Tuesday 21 May
Azobe (Lophira alata)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Azobe fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
The alternative name for this large rainforest tree, ‘ironwood’, refers to the very heavy and hard nature of its valuable timber (2) (3). The trunk of the azobe is usually straight, without buttresses, but sometimes with a swollen base (2) (4) (5), and is usually clear of branches up to about 30 metres (5). The bark is typically red-brown in colour, up to two centimetres thick, and has a bright yellow layer underneath. Young trees under four metres in height have greenish-grey bark, which becomes pink or light brown as the tree matures (2). Inside, the living sapwood is pale pink or whitish in colour, while the inner heartwood is dark red-brown to chocolate brown, with conspicuous white deposits of silica (2) (4) (5). The leaves of the azobe are up to 25 centimetres long and are tough, fairly narrow and elongated, with a rounded or slightly indented tip, and tend to occur in clusters at the ends of the twigs (2) (4).
- Also known as
- ekki, ironwood, red ironwood.
- Azobé. Top
- The flared base of certain tree trunks.
- A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
- Gallery forest
- Forest growing along a river or stream.
- The inner layers of wood in a tree that no longer contain living cells or produce sap. Heartwood tends to be darker in colour than the outer ‘sapwood’.
- The reproductive shoot of a plant which bears a group or cluster of flowers.
- To transfer pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
- The living, soft wood between the bark of a tree and its inner, non-living heartwood. This outer layer of wood contains the sap and is generally lighter in colour than the heartwood.
- IUCN Red List (January, 2009)
- Palla, F., Louppe, D. and Doumenge, C. (2002) Azobé. Forafri, Libreville, Gabon and Cirad-forêt, Montpellier, France. Available at:
- Méniaud, J. (1950) L’azobé et ses utilisations. Bois et Forêts des Tropiques, 15: 261 - 266.
- Wageningen University Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group: Tree factsheet - Lophira alata (January, 2009)
- Chudnoff, M. (1984) Tropical Timbers of the World. Agriculture Handbook No. 607. USDA Forest Service, Madison, WI. Available at:
- Aluka (January, 2009)
- UNEP-WCMC. (1999) Contribution to an Evaluation of Tree Species using the New CITES Listing Criteria. UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge. Available at:
- Laird, S.A. (1999) The management of forests for timber and non-wood forest products in Central Africa. In: Sunderland, T.C.H., Clark, L.E. and Vantomme, P. (Eds) Non-Wood Forest Products of Central Africa: Current Research Issues and Prospects for Conservation and Development. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome.
- Dowsett-Lemaire, F. (1996) Composition et évolution de la végétation forestière au Parc National d’Odzala, Congo. Bulletin du Jardin Botanique National de Belgique, 65: 253 - 292.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
The azobe sheds all its leaves during a short period of one to two weeks, usually in December, and the re-growth of bright red young leaves, often simultaneously on all azobe trees in an area, can set the canopy ablaze with colour (2). The flowers of the azobe are white, fairly large, strong-smelling, and grouped in loose, branched, terminal inflorescences. Flowering occurs in adult trees with trunks over 50 centimetres in diameter, and takes place from the time the new leaves appear. Azobe is monoecious, meaning that male and female flowers are found on the same tree, and the flowers are insect-pollinated (2) (4) (6). Fruiting takes place between January and March, the fruits becoming mature around March to April, although fruits do not always appear every year (2). The fruits, which are wind-dispersed, contain a single, oil-rich seed in a conical capsule, which is brown when mature and is surrounded by two unequally-sized membranous ‘wings’, one up to six centimetres long and the other twice the size, at up to twelve centimetres (2) (4) (7). Although the azobe needs full sunlight to grow (2) (7), seedlings can persist for some time in the shady undergrowth and resume growth if and when sunlight again becomes available (2).Top
Found in wet evergreen forest, moist deciduous forest, freshwater swamp forest and gallery forest, azobe is a pioneer species, able to colonise open and disturbed areas, such as forest edges, clearings, the sides of roads and rivers, and even savannas and abandoned cultivated areas (1) (2) (7). Azobe adapts to a range of soil types and tends to prefer fairly flat ground, generally at elevations below 800 metres (2).Top
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Although common and widespread in Cameroon, where it regenerates well (1) (7), azobe is under threat in other parts of its range as a result of large-scale forest destruction and over-exploitation for its timber (1), which is popular for heavy construction work, harbour works and railway sleepers (2) (3) (7). The species is also used locally in traditional medicine, for treating backache, toothache, respiratory and stomach problems, and as a treatment for yellow fever. The leaves can be used in mulch to help control termites, and an edible and odourless oil from the seeds is used as a food and to make ointments and soaps (2) (7) (8). This heavy exploitation, together with azobe’s slow growth rate and poor regeneration when conditions are not optimum, is contributing to a population decline throughout most of its range (1).Top
The azobe is protected by law in Ivory Coast (7), and occurs in protected areas in some parts of its range, such as in Odzala National Park in Congo (9). However, improved protection, better management of existing forest reserves, and intensified regeneration work are all considered essential conservation measures to protect this heavily utilised rainforest tree (1) (7).Top
Find out more
For more information on the conservation of threatened tree species and for advice on responsible timber buying, see:Top
AuthenticationThis information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgTop
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.