1. Family: Fabaceae Lindl.
    1. Genus: Isoberlinia Craib & Stapf
      1. Isoberlinia doka Craib & Stapf

        Isoberlinia doka is a woodland tree which is common and widespread in west and central Africa, where it often dominates the landscape in uncultivated areas. This hardwood tree is quick to colonise clearings and abandoned land, and grows gregariously, often establishing near-pure stands.


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Doka is a vigorously colonising African tree which often dominates the woodland belt that stretches from Guinea in the west to Uganda in the east.

    Isoberlinia doka is a woodland tree which is common and widespread in west and central Africa, where it often dominates the landscape in uncultivated areas. This hardwood tree is quick to colonise clearings and abandoned land, and grows gregariously, often establishing near-pure stands.

    I. doka has been reported as a major food source for several species of silk-producing moths and is the principal host plant of the silk-producing moth Anaphe moloneyi (family Thaumetopoeidae). The use of silk moths in silk production is a sustainable industry that not only provides an income for local people, but also encourages the conservation of doka woodlands by rural communities.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Native to west and central Africa, Isoberlinia doka is a major constituent of the woodland belt which stretches from Guinea in the west to Sudan and Uganda in the east. It also occurs extensively to the south of these woodlands, but in a more scattered manner, and is unknown south of the equator.

    I. doka occurs in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo, and Uganda.


    Isoberlinia doka is a tree measuring 10-20 m tall with a trunk of about 40-50 cm diameter, branching from about 5 m upwards. The leaflets are arranged in three or four pairs. The flowers are small and white, forming large open inflorescences that are held conspicuously above the leafy crown. 

    The pods are oblong, flat and quite large, about 30 cm long and 10 cm wide. When they are mature, the two halves twist apart with such force that they can expel the seeds about 50 cm from the tree.

    Threats and conservation

    Widespread in west and central Africa, Isoberlinia doka populations appear to be stable at present, and not unduly affected by harvesting for timber and other uses. However, the tree is known to be fire-sensitive, so any drying of the climate in the future may potentially pose a threat to some stands.

    There are no known conservation measures currently in operation specifically for I. doka , but it does grow in many protected areas. Samples of seed have been collected and are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank as an ex situ conservation measure. It is recommended that further monitoring should be carried out to ensure this species is not over-exploited in the future.

    Conservation assessments carried out by Kew

    Isoberlinia doka is being monitored as part of the 'Sampled Red List Index Project', which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world’s plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.


    Widely exploited for its timber in West Central Africa, Isoberlinia doka is used in carpentry and for making furniture, although the wood is somewhat difficult to work with hand-tools. It is also used as fuelwood.

    It is used for treating muscular-skeletal system disorders in traditional West African medicine. An infusion of the leaves is used for treating jaundice. Doka is also used to treat infectious diseases, and scientific investigations have confirmed its antibacterial activity. The tree is thought by some to have magical properties.

    It is potentially useful for land reclamation and reforestation schemes on account of its vigour, and ability to colonise clearings and abandoned land.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: One

    This species at Kew

    Dried and spirit-preserved specimens of Isoberlinia doka are held in the behind-the-scenes Herbarium at Kew, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details, including images, of some of these specimens can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

    Guinea-Conakry, Uganda
    Savanna woodland.
    Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria.

    Alkaloids are present in small amounts in the bark. The leaves and bark contain cardiac glycosides.


    Caesalpiniaceae, Hutchinson and Dalziel. Flora of West Tropical Africa 1:2. 1958

    Savannah tree, to 60 ft. high
    Glabrous shining foliage
    Flowers white

    Leguminosae, J. B. Gillett, R. M. Polhill & B. Verdcourt. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1971

    Tree 10–18 m. high or more.
    Leaves:upper part of stipules free, lanceolate, to ± 2 cm. long, caducous, or apparently absent; petiole with rhachis 11–24 cm. long; leaflets 3–4 pairs, ovate to elliptic, 6–18 cm. long, 3.3–13 cm. wide, glabrous or sparsely and inconspicuously pubescent on midrib and lateral nerves beneath, with the surface glabrous or nearly so to minutely and sparsely puberulous; primary lateral nerves 6–11 on each side of the midrib.
    Panicles rather lax to rather dense; ultimate racemose branches 3.5–8(–18) cm. long, tomentellous to puberulous or glabrescent.
    Bracts 2–3.5 mm. long.
    Pedicels of open flowers 2–5 mm. long.
    Bracteoles 9–12 mm. long, 6–9 mm. wide, fawn.
    Sepals 5, white.
    Petals white; upper one oblong-elliptic, 8–12 mm. long, 4.5–5 mm. wide, rounded or slightly emarginate but not bilobed at apex; 4 smaller 6–12 mm. long, 3–4 mm. wide.
    Stamens 10.
    Pods 15–30 cm. long, 5–7 cm. wide, with brown indumentum partially rubbing off with maturity.
    Seeds 2.5–3.3 × 1.8–2.5 cm.
    Timber, fuelwood, medicinal, carpentry, believed to have magical uses.
    Constructions Stems - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Shade Shelter
    Live plant (in situ) - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Unspecified Animal Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping



    Found In:

    Benin, Burkina, Cameroon, Central African Repu, Chad, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Zaïre

