Irvingia gabonensis

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Related Links
Fruit on three-year-old trees in Onne, Nigeria
© Anthony Simons
Tree in degraded forest near Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
© Anthony Simons
Kernels (centre) from fruits in Cameroon
© Zac Tchoundjeu
Irvingia gabonensis fruit collection
© Ann Degrande
Irvingia gabonensis kernel extraction
© Ann Degrande
Irvingia gabonensis
© Ebenezer Asaah
Irvingia gabonensis inflorescence
© Ebenezer Asaah
Irvingia gabonensis fruit collection
© Ann Degrande

Local names:
English (wild mango,native mango,duiker nut,bush mango,bread tree,African mango tree), French (manguier sauvage,bobo), Hausa (goron,biri), Igbo (obono), Trade name (dika nut), Yoruba (oro)

Irvingia gabonensis grows to a height of 15-40 m, bole slightly buttressed. It has a dense, compact crown, branchlets ending in a narrow, curved, stipular sheath covering the leaf bud. Bark greyish, smooth or very slightly scaly; slash yellowish-brown to light yellow, brittle.

Leaves 5-15 x 2.5-6 cm, elliptic to slightly obovate, 1 margin often a little more rounded than the other, acute or shortly acuminate, cuneate or slightly rounded at the base; leathery dark green and glossy above; with 5-10 pairs of irregular lateral veins, the lower ones running out nearly to the margin. 

Flowers yellowish to greenish-white, in slender, clustered racemes or small panicles above the leaves and about as long as them, or on the branchlets and younger branchlets; individual flower stalks slender, about 6 mm long, petals bent right back and soon falling off, disc bright yellow. 

Fruits yellowish when ripe, broadly ellipsoid and variable in size between varieties, 5-7.5 cm with a yellow, fibrous pulp surrounding a large seed. 

The genus name commemorates E.G. Irving, 1816-1855, a Scots botanist.


I. gabonensis occurs in the wild in lowland forest; 2-3 trees occur together and in some areas it is reported to be gregarious. The dika nut tree is a species of dense moist forest.

Native range
Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda

Tree management

I. gabonensis responds well to pruning. Maintenance operations such as watering and weeding are required in the nursery.

Seed storage behaviour is orthodox.

I. gabonensis occurs in the wild in lowland forest; 2-3 trees occur together and in some areas it is reported to be gregarious. The dika nut tree is a species of dense moist forest.

Can be successfully propagated vegetatively by budding. Large-scale production of trees requires raising them in a nursery.

Wax: Contains waxes useful as an adjunct in making medicinal tablets.

Erosion control: Planted alongside other species to check soil erosion.

 Fruit pulp is palatable and can be used for a fruit drink and for jam production. The kernel can be processed into flour by extraction, drying and grinding. The pounded seed is added to meat and various vegetable dishes as a sauce. Margarine and cooking oil can be obtained from the kernels.

Fodder: Seeds are used as cattle cake in Ghana.

Timber: Wood pale brown, very hard and fine grained, not easy to cut, which limits its usefulness. Its weight precludes it from all but the most rugged construction work, e.g. for railway ties. Useful for making canoes and pestles for yam mortars; also suitable for boards, planking, ship decking and paving blocks.

Tannin or dyestuff: Reported to contain tannin in both bark and roots.

Lipids: Kernels contain oil used for making soaps, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Medicine: Relieves diarrhoea and dysentery. Used internally as a purgative, for gastrointestinal and liver conditions, for sterility, hernias and urethral discharge, and is considered to be a powerful aphrodisiac.