Africa's rain forests are the second largest in the world, after those of the Amazon. Rain forests cover approximately 20 percent of Africa, and the largest concentrations of rain forest are in Central Africa. The rain forests in East Africa are not as dense as the Central African forests. Rain forests feature considerable biodiversity, and that includes the trees that make up the rain forests.
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Central African Rainforest
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has the largest rain forest in Africa. Trees in the Central African rain forests include the species Alstonia congensis or pattern wood. The Alstonia congensis is a tall forest tree which can grow up to 30 meters in height. They produce numerous, hairy seeds. The name congensis is derived from the natural habitat of the tree, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Another rain forest tree which grows in the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the mahogany tree. The mahogany tree is a large canopy tree that grows in most rain forests around the world. This tree can reach a height of 150 feet, with the trunks sometimes growing more than 6 feet in diameter.
West African Rain Forest Trees
The iroko tree is a tall, teak-like tree that mainly grows in Nigeria and is used to make furniture as a substitute or replacement for teak. The Liberian rain forest contains trees like mahogany, teak, ironwood and walnut. The African oak is a large forest tree found in Liberia and the western part of Ivory Coast. The timber from this tree is durable and is used for things requiring strength, like building bridges and building ships.
The trees in East Africa include the baobab, fever tree, poison arrow tree and the kapok tree. The rain forests in East Africa are located in Tanzania and Kenya. The kapok tree can grow up to 150 feet in height and has smooth, cylindrical trunks. The crown spreads out into an umbrella shape. The kapok is a deciduous tree with pink or white flowers that have five petals. In some parts of East Africa, the trunks of the kapok tree are used to make dugout canoes. The kapok tree is an emergent tree because it towers above most of the other trees in the rain forest, providing a habitat for epiphytes and numerous birds and animals. An epiphyte is a plant that grows on or is attached to another plant or tree but is not a parasite.
The jacaranda and baobab trees are found in South African rain forests in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The baobab is also called the "Tree of Life" because it provides shelter, food and water to animal inhabitants of the African rain forests. Mature trees have hollows, providing a space where creatures can live. The bark is fire resistant and is used to make ropes, while the leaves are used to prepare medicines. The fruit is a good source of vitamin C.
- Rain Forest Facts: Physical Map of Africa and Its Rain Forests
- World of Agro Forestry Center: Alstonia congensis
- Paradise Earth: Zairian (DRC) Rain Forest
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Timber Trees of Liberia
- The Africa Guide: Madagascar
- Safari Patrol: List: Trees and Shrubs of East Africa