]. The sawdust of fresh wood and the sap are highly irritant[308 ].
Habitats Deciduous woodland, bushland; wooded grassland; Colophospermum mopane or mixed woodlands; sometimes in thickets; locally common and usually gregarious; the largest trees occur near streams and seasonal watercourse; elevations from 30 - 1,350 metres[328 ].
Range Africa - Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, S. Africa.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Spirostachys africana African mahogany tree, African sandalwood

Ted Woods Wikimedia.org
Spirostachys africana African mahogany tree, African sandalwood
Volker Haag, Thünen Institute of Wood Research


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Spirostachys africana or African Mahogany Tree or African Sandalwood is a very slow-growing deciduous tree growing up to 20 m in height. The trunk is straight and bark is gray-black and rough. The leaves are small and narrowly oval, with rounded teeth along the edge. The flowers are dioecious, occurring in long groups. The fruits are small capsules with rounded seeds. The plant yields latex with medicinal properties specifically against toothache. Small dosage of bark is used for stomach pain; if taken at large dosage, it may cause damage to the internal organs. The wood, known as tamboti, tambotie, tambootie, or tambuti, is hard and durable, and used for furniture-making, carving, and crafts. It is not suitable for fuel because the smoke is toxic.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Spirostachys africana is a deciduous Tree growing to 7.5 m (24ft) by 5 m (16ft) 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 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 and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



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.

Although the latex is very toxic to humans it does have traditional medicinal uses; a drop of the fresh latex, for example, is applied to a painful tooth as painkiller[295 ]. The bark is used to treat stomach pains, but large dosages will cause damage to the internal organs[295 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Latex  Teeth  Wood

Other Uses: The heartwood is a dark brown; the sapwood creamy white[295 ]. The wood is hard and durable[308 ]. It is easily worked, stable and contains an oil which helps to give a beautiful finish. The quality of the heartwood and its scent are like those of the Indian sandalwood (Santalum album). A beautifully figured and very ornamental wood, it is much sought after for furniture making and is a very popular material for traditional carving and making local crafts such as beads and decorative sticks[295 , 308 , 775 ]. It has been suggested that this may have been the 'algum' wood from 'Ophir' as used in King Solomon?s Palace and the Hebrew Temple[308 ]. The wood is not suitable as a fuel because the smoke is toxic; it will also cause diarrhoea if food is roasted on the wood and then eaten[295 ].

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of drier areas in the tropics and subtropics. The tree can tolerate at least some frost[295 ]. Requires a moist soil for best growth[775 ]. Succeeds in a wide range of soils[295 ]. Established plants are fairly drought tolerant[295 ]. A very slow-growing tree[295 ]. The seeds often become infested with the larvae of a small grey moth which cause the seeds to spring several centimeters into the air similar to the 'jumping beans' of some South American Hippomaneae (Sebastiania spp., Colliguaya spp.)[308 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - it needs to be harvested before being fully ripe because otherwise most of the seeds will be parasitized[295 ]. Surface sow the seed in a nursery seedbed or containers, pushing it gently into the top of the compost and do not allow it to become to dry[295 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Cape-sandalwood, Chilangamacho, Morekhuri, Mushongo, N'kuni, Ohongo, Omuhongo, Omupapa, Shilati, Tamboti, ?aueb, ?uib, adlerholz, african mahogany tree, african sandalwood, agelhout, au-haib, auib, auwiwa, awiba, awueb, awuib, chilangamacho, gifboom, jumping bean, jumping bean tree, jumping-bean tree, kx'auhi, kx'euhi, kxehui, morekhure, morekuri, morukuru, muhongo, mushongo, n'kuni, ndzopfori, ndzopfuri, ohongo, omihongo, omuhongo, omunghongo, omupapa, orupapa, sandalo, sandalo africano, sandalwood, shilati, tambootie, tamboti, tambotie, tambotieboom, tambotihout, tambuti, umtfombotsi, umthombothi, xilangamahlo.

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Found In

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

South Africa; Mozambique; Kenya; Swaziland; Angola; Namibia; Botswana; Zimbabwe; Tanzania, United Republic of, Africa, Botswana, Central Africa, East Africa, South Africa, Southern Africa, Swaziland.

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

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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