Indigenous vs exotic trees in Kenya

I promised to reveal a silver lining to the black cloud of my mother-in-law’s forced felling of part of the eucalypt plantation she’s been tending and coppicing forever, her main source of firewood, so here goes. The sight of the newly bare patch of land made her start looking around for a source of seedlings for replanting, and a coincidental visit by some old friends of mine got her thinking that maybe she should go indigenous. At least partly, anyway. Eucalypts are too fast-growing to give up altogether. Her visitors were Lex Thomson and Randy Thaman, who I worked with in the Pacific, and were in Kenya for the International Agroforestry Congress. They noticed a few Prunus africana trees around her place, and told her about its potential. Lex has since left a comment about this on an earlier blog post of mine.

Anyway, after some searching around, Hilda (for that is her name) came across Mr Douglas Ndirangu Kirichu’s nursery at a place called Lari Forest Station in Uplands Division, a short drive along a passable dirt road from her farm. Mr Kirichu runs the Kimotu Environmental Group. He has about a hundred people who collect seeds from the surrounding forest, which he then raises to seedlings and sells, for KSh 30 each (that’s about USD 0.50). Apparently there’s a law that a community can only graze their animals in the forest if they also have a nursery raising indigenous tree seedlings for replanting. So that’s what Mr Kirichu’s group does. To the tune of about 30,000 seedlings when we visited him.1

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In addition to Prunus africana (mueri in Kikuyu), Mr Kirichu (that’s him on the left in the picture below) also has muna (Aningeria), mutamayo (Olea), mukoe (Dombeya), pondo and mukima (not sure what these are — maybe someone out there can help me?).

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So we bought a couple of each, of course. And Hilda got a dozen mueri to start off her plantation.

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And we planted them both up at the farm (thanks, GK!) and down in Nairobi. Maybe that made the holiday carbon neutral?

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Footnotes:
  1. Oh, and thanks to Hilda’s daughter Linda for taking the notes during our visit. []

24 Replies to “Indigenous vs exotic trees in Kenya”

  1. Thanks, Julia. Podocarpus makes sense, but that Mukima didn’t look much like Grevillea (although actually the seedlings were very small and I wouldn’t know anyway). Could it possibly be anything else?

  2. i’m grateful to read your article. am a lover of nature since my childhood and am persuing a nature science degree in kenya. i need to know more about you and even to work with you if posible.

  3. my name is james mwasaha nguma, am fron nairobi am the chairmain of vison development self help group. i have been traying to translate the following indiginous tree names from kikuyu to english and sientific but all in vain will ytou assest please/
    mukoigo,muringa.muhu. miteredu, mufaritio. i will be glard if you will do that we have tree nusary in our area.

  4. When I worked there long ago there was an extensive card index of local names matched to identified herbarium specimens in the old “East African Herbarium” – probably now part of the museum in Nairobi. This is the best way to make sure that the local name (or names) is consistent.

  5. Great article and very informative discussion! I am looking for jacaranda seedlings. Can anyone point me to the right direction on where I can get these? Thanks and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

    1. Mukima-Grevillea robusta
      Muthaite-Ocotea usambarensis
      Muthirinda-Cypressus lusitanica may other Cypressus spp
      Muvuru-Vitex doniana

    1. Moringa is one of the English names. Drumstick Tree is another. But to be honest, the Latin name — Moringa oleifera — is the most useful name as it is one that all people can agree on.

  6. Great piece. Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia is working with farmers and has established tree nurseries, now looking at 100k seedlings by March. Had rough time getting the names right! – but ended up with the names here – hope got it right
    Caesalpinia Mubage
    Melia Mukowe
    Cordia holstii Muringa
    Teclea Munderendu
    calodendrum Muraracia
    Markhamia Muu
    Dombeya Mukoe
    Brownii Mukubu
    Erythrina Muhuti
    Dalbergia melanoxylon mukoma
    Acacia xanthophloea Murera
    Acacia melanoxylon Kanunga
    Croton macrostycus mutundu
    Croton megalocarpus Mukinduri
    Olea Mucharage
    Polysciais kikuyensis Mutati
    Thanks!

  7. Hey, could you help me with names of those trees (they are all used for building dhows in Kenya):

    muangati, nguvi, kelekele, nimhtree, mugambo, bambaro

    Thanks!

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