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Is widely distributed, and tolerates a wide range of sites, especially on gravelly soils. A deciduous savannah tree or shrub, it will intertwine with other trees, and has a heavily branched, many stemmed growth habit. It is found in tropical lowlands and on various sites in subhumid and semiarid areas.

In Tanzania it is found in low altitude savannah or woodlands around Morogoro and Itigi, down to the coast. Often it grows in areas where productive agriculture is impossible due to shallow, rocky soils. This is an indication of the tree's hardiness but may also indicate that it can not effectively compete when conditions are better (Forest Division 1984).

Status: D. melanoxylon is a national emblem protected by law (UNEP 1988).

Minimum Altitude (m):


Maximum Altitude (m):


Minimum Rainfall (mm):


Maximum Rainfall (mm):


Minimum Temperature (C):


Maximum Temperature (C):



Soil Requirements: Needs sufficiently moist soils, preferably near water (don Maydell 1986).

Light Requirements: Light demanding.

Influential Factors: Does not regenerate well naturally (don Maydell 1986). It is able to withstand fire and mature trees are damaged but not usually killed by bush fires.


Means of Propagation: Seed, wildlings, cuttings, root suckers, and coppice.

Seeds per kg:


Germination Rate (%):


Seed Sources:

1200 TSH per kg Silviculture Research Centre 1991/92. 1000 TSH per Kg pods - Tanzania National Seed Centre 1991.

Seed Treatments: Pods are long, flat, papery, and about 4 cm in length with 1 to 4 seeds per pod. The pods do not burst open on maturity. Pretreatment is not necessary. Seed germinates readily, but has a short viability period and should be planted within a few months after collection.

Seedling Management: Raising from stumps may be better than from potted seedlings. Plant a 2 year old stump 14 cm long (12 cm root + 2 cm stem) in early or mid rains then weed intensively.


Planting Types: Planted as individuals or mixed with fast growing trees which do not cast too much shade (Forest Division 1984).

Growth Factors: Growth is slow, especially in the first few years. Young trees coppice well, but coppicing ability declines with age (Forest Division 1984). It survives if subjected to competition for moisture and light, but height and root collar development will be negligible.

Growth Cycle: It takes between 70 and 100 years to reach maturity for harvesting (UNEP 1988). Well tended trees will grow 0.6 to 0.7 m in height per year and 1 to 1.5 cm in diameter per year. The tree is deciduous, losing its leaves briefly in the dry season (Forest Division 1984).

Management Systems: Planting early in the rainy season gives better results than later planting (Forest Division 1984). Water sparingly so the seed does not rot. Seedlings grow well if areas are well weeded.

Side pruning may be needed for a clean bole. It may make economic sense to do intensive weeding for the first 5 to 8 years, depending on market prices for D. melanoxylon (Mugasha 1983).


Use #1: CRAFTS
Carvings from African ebony made by the Makonde tribe are well-known outside Tanzania. The heartwood is very suitable for traditional carvings and musical instruments which are for sale throughout the country. The trade offers revenue to those who live near otherwise unproductive sites.

The wood has considerable potential to earn foreign exchange from carvings and for use in Europe for musical instruments. It is used to make piano keys and clarinets (Teel 1984).

The roots can be used to treat abdominal pain, hernia, gonorrhoea, and in abortion (Westman Draft). The bark from the root and the stem is an antidiarrhetic and the smoke of burning roots is inhaled to treat headaches and bronchitis. The juice from leaves can be used to treat sore throats, heart problems, dysentery, syphilis, and gonorrhoea. A decoction of the bark is used for cleaning wounds.

The leaves make good mulch, are used as green manure, and for fodder. It is also thought to be nitrogen fixing.

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