Most Important Trees In Africa (African Trees Of Life)

The most important trees in Africa play vital roles in the balance of the ecosystems. They are also widely useful to man for their products, and the shade they provide in this hot continent. These may not be the most popular trees, but due to the important roles they play, it is impossible to imagine the effects if said trees were to become extinct.

Africa’s most iconic trees get all the praise and attention, but it is these trees that keep life on the continent going.

Africa’s unique landscape and temperature have made these trees more at home on the continent than anywhere else, and they have rewarded the continent with numerous blessings.

Most Important Trees In Africa And There Uses

1. Oil Palm Tree

The Baobab Tree may get all the photos, but it is the Oil Palm tree that actually qualifies as the tree of life. It is found mostly in west and central Africa, lining the farms, compounds, and public squares of the interior African communities. The oil palm tree is a valuable resource to both man and animal. Let us start with its role to animal life.

The oil palm tree produces fruit which is a dependable food source for many life forms, most notably; the African giant pouched rats, squirrels, western plantain-eater, weaver birds, pheasants, and so many more. The trees are excellent homes to weaver birds, doves, and raptors. Dead trees are prized apartments for squirrels, owls, and many other birds.

For man, this is one of the most important trees; the oil is an indispensable, the fronds are used for roofing houses, and for making brooms, the residue from the oil processing serves as a fuel, and then there is the palm wine; a drink from heaven!

This tree is now been grown in Malaysia, Indonesia, the West Indies, and many other places. Let it be stated for record purposes that the tree originated in Sub Saharan Africa; and that it was from here that specimens were taken elsewhere for cultivation.

2. African Mango (Irvingia)

The African Mango, also called Wild Mango or Ogbono Tree is another very important tree in Africa; saving lives since ancient times. This tree is originally from Africa, and is also found in Southeast Asia.

The tree is famous for its fruit which is eaten by both man and animal. Birds, rodents, primates, and even pigs feast on the fruit of this tree, from the rain forests of West Africa to the bushes of South East Asia.

In West and Central Africa, the seed of this tree is an important source of food. The people of Nigeria use it to make Ogbono Soup, while the people of Gabon use it for Dika Bread.

African Mango trees are a favorite home for many monkey species; they eat the leaves as well as the fruit. The tree is also important for the hardwood it produces.

3. Acacia Trees

The Acacia Tree is one of the most widely distributed trees in Africa. It is found from Egypt in North Africa to the whole of West Africa, and then to East Africa, and then all the way down to parts of Southern Africa.

The tree is also known as Gum Arabic; a name that comes from the sap it produces. This tree is one of the most important for the sustenance of animal life in Africa; its leaves are consumed by all manner of animals including ants, giraffes, elephants, kudu and zebras.

The pods and seeds are also consumed by birds, primates, squirrels, antelopes and other animals.

Man also finds some uses in the Acacia tree; the gum is collected for sale and for many other uses. Some parts of the tree are also used as food, and for other uses like brushing teeth and dyeing leather.

4. Baobab

The Baobab tree is iconic as a symbol of Africa, and also a symbol of longevity. This tree originated in Africa, and has several species which seem to favor different areas of the continent. The Baobab is nicknamed the African Tree of Life; that name probably reflects the fact that it is an extremely long-lived species.

The Baobab tree can grow to great heights, meaning that it soon becomes a colossus- overshadowing everything in its immediate surroundings. Even though its leaves and fruits soon become out of reach to man, they are greatly appreciated by the birds that use them as shelter, and that also feed on the fruit.

The fruit is also eaten by man; it is highly nutritious, and may be dried, ground to powder, and used to make a variety of delicacies. The seeds may also be used to produce a kind of vegetable oil, while other parts are used for dye and cosmetics, and for fuel.

5. African Pear

The African Pear is yet another very important tree to the African people; it is distributed all across West and Central Africa. It has played an important role in the cultures of Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo Democratic Republic, Republic of Congo, and Angola.

