African Hardwood Tree Types

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Baobab tree

The African continent is an immense area, densely wooded in many regions, with wide variations in climate. This diversity of habitat results in an extremely diverse population of tree species. Africa also happens to be home to some of the hardest types of wood in the world.


African Mahogany is the English name for a dark, reddish-brown wood whose scientific name is Khaya anthoteca. In West Africa, where it grows, it is called Acajou.


Cocos nucifera is often called by its French name, Cocotier. In English it is called coconut. This tree is light brown or beige in color, and extremely dense.


In Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, this brown and yellow tree is known as Iroko, but the scientific name is Milicia excelsa. Although it is less dense than most hardwoods, it still will not float in water.


This wood is very popular among furniture makers, due to its beautiful red grain. It is also very dense, durable, and resistant to moisture.


Also known as Gambeya, Longhi is a moderately dense wood with a distinct light-brown grain. It is the wood of choice for drum carvers in Guinea, who select it not only for its acoustic properties, but also because of the spiritual power believed to be inherent in this tree.


One of the most famous African woods, Ebony is a very dark, almost black wood that is also very dense. It is indigenous to Madagascar and southern Africa. Due to its extreme hardness, it is commonly used for the fretboard on a guitar.

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Otehlia Cassidy

Otehlia Cassidy has been writing for 13 years. She has had her work published in various publications including the Yellow Springs News, and the East Emerson Neighborhood Association newsletter, and has a forthcoming article appearing in “Wisconsin Woman” (Feb. 2010). Otehlia received her master’s degree in Conservation Biology from University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also writes about travel and culinary adventures in her food blog.