3 minute read

Trees bees use - Dombeya torrida

by Paul Latham, Blairgowrie, UK


Bees collect pollen and nectar throughout the day from the flowers of Dombeya torrida. Recommended for planting to increase honey production.


Dombeya goetzenii, Dombeya faucicola,

Dombeya schimperiana




Dombeya torrida is a forest tree that can grow to 25 m high. It is often found growing along forest edges at altitudes of 1800-3300 m in Afromontane forest. It also persists in forest patches and gallery forests and is often seen as a single tree in mountain grassland and farmland. Dombeya torrida is found in East Africa and in Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda and Sudan where rainfall ranges from 1000-2000 mm per year. It is a common understorey tree in Ethiopia.


LEAVES: Broadly ovate, base deeply cordate, apex acuminate, margin serrate to entire, 4-25 by 3-15 cm, densely pubescent, especially on the reddish veins.

FLOWERS: White, red at the base inside, in umbels with branched stalks; petals 11-21 mm long.

FRUIT: Round and hairy.


The wood is hard and heavy, easy to work and therefore suitable for turnery and house construction, but it is not durable in the ground. It is used for poles and making tool handles and suitable for firewood.

The bark fibre is used for making cloth and rope. Fallen leaves produce good mulch for soil improvement. Leaves are browsed by cattle. Root bark is used for wound dressing. In Rwanda the tree is used for soil conservation and as a support for hives.


Can be planted from seed but needs careful attention. The seed is not easy to obtain and it is easier to plant out wildlings.


Can be coppiced, lopped or pollarded.


The SEPASAL database and enquiry service is about useful ‘wild’ and semi-domesticated plants of tropical and subtropical drylands. ‘Useful’ means plants that humans can eat, use as medicines, feed to animals, make things from, use as fuel and for other purposes. SEPASAL is maintained by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London, UK and is is published on their website at www.rbgkew.org.uk/ceb/sepasal/internet/


Read about Paul Latham’s new book in Bookshelf page 14


BEENTIJE,H J (1994) Kenya Trees, Shrubs and Lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya.

BEKELE-TESEMMA,A; BIRNIE,A; TENGNAS,B (1993) Useful Trees and Shrubs for Ethiopia. Regional Soil Conservation Unit/SIDA, Uppsala, Sweden.

EGLI,A; KALINGANIRE,A (1988) Les Arbres et Arbustes Agroforestiers au Rwanda, Institut des Sciences Agronomique du Rwanda, Butare, Rwanda. In French.

FICHTL,R; ADIA (1994) Honeybee Flora ofEthiopia. Margraf Verlag, Weikersheim, Germany.

ROCHELEAU,D; WEBER,F; FIELD-JUMA,A (1988) Agroforestry in dryland Africa. ICRAF, Nairobi, Kenya.

SEPASAL (1999) Survey of economic plants for arid and semi-arid lands (SEPASAL) database. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK.

SEYANL,J H (1991) Dombeya in Africa: Opera Botanica Belgica 2. National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise, Belgium.