Uapaca kirkiana

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Related Links
U. kirkiana fruits
© Anthony Simons
Female tree retained in crop land in Eastern Zambia.
© Anthony Simons
Fruit for sale in Malawi
© Anthony Simons
Seedlings in nursery from rangewide provennace collection in southern Africa.
© Anthony Simons
Grafted plant, Makoka, Malawi
© Anthony Simons
Insect damage on young trees in Malawi
© Anthony Simons

Local names:
Bemba (musuku), Chichewa (mkusu), English (wild loquat), Lozi (musuku,chilundu,muhaka), Lunda (kabofa), Ndebele (muzanje,umhobohobo), Nyanja (mpotopoto,msuku), Shona (muzhanje,umhobohobo), Swahili (nkusu,mkusu), Trade name (masuku)

Uapaca kirkiana is a small to medium-sized evergreen or semi-deciduous tree with spreading multiple branches forming a dense rounded crown. The trunk is short and stout, attaining a height of 5-12 m and diameter of 5-25 cm. The bark is dark grey or grey-brown, thick and deeply fissured. Branchlets short, thick with prominent leaf scars. The young shoots are covered with creamy-brown hairs. 

Leaves are simple and alternately arranged in clusters concentrated at the ends of branchlets, 7-36 x 4-24 cm, secondary nerves parallel and quite prominent beneath, in 12-16 pairs. The young leaves are covered with curly hairs on the undersurface.

Flower buds globose, flowers pale yellow, borne in short slender asicular and axillary peduncles. The male flowers are in dense clusters, the female flowers solitary; male and female flowers borne on different trees.

Fruit is round, skin tough, yellow-brown, up to 3.3 cm in diameter, the flesh yellowish, edible and sweet tasting with a pear-like flavour. Fruit contains 3-4 seeds. Seeds white, up to 2 cm long, 1.3 cm. thick.

‘Uapaca’ is derived from the Malagasy name ‘voa-paca’ used for the Madagascar species; U. thouarsii, which was the 1st member of the genus to be scientifically described by Ballion. The specific epithet kirkiana was given in honour of Sir John Kirk, explorer and naturalist (1832-1922).


The tree is found in lowland forest, secondary miombo woodland such as clearing and gaps, and open woodland. Grows in well-drained escarpments, with infertile sand or gravel soils of acidic reaction. Frost-free sites are most ideal.

Native range
Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Tree management

In natural stands, the trees coppice well after cutting or pollarding. Grows slowly when it is not managed, but growth rates improve tremendously with inoculation and weeding.

Total fire protection of planted stands is mandatory for successful establishment, after which, the use of fire as a management tool could be applied as appropriate.

Seeds are viable for only about 3 weeks.

The tree is found in lowland forest, secondary miombo woodland such as clearing and gaps, and open woodland. Grows in well-drained escarpments, with infertile sand or gravel soils of acidic reaction. Frost-free sites are most ideal.

Natural regeneration may be the most reliable method; it regenerates easily from seed or root suckers. As seed does not long remain viable, it must be sown fresh. Germination is good and natural regeneration adequate. Germination prospects are improved by scarification, manual nicking, complete endocarp removal, or soaking for 24 hours in water at room temperature. Successful nursery establishment requires mycorrhizal inoculation, using soil from natural stands of the tree. Seedlings should be raised in partial shade for the 1st few months. Also propagated by cuttings.

Poison: The leaves are used as a cockroach repellent in homes.

Erosion control: As a dominant or codominant tree of the miombo vegetation in hilly sites, it is useful in watershed management.

 U. kirkiana is highly regarded for its edible fruit. It contains 1.8 mg/g ascorbic acid and is used to prepare sweetmeats or jams. A seasoning for food is obtained from the wood ash. It is an important famine food.

Fodder: Fruits can contribute to animal feed. The flush of leaves at the end of the dry season is utilized by cattle as fodder in the absence of more palatable alternatives.

Apiculture: Flowers are valuable for honey production.

U. kirkiana charcoal is highly regarded, and many trees are cut for this purpose. It is also a good source of firewood.

Timber: Wood is light with white sapwood and reddish-brown, figured heartwood. It is hard and durable, has a straight grain, saws clean and can be planed to a smooth finish. It glues well, holds nails firmly and takes a clear varnish finish. Suitable for general carpentry, house building and domestic utensils, furniture and joinery, carvings and boxes. It is termite resistant.

Shade or shelter: The dense rounded crown of U. kirkiana provides good shade.

Tannin or dyestuff: A blue dye is made from the roots.

Medicine: An infusion made from the roots is used to treat indigestion and dysentery.

Ornamental: The spreading multiple branches and small yellow flowers makes U. kirkiana a popular ornamental tree.

The tree is a suitable boundary species.

Soil improver: In natural stands, U. kirkiana forms a mutual association with mycorrhizae.

Alcohol: In Malawi and Zambia, the popular brands of Uapaca wine, ‘mulunguzi’ and ‘masaku’, are produced commercially and found in city supermarkets. In Malawi the fruit is also used to produce an opaque beer called ‘napolo ukana’ and a gin called ‘kachas