Vitex keniensis

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Related Links
Recently extracted seed from few extant trees used for on-farm plantings in Kenya
© Anthony Simons
Vitex keniensis tree in flower at the ICRAF Hq campus, Nairobi, Kenya.
© AFT team
Vitex keniensis specimen at the Nairobi arboretum.
© AFT team
Vitex keniensis, planted as an ornamental tree at the ICRAF campus Hq.
© AFT team
Vitex keniensis fruits
© AFT team

Local names:
English (Meru oak), Swahili (mfuu), Trade name (meru oak)

Vitex keniensis is a tree 12-30 m tall, up to 1.8 (max. 3) m in diameter; bole 12-18 m; bark very thin, rough and slightly fissured; slash creamy-yellow turning dirty green; stems, petiole and leaf venation beneath with long shaggy indumentum.

Leaves 5-foliolate; leaflets obovate 5.5-1.7 x 3.2-8.5 cm, broadly rounded to obtusely acuminate at the apex, cuneate to rounded at the base, coriaceous, sparsely puberuluos above, paler beneath and completely covered with soft ochraceous tomentum and glands; petiole 13.5-17 cm long; petiolules absent. Cymes ochraceus, tomentose, somewhat lax, forming axillary panicles up to 12 cm long, 24 cm wide.

Flowers small, 7-8 mm long, white or purplish, with largest lobe dark mauve, in axillary dichasia 12-18 cm long.

Fruit ellipsoid, 13-16 mm long, green at first, becoming soft and black when mature, the hairy calyx persisting. The inner nut usually has 4-5 seeds.

The generic name, ‘Vitex’, is an old Latin name for the genus.


Common in moist evergreen forest and on thicketed rocky hills.

Native range
Kenya, Tanzania

Tree management

A fairly fast-growing tree. Coppicing is practised. The crop may reach a mean thinning cycle of 3-5 years. It might be justifiable to thin the crop down to 200 stems/ha or fewer and leave it to grow to age 45.

Orthodox seed storage behaviour. Seeds tolerate desiccation to 8.5% mc. Viability can be maintained for at least 1 year in hermetic storage at 3 deg. C with 5.5-9.5% mc. There are about 2 500 seeds/kg.

Common in moist evergreen forest and on thicketed rocky hills.

Seedlings are an ideal method of propagation. Seed germination is low and sporadic, up to 40% after 9 weeks. Dry fruit, and then rub over a wire mesh to remove pulp. Dry in the shade. Pretreatment is not necessary, but soaking in cold water for 24 hours may improve germination.

 The fruit is edible but usually eaten only in an emergency.

V. keniensis is a suitable source of firewood.

Timber: Wood is pale greyish-brown, coarse textured with well-marked growth zones and often with a wavy grain figure; seasons well. The heartwood of trees over 60 cm in diameter is often dark and very decorative. The timber is hard and durable, very pale and similar to teak. It works easily and is used for cabinet work, panelling, veneer, furniture and coffin boards.

Shade or shelter: The tree is sometimes planted as a windbreak.

Ornamental: A popular ornamental tree.

Soil improver: Deciduous and produces a useful mulch of leaf litter.