It is known by many names across the countries mentioned above; but the tree is commonly appreciated for its bluish, fruit which is eaten in a variety of ways. The African Pear is important to animals as well; it is eaten by sheep, goats, antelope, and many other animals.

The African Pear is an essential part of the environment; it is an important part of the greenery of the landscape, and an important abode for bird life.

6. Umbrella Tree

The Umbrella Tree is a species of Acacia that is very widely distributed across the continent. If distribution is the sole determinant of importance then the Umbrella Tree has a strong claim to being the most important tree in Africa with its habitat stretching from Tunisia, Uganda, Angola, Djibouti, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The Umbrella Tree is extremely useful; it produces pods and seeds which are a favorite food source for wild animals and domesticated ones as well. The Umbrella Tree is also a favorite food for many grazing animals; including insects, rodents, and ungulates.

For man; it is a very useful tree- it produces timber which is used for building construction, for making tools, weapons, and medicine. It is also used to make gum, and also to tan leather.

7. Tropical Almond

The Tropical Almond tree is a very common and very important plant species. Nobody can say with utter precision where this tree actually came from, but it is well distributed across Africa. There are many good reasons why this tree has been so successful in Africa; it has much to offer.

Shade is one of the biggest things this tree has to offer; Africa is quite a hot place, and so this tree -with its broad leaves- is a good source of shade, and provides the rarity of a cool place to avoid the heat.

The tree also produces edible fruit and seeds, which explains why it’s spread through Africa, and South America has been aided by man.

The tree is also important as a habitat for birds and for the bees, beetles, and wasps that coexist on it. The foliage drops seasonally, and is important for grazing animals. This is one tree that has played an important role in the sustenance of live on the African continent.

8. Cashew

The Cashew tree is a very hardy tree species; one that has literally conquered the continent. It comes from South America; Brazil and Venezuela. This tree has been growing in Africa for centuries; it got to the continent by the hand of the Portuguese via India.

The Cashew is a very adaptable tree species; it continues to grow even after falling down perhaps through loose soil, or strong winds. The tree continues to grow, to flower and produce fruit.

The fruit of the cashew tree is eaten by man, and by animals such as chimpanzees, bats, and many different birds, making the cashew one of the most important trees in Africa.

The tree’s importance has become underlined by its economic value. Cashews are cultivated in Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Senegal, guinea Bissau, and many other countries. The purpose for the cultivation is the nuts which are processed and sold.

The apples are used to make an alcoholic beverage in Mozambique.

9. Mango

The Mango is a very popular tropical fruit bearing tree that actually came from India, but has become synonymous with Africa. Despite being an introduced species, this tree is found throughout west Africa, east Africa, Madagascar, and as far South as Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The tree’s popularity comes from its delicious fruits of which there are more than 1,000 different types. Mangoes are popular fruits; and they are also used to make many different cuisines and delicacies.

The trees also play an important role to the ecosystem, supporting bees, beetles, wasps, bats, monkeys, and chimpanzees.

10. Avocado Pear

The Avocado Pear is an important tree crop in Africa; in terms of production, about 180,000 tonnes of the fruit is produced in Kenya alone. Aside from Kenya, other African countries where the tree is grown commercially include South Africa, Ghana, Malawi, Cameroon, and Congo DR.

The tree can be found in private homes, gardens, public places, and in the bushes and forests throughout West Africa. It is important as a food source, for medicine, and also for wood.

The environment benefits greatly from the presence of this tree; birds, rats, squirrels, and even bush pigs all enjoy the fruit from this tree.

Further Reading:


The most important trees in Africa are those that have the most uses. These benefits to both human and animal life on the continent, should give them the title of African trees of life. They provide food, shelter, medicine, fuel, and important raw materials, helping the continent to sustain life, and to develop.

The continent is starting to understand the value of conservation, and the need to integrate nature into the fabric of our agriculture. A lot of research still needs to be done, but these trees will probably be the starting point.

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