Teclea nobilis

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Fruit and foliage
© Bob Bailis
© Bob Bailis
T. nobilis leaves
© Bob Bailis

Local names:
Amharic (atesa), English (small fruited teclea), Luganda (mubio)

Teclea nobilis is an unarmed evergreen shrub or tree (3-)5-12 m high or much taller in rain forest; bark smooth or grey; branchlets glabrous.

Leaves trifoliolate, occasionally 2-or 1 foliolate; petiole 1.5-6(-8) cm long, terete or sometimes slightly grooved at the apex usually glabrous; leaflets subsessile or with a petiolulate up to 10 mm long, oblong-elliptic, 5-15(-18) cm long, 1.5-4(-5.5) cm broad, acute to acuminate at the apex, narrowly cuneate at the base, glabrous, but sometimes puberulous on the midrib; lateral nerves numerous.

Inflorescence of terminal and axillary panicles 4-15(-21) cm long, glabrous. Flowers polygamous. Sepals 4, united into a cupuliform calyx 0.6-0.8 mm long; lobes small, ovate, ciliate. Petals 4(-5), narrowly elliptic, 3.5-4 mm long, 1.5-1.7 mm broad. Male flowers with 4(-5) stamens 3-5.5 mm long; anthers basifixed; rudimentary ovary slender and glabrous. Female flower with 4 or 5 staminodes 0.5-1.2 mm long. Ovary subglobose, 1-1.4 mm in diameter, glabrous unilocular, 2-ovulate; style up to 0.5 mm long; stigma disk-shaped and peltate, 1 mm in diameter, red, glabrous, barely foveolate, wrinkled when dry, 1-seeded.

Fruit yellow, orange or red, round or ellipsoid becoming wrinkled, 6-8 x 5-6 mm.

Seed ovoid, 5.5-6 mm long. The specific epithet nobilis is after the Latin word "nobilissimus" meaning noble or reknowned.


A large tree found in evergreen forest, riverine forest and woodland. Commonly associated with Podocarpus and Juniperus. In Uganda it grows in colonizing forests, thickets, forest edges and mixed forest from lowland to lower montane areas.

Native range
Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda

Tree management

A moderate to slow growing tree. Can be managed by coppicing and pollarding.

T. nobilis is not a prolific seeder, has about 20 000 seeds/kg. Germination rates and seed viability are low.

A large tree found in evergreen forest, riverine forest and woodland. Commonly associated with Podocarpus and Juniperus. In Uganda it grows in colonizing forests, thickets, forest edges and mixed forest from lowland to lower montane areas.

Mainly propagated by direct seeding, wildlings can also be used.

  The fruit is edible.

Apiculture:  The fragrant flowers are a source of nectar and pollen for bees.

Provides good fuelwood.

Timber:  The wood is used to make bows, tool handles, barkcloth mallets, clubs and walking sticks. Poles obtained from the tree are used for house construction. The wood is tough, strong, durable predisposing it to overexploitation in its native range.

Shade or shelter:  This tree provides excellent shade.

Medicine:  The leaf or root decoction mixed with honey is used against pneumonia in Kenya. The roots are used as an anthelminthic. The steam inhalation of the leaves reportedly cures fever.

Poles obtained from the tree are used for fencing and construction.

Soil improver:  The leaf litter enriches underlying soil.