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Milicia excelsa (Welw.) C.C. Berg

General Information

This tree produces beautiful and internationally well-known timber. The trade name for the wood, Iroko, comes from the Yoruba name in Nigeria. This is a member of the fig and mulberry family, which can be seen by the compound inflorescences made up of many tiny individual flowers. Keay (Trees of Nigeria, 1989) described these as ‘resembling a fat green caterpillar’. The fine venation on the undersurface of the leaves is described by Hawthorne (Field Guide to the Forest Trees of Ghana, 1990) as looking like a sponge. The leaves of seedlings and young shoots, with clear teeth and different venation, look remarkably unlike the leaves of mature trees.


Terra firma forest, including disturbed sites. Gorillas eat the leaves of the mature trees and will climb straight up the trunk to get to the crown. The small seeds are dispersed by birds and bats.


Distribution: Guinea-Bissau to Mozambique.