The Gymnosperm Database


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Conservation status 2010: protocol 3.1

Afrocarpus usambarensis

(Pilger) C.N. Page 1989

Common names

African yellow-wood, podo [English]; Dukmo, Nokim [Iraqw]; Kisalasala [Nguu]; Laganehel [Bara]; Mpoda [Rangi]; Mpodo [Swahili]; Mse [Shambaa]; Mshunga [Pare]; Msisimu, Mziziru [Haya]; Msosi, Mtokosi, Mvavavi [Chagga]; Muanziri [Luguru]; Muvembanyigo [Hehe]; Ol piripiri [Arusha]; Ol wiriwiri [Maasai and Meru] (Lovett et al. 2006); Umufu [Mashi] (Yumoto et al. 1994).

Taxonomic notes

Syn: Podocarpus usambarensis Pilger ex Engler 1903 (Farjon 2010). Some authorities (e.g. the Flora of Tropical East Africa) place it in synonymy with Afrocarpus falcatus.


Trees to 30 m tall and 200 cm dbh, with a domed crown at maturity. Bark dark brown turning gray with age, forming small angular plates, flaking. Twigs ridged, more or less quadrangular. Foliage dense. Seedling and sapling leaves mostly opposite, linear-lanceolate, 13 cm × 4-7 mm, finely pointed. Adult leaves smaller; 3-5 cm × 2-4 mm, spirally arranged, with a raised midrib on both sides, gray-green, apex acute. Pollen cones in 1's, 2's or 3's, each subtended by whorl of papery bracts, catkin-like, 10-20 × 2.5-3.5 mm, microsporophylls spirally arranged, triangular-trullate, 0.8 mm wide, each with two globose pollen sacs. Seed cones solitary on scaly twigs axillary to or below foliage leaves, at maturity consisting of a single seed completely enclosed by a fleshy epimatium 23-30 mm diameter, green ripening yellow. Seed globose, 20-25 mm long, with a 4-6 mm thick, hard seed coat (Farjon 2010).

Other species of Afrocarpus, except the narrow endemic A. mannii, have seed coats only 1-4 mm thick and have a prominent midrib only on the lower side of the leaf.

Distribution and Ecology

Tanzania and Kenya, at elevations of 1500-3000 m (Farjon 2010). Various authorities also place it in Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda. It occurs in highlands, e.g. the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania and the Chyulu Hills in Kenya (Bachman et al. 2007). Occurs as a codominant canopy (not emergent) tree in evergreen rainforest and evergreen dry forest, commonly with Podocarpus milanjianus and Ocotea usambarensis in rainforest, and with species of Olea and Ficus in dry forest (Farjon 2010). It is a dominant tree in montane rainforest on the upper eastern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro at 1520-2750 m elevation (Lamprey et al. 1991). In the Nyungwe Natural Forest Reserve of Rwanda it occurs in evergreen tropical rainforest with precipitation of 1744 mm/yr, a July-August dry season, and temperatures averaging 15°C with negligible seasonal variation (Sun et al. 1996).

As of 2010, this taxon is "vulnerable," facing a high risk of extinction in the wild due primarily to exploitation via illegal logging; it is the primary species targeted by such operations in Tanzania. In addition, there has been a continuing ongoing reduction in extent and quality of habitat associated with deforestation and fires (Farjon 2010).

Zone 10 (cold hardiness limit between -1°C and +4.4°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001).

Big tree




This species, like most African podocarps, is highly valued for its timber, which is yellow, strong, and very suitable for construction. It is not cultivated (Farjon 2010).



The epithet usambarensis refers to thu Usambara Mountains of Tanzania, which contain the type locality.


Bachman, S., A. Farjon, M. Gardner, P. Thomas, D. Luscombe, and C. Reynolds. 2007. Afrocarpus usambarensis. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.3., accessed 2010.10.04.

Lamprey, R.H., F. Michelmore, and H.F. Lamprey. 1991. Changes in the boundary of the montane rainforest on Mount Kilimanjaro between 1958 and 1987. Pp. 9-19 in W.D. Newmark (ed.), The Conservation of Mount Kilimanjaro. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Lovett, J.C., C.K. Ruffo, and R.E. Gereau. 2006. Field Guide to the Moist Forest Trees of Tanzania. London: Society for Environmental Exploration. ISBN 1873070330. Treats A. usambarensis as a synonym of A. falcatus.

Sun, C., B.A. Kaplin, K.A. Kristensen, V. Munyaligoga, J. Mvukiyumwami, K.K. Kajondo, and T.C. Moermond. 1996. Tree phenology in a tropical montane forest in Rwanda. Biotropica 28(4), Part B, 668-681.

Yumoto, T., J. Yamagiwa, N. Mwanza, and T. Maruhashi. 1994. List of plant species identified in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Zaire. Tropics 3(3/4):295-308.

See also

The PROTA database account for this species (accessed 2015.02.01). PROTA accounts are focused on commercial forest uses in Africa, and typically include photographs, drawings, names, distribution, and a variety of information relevant to management of the species.

The species account at Threatened Conifers of the World.

Last Modified 2017-12-29