    Common Names


    Isoberlinia doka Craib & Stapf appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Jan 1, 1967 Wilde, W.J.J.O. de [4761], Cameroon K000459989
    Aug 10, 1961 Schweinfurth, G. [87] K000417762
    Aug 10, 1961 Schweinfurth, G. [1555] K000417763
    Jan 7, 1945 Chevalier, A. [6687], Chad K000417765 isotype
    Laferrere, M. [57], Mali K000392133
    Sihronen, J. [133], Burkina Faso K000392134
    Cameroon 15700.000
    Dalziel, J.M. [334], Nigeria K000417769
    Dalziel, J.M. [364], Nigeria K000417770
    Oldeman, R.A.A. [927], Côte d'Ivoire K000459978
    Kitson, S.A. [911], Ghana K000459979
    Kitson, S.A. [911], Ghana K000459980
    Kitson, S.A. [885], Ghana K000459981
    Kitson, S.A. [569], Ghana K000459982
    Ankrah, J.O. [20423], Ghana K000459983
    Merton, J.K. [25247], Ghana K000459984
    Enti, A.A. [6543], Ghana K000459985
    Stevenson, A. [4226], Ghana K000459986
    Enti, A.A. [6543], Ghana K000459987
    Thomas, D. [2059], Cameroon K000459988
    Gilbert [1793], Congo, DRC K000459990
    Troupin, G. [1242], Congo, DRC K000459991
    Reekmans, M. [389], Burundi K000459992
    Ryan, F.A. [44], Nigeria K000459993
    Keay, R.W.J. [22739], Nigeria K000459994
    Lely, H.V. [287], Nigeria K000459995
    Dalziel [12], Nigeria K000459996
    Chapman, J.D. [3058], Nigeria K000459997

    First published in Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew, Addit. Ser. 9: 267 (1911)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015) The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan . Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [2] (2012) Boissiera 65: 1-391
    • [3] Kalema, J. & Beentje, H. (2012) Conservation checklist of the trees of Uganda . Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [9] Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (eds.) (2006) Flore Analytique du Bénin . Backhuys Publishers
    • [12] Lebrun, J.p., Toutain, B., Gaston, A. & Boudet, G. (1991) Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Burkina Faso . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort
    • [13] Lock, J.M. (1989) Legumes of Africa a check-list . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [14] Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986) Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali . Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux
    • [15] Brunel, J.F., Hiepo, P. & Scholz, H. (eds.) (1984) Flore Analytique du Togo Phanérogames: 1-751. GTZ, Eschborn
    • [16] Peyre de Fabregues, B. & Lebrun, J.-P. (1976) Catalogue des Plantes Vascularies du Niger . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort
    • [17] Lebrun, J.-P., Audru, J., Gaston, A. & Mosnier, M. (1972) Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Tchad Méridional . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort


    • [4] Lawal, I.O. et al. (2010). Evaluation of plant-based non-timber forest products (ntfps) as potential bioactive drugs in south-western Nigeria. J. Clin. Med. Res. 3: 61-66.
    • [5] Contu, S. (2009). Isoberlinia doka. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [6] Pare, S., Savadogo, P., Tigabu, M., Oden, P.C. & Ouadba, J.M. (2009). Regeneration and spatial distribution of seedling populations in Sudanian dry forests in relation to conservation status and human pressure. Trop. Ecol. 50: 339-353.
    • [7] Mbahin, N., Raina, S.K., Kioko, E.N. & Mueke, J.M. (2008). Use of sleeve nets to improve survival of the Boisduval silkworm, Anaphe panda, in the Kakamega Forest of western Kenya. J. Insect Sci. 10: 1-10.
    • [8] Magassouba, F.B. et al. (2007). Ethnobotanical survey and antibacterial activity of some plants used in Guinean traditional medicine. J. Ethnopharmacol. 114: 44-53.
    • [10] Lewis, G., Schrire, B., Mackinder, B. & Lock, J.M. (eds) (2005). Legumes of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [11] Burkill, H.M. (1995). The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa, Volume 3, Families J-L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [18] Brenan in Kew Bulletin 17: 223 (1963).
    • [19] Brenan, J.P.M. (1963). The species of Isoberlinia (Leguminosae). Kew Bull. 17: 219-226.
    • [20] Keay in Flora of West Tropical Africa, ed. 2, 1: 468 (1958).
    • [21] J. Léon. in Mém. 8°, Classe Sci., Acad. Roy. Belg. 30(2): 178 (1957).
    • [22] Hauman in Flore du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi, 3: 380 (1952).
    • [23] W.J. Eggeling, Indigenous Trees of the Uganda Protectorate, ed. 2: 66, photo. 10 (1952).
    • [24] Aubrév. Fl. For. Soud.-Guin. 232, t. 48
    • [25] Troupin in Bull. Jard. Bot. Brux. 20: 303.
    • [26] Troupin in Bulletin du Jardin Botanique de l'État a Bruxelles 20: 303 (1950).
    • [27] Hook. Ic. Pl. t. 3003
    • [28] Craib & Stapf in Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information, Kew1912: 94 (1912).
    • [29] Kew Bull. 1912: 94
    • [30] Craib & Stapf in Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information, Kew, Addit. Sér. 9: 267 (1911)
    • [31] in Kew Bull. Add. Ser. 9: 267 (1911)


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