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The tree is widely distributed in riverine Brachystegia woodlands, lowland rainforests, dry montane forests and montane rainforests, in swamps and riverine forests (FAO 1986). It is found in Kilimanjaro, Tanga, Coast, Iringa, Dodoma, Arusha, and Morogoro.

Minimum Altitude (m):


Maximum Altitude (m):


Minimum Rainfall (mm):


Maximum Rainfall (mm):


Minimum Temperature (C):


Maximum Temperature (C):



Soil Requirements: Appears to be adapted to fairly fertile soils that are well-drained. It prefers loamy sands to sandy loam soils but is also common in volcanic rocks which may indicate that it has adapted to fairly fertile soils (Forest Division 1984).

Light Requirements: Requires shade when young, but old trees do not tolerate shade.

Influential Factors: Proximity to ground water or rivers appears to be essential if rainfall is lacking or during the dry season.


Means Propagation: Seed and stumps. It is easily grown by seedlings. The tree naturally regenerates by coppice, suckers, seed, and root suckers.

Seed Treatments: Fruits are small round drupes, about 1.3 cm in diameter, becoming black and wrinkled when mature. There are 1 or 2 seeds per fruit. Extract seeds from ripe fruits by soaking in water; no other pretreatment is necessary. Plant immediately, as seeds rapidly lose their viability (Forest Division 1984). Seedlings reach 24 to 30 cm in height in 6 months, and may be then outplanted (Forest Division 1984).

Seedling Management: Seed germinates after staying on the forest floor for a long time (FAO 1986). In Lushoto wildlings that were picked, potted, and planted after 8 months all died the following season.


Planting Types: R. caffra is used in agroforestry systems (highland coffee and banana fields). Once economic products are determined, large scale plantations may be feasible. Trees should not be raised near dwellings, as some parts of the tree are poisonous, and may be toxic to children and livestock.

Growth Factors: A fast growing, easily cultivated tree, often grown in gardens in southern Africa (Palmer and Pitman 1972). In Kenya it was reported to grow to 27 m in wet forests (Dale and Greenway 1961).

Growth Cycle: In Tanzania, flowering occurs during the long rains, and fruit ripens during the dry season extending into the short rainy season, February to November (FAO 1986).

Management Systems: There is a need to overcome problems of dieback.


R. caffra has many traditional medicinal applications as well as established modern pharmaceutical uses. The bark is used to treat rheumatism, pneumonia, and colic. The root is used for insomnia, and intestinal worms. It is also used to treat malaria, hypertension, and psychosis (Rulangaranga 1989).

The wood is rather soft and not durable. It is used for poles, domestic items such as spoons, tool handles, containers, and pipes and as firewood.

It is an important plant in beekeeping in Tanzania due to its small white pleasantly scented flowers.

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