Canarium schweinfurthii

Invasive species Disclaimer

In view of the fact that some tree species are invasive, the world Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) has put in place a policy document on Invasive Alien Species, currently under draft available at Here.

For more information on this subject, please refer to
100 of the World's worst Invasive and Alien Species.

Species Index    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Multiple Criteria Search

Abelmoschus moschatus
Acacia aneura
Acacia angustissima
Acacia aulacocarpa
Acacia auriculiformis
Acacia catechu
Acacia cincinnata
Acacia crassicarpa
Acacia elatior
Acacia erioloba
Acacia etbaica
Acacia ferruginea
Acacia glauca
Acacia holosericea
Acacia karroo*
Acacia koa
Acacia laeta
Acacia lahai
Acacia leptocarpa
Acacia leucophloea
Acacia mangium
Acacia mearnsii*
Acacia melanoxylon
Acacia mellifera
Acacia nilotica subsp nilotica
Acacia pachycarpa
Acacia pennatula
Acacia polyacantha ssp. polyacantha
Acacia saligna
Acacia senegal
Acacia seyal
Acacia sieberiana
Acacia tortilis
Acacia xanthophloea
Acrocarpus fraxinifolius
Adansonia digitata
Adenanthera pavonina
Aegle marmelos
Afzelia africana
Afzelia quanzensis
Agathis macrophylla
Agathis philippinensis
Ailanthus altissima
Ailanthus excelsa
Ailanthus triphysa
Albizia adianthifolia
Albizia amara
Albizia anthelmintica
Albizia chinensis
Albizia coriaria
Albizia ferruginea
Albizia gummifera
Albizia julibrissin
Albizia lebbeck
Albizia odoratissima
Albizia procera
Albizia saman
Albizia versicolor
Albizia zygia
Aleurites moluccana
Allanblackia floribunda
Allanblackia stuhlmannii
Allanblackia ulugurensis
Alnus acuminata
Alnus cordata
Alnus japonica
Alnus nepalensis
Alnus rubra
Alphitonia zizyphoides
Alstonia boonei
Alstonia congensis
Alstonia scholaris
Altingia excelsa
Anacardium occidentale
Andira inermis
Annona cherimola
Annona muricata
Annona reticulata
Annona senegalensis
Annona squamosa
Anogeissus latifolia
Anthocephalus cadamba
Antiaris toxicaria
Antidesma bunius
Araucaria bidwillii
Araucaria cunninghamii
Arbutus unedo
Areca catechu
Arenga pinnata
Argania spinosa
Artemisia annua
Artocarpus altilis
Artocarpus camansi
Artocarpus heterophyllus
Artocarpus integer
Artocarpus lakoocha
Artocarpus mariannensis
Asimina triloba
Ateleia herbert-smithii
Aucomea klaineana
Averrhoa bilimbi
Averrhoa carambola
Azadirachta excelsa
Azadirachta indica
Azanza garckeana

Local names:
English (purple canary tree,incense tree,gum resin tree,bush candle tree,African elemi), French (elemier d’Afrique,elemi de Moahum,elemi d’ouganda), Luganda (muwafu), Swahili (mpafu,mbani), Trade name (white mahogany,African canarium)

Canarium schweinfurthii is a large forest tree with its crown reaching to the upper canopy of the forest, with a long clean, straight and cylindrical bole exceeding 50 m.  Diameter above the heavy root swellings can be up to 4.5 m. Bark thick, on young tree fairly smooth, becoming increasingly scaly and fissured with age. The slash is reddish or light brown with turpentine like odour, exuding a heavy, sticky oleoresin that colours to sulphur yellow and becomes solid.

Leaves are pinnate, clustered at the end of the branches, and may be 15-65 cm long, with 8-12 pairs of leaflets, mostly opposite, oblong, cordate at base, 5-20 cm long and 3-6 cm broad, with 12-24 main lateral nerves on each side of the mid-rib, prominent and pubescent beneath. The lower leaflets are bigger than the upper ones. The lower part of the petiole is winged on the upper side.

The creamy white unisexual flowers about 1 cm long grow in inflorescences that stand in the axils of the leaves and may be up to 28 cm long.

The fruit is a small drupe, bluish-purple, glabrous, 3-4 cm long and 1-2 cm thick. The calyx is persistent and remains attached to the fruit. The fruit contains a hard spindle-shaped, trigonous stone that eventually splits releasing 3 seeds.

Canarium comes from the vernacular name ‘kenari’ in the Molucca Isles.


C.schweinfurthiii is distributed throughout tropical Africa in rain forest, gallery forest and transitional forest from Senegal to west Cameroon and extending to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Angola.

Native range
Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia

Tree management

This tree is amenable to mixed culture plantation husbandry.

The ripe fruits should be collected when they fall to the ground and allowed to decompose, the stones should then be separated from the outer fruit coats. Seeds can be stored for a long time.

C.schweinfurthiii is distributed throughout tropical Africa in rain forest, gallery forest and transitional forest from Senegal to west Cameroon and extending to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Angola.

The tree is propagated through seedlings, wildings and direct sowing on site. The seeds should be immersed in hot water and allowed to cool then soaked for 24 hours before sowing.

Poison:  The resin is used as a fumigant against mosquitoes.

The tree has been planted for reforestation in Uganda.

 The slightly greenish outer pulp of the fruit is oily and edible. It can be eaten raw or softened in warm water to improve palatability. The pulp oil is about 71 % palmitic acid and 18 % oleic acid. The seed-kernel is oily and edible. They are cooked, and in Nigeria, sometimes prepared into a vegetable-butter and eaten as a substitute for shea-butter. They contain several fatty acids including oleic (36 %), linoleic (28 %), palmitic (26 %), stearic (7 %).

The elemi makes a good fuelwood, igniting readily and burning with a lot of heat. The resin burns readily and is used as a bush candle.

Timber: The sapwood, often very thick up to 15 cm is white with pinkish reflections. The heartwood is pinkish when fleshly cut but darkens to light brown mahogany colour. The wood, slightly coarse in texture, has interlocked grains, thus causing a fine striped figure on quarter-sawn boards. Used as a substitute for true mahogany, it seasons slowly but fairly well, works easily, stains and polishes well. End splitting may occur during the drying process. The wood is attacked by termites and fungi. Impregnation of the heartwood is difficult.  The timber is used as core veneer, for decorative paneling, parquetry, furniture, flooring and for general utility purposes. Locally, the wood is used for mortars, planks, and canoes.

Shade or shelter: The elemi is often left standing on cleared land to provide shade and has potential as a wind break.

Medicine:  In the past, the resin was exported to Europe for pharmaceutical use. It was used as a substitute for gum-mastic in making wound dressings in World War II. A bark decoction is used against dysentery, gonorrhea, coughs, chest pains, pulmonary affections, stomach complaints, food poisoning, and it is purgative and emetic. The resin is used against roundworm infections and other intestinal parasites. It is an emollient, stimulant, diuretic and has action on skin-affections and eczema. The pounded bark is used against leprosy and ulcers. Root is used against adenites whereas root scrapings are made into a poultice.

Gum or resin: The bark exudes a heavy, sticky oleoresin that smells like turpentine and solidifies to a whitish resin. It is obtained by slashing the bark and allowing the colourless expiation to trickle to the ground where it solidifies into a sulphur-ye

Ornamental:  The trees’ symmetrical branching makes it an attractive avenue and shade tree.

Intercropping:  The tree does not compete with crops and has potential for intercropping.

Essential oil:  The resin contains 8-20 % of an essential oil, the main constituent of which is limonene. It is rich in phellandrenes, and contains also resins and a bitter principle.