Kyuasi Tree

Where did this tree get its scientific name ?

The genus is named after the French botanist, Lannes de Montebelio and the species after the Russian Latvian botanist Georg Schweinfurth (1836 – 1935) who explored South Sudan and Central Africa at the end of the 19thcentury and has several plants named after him.

There are several other species of Lannea tree found in this part of Kenya. They are all valued by people for their medicinal qualities and their fruit. Lannea trees used to be found around Nairobi but they are rare these days.

Other Names

Because this tree is found all over the country it has many different names. The names recorded in the World Agroforestry Centre’s Useful Trees and Shrubs of Kenya are:

Boni: Waharr; Boran: Ile, Tile; Dogo: Mnyumbu; Giriama: Mjumbu maji, Mukivure, Kyuasi;Kamba: Kyuasi, Muasi, Mwethi; Luo: Bongo, Kuogo, Kwogo; Maasai: Orpande; Mbeere: Moino; Pokot: Orolwo; SamburuMuthuchi; Swahili: Mongo, Mnyumbu, Munyumbu maji;Taveta: Rubandi; Tharaka: Muthuchi.

Other Uses of the Kyuasi Tree

According to tradition, in South Africa, this tree has the ability to protect and heal people because it has a good spirit living in it. Local communities in South Africa have used it to treat sores, abscesses and other illnesses. In Kenya the leaves of the tree to feed livestock and the bark is used to tan leather and to make dye as well as for medicine.

The Maasai use the fresh young shoots of this tree as a toothbrush and use the bark in tea and soup. The tree is said to be a good rain indicator. Moisture drips from the sap (sucked out by the nymph of a froghopper insect). This is collected shortly before the rains when water is scarce. (Letilets’ Tales p282).

Is the Lannea really sociable?

This tree grows well when planted in groups. However our local expert, Mark Nicholson, thinks that the fact that the reason we find them in groups is more likely to be because their fruits germinate under the tree or because they reproduce by producing ‘suckers’. I like the sociability theory but will leave it to you to decide.

You can read more about the Kyuasi tree here: Africa National Biodiversity Institute)

World Agroforestry Centre’s Useful Trees and shrubs for Kenya. 2005 Maundu et al (eds)

Letilet’s Tales: The Vanishing World of a Hunter Gatherer 2013 Susie Allan and Letilet Ole Yenko