Croton megalocarpus

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Related Links
Croton tree: A 15-year-old C. megalocarpus tree at a site in Bondo District, western Kenya. The tree is approximately 12 m tall and 15 cm in diameter. Note the clear arrangement of branches in the canopy to form a mosaic.
© Phanuel O. Oballa
Trunk of Croton tree: Trunk of a 10-year-old C. megalocarpus tree in Muguga 25 km NW of Nairobi, Kenya. The bark is pale grey and starting to show longitudinally fissured lines.
© Phanuel O. Oballa
Branch form: A fruiting tree clearly showing pendulous branches at the same site in Bondo district.
© Phanuel O. Oballa
Close-up of fruits: Mature fruits in the month of April in western Kenya. Note also the pale colouration of leaf undersides.
© Phanuel O. Oballa

Local names:
English (croton), Luganda (nkulumire,mbula), Swahili (msenefu), Trade name (musine)

Croton megalocarpus grows to 15-35 m; it has distinctive layering of branches and a rather flat crown. Bark dark grey, rough, and crackling. Hardy and fast growing.

Leaves variable, long, oval and pointed to about 12 cm. The dull green upper surface contrasts with the pale, silvery underside.

Flowers conspicuous but very short-lived; yellow white, inserted in many-flowered, silver-budded racemes, up to 30 cm long; a few female flowers towards the base, the remainder male.

Fruit turns from green to greyish-brown as it matures. Endocarp hard and woody. Each fruit contains 3 ellipsoid-ovoid or oblong-ellipsoid seeds, 2.2-2.4 cm long and 1.2-1.4 cm wide. Seeds white when immature, grey-brown when mature, with a minute caruncle.

The generic name ‘Croton’ is based on the Greek word for ‘tick’, because of the appearance of the seed. The specific epithet means large-fruited.


C. megalocarpus is a pioneer species and it is found growing in cleared parts of natural forests, forest margins or as a canopy tree.

Native range
Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda

Tree management

The species regenerates well through seedlings, and under favourable climatic conditions may sometimes become invasive.

Young trees coppice well after pruning, but fruiting is unlikely with intensive pruning, such as in hedgerow management.

In agroforestry systems, it is sometimes managed as scattered trees in farmland because of its open canopy and usefulness for mulching.

The seeds are extracted from the shell by cracking with a hammer or a stone. On average there are 1700 seeds/kg. The seeds are dried in the sun to approximately 5-9% moisture content and thereafter can be stored up to 1 year at 3°C. After sowing, the seeds germinate within 35-45 days, attaining germination rates of 95% without any pretreatment.

C. megalocarpus is a pioneer species and it is found growing in cleared parts of natural forests, forest margins or as a canopy tree.

Direct sowing is a viable propagation method. Seeds are extracted by cracking the shell with a hammer or stone, then they are sun-dried to 5-9% mc. Presowing treatment is not necessary. Under ideal conditions, the seeds germinate within 35-45 days, with an expected germination rate of 95% for mature and healthy seed lots. Vegetative propagation can be done by grafting or cuttings.

The seed is incorporated in poultry feeds, as its protein content is high (50%).

Apiculture: This species produces a dark-ambered honey with strong flavour.

Well-dried nuts are reportedly used in some areas together with charcoal in cooking stoves. The tree is also utilized for firewood.

Timber: Wood is of medium weight, hard, termite-resistant, strong; it is used for timber and building poles.

Shade or shelter: C. megalocarpus forms a flat crown and has horizontal layers of branches, which make it useful in providing light shade and serving as a windbreak.

Medicine: Seed contains up to 32% oils, which have been used favourably as medicine. Bark decoction is used as a remedy for worms and whooping cough.

Ornamental:  Its conspicuous flowers make it suitable as an ornamental.

As the species is not browsed by livestock, it is often used as a live hedge.

Soil improver:  Leaves have high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus and serve as a source of mulch, for instance, in coffee plantations.