Plant story - a very useful plant, Osyris lanceolata, is at risk of extinction due to overexploitation

The commercial demand of Osyris products has recently led to an increased rate of exploitation, to an extent that its existence in its natural habitat is seriously threatened. Thanks to the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, this plant species is now safeguarded for our future.

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01 Jan 2010

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Piles of illegally harvested wood

Confiscated illegally harvested wood (Photo: Tim Pearce)

Osyris lanceolata bark

Osyris lanceolata bark

A very useful plant

  • Essential oils used in the manufacture of perfumes are extracted from the bark and traded internationally.
  • A bark extract is used locally to treat diarrhoea, chest problems, joint pains.
  • Some communities in the Kenyan Rift Valley use powdered bark as a substitute for tea.

The semi-processed products are exported to lucrative markets in Europe and Asia. The global cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry, scientists and conservationists and other stakeholders, including industrialists and local communities, are on the alert and are working on proposals to address various issues.

For this reason, several intervention measures have been put into place including ex situ seed conservation.

Plant facts

This species of Osyris is a dioecious, semi parasitic, slow growing plant distributed in the drier areas of Kenya. It grows to an average height of three metres but in some areas can grow to six metres high. It is normally found in rocky sites and along margins or edges of dry forests.

In its natural bushland habitat it is closely associated with common dryland species such as Rhus vulgaris, Carissa edulis, Dodonea viscosa, Harrisonia viscosa. 

Story by William Omondi Oloo, Kenya Forestry Research Institute
 | More plant stories 


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We have successfully banked 10% of the world's wild plant species and we have set our sights on saving 25% by 2020.

Without plants there could be no life on earth, and yet every day another four plant species face extinction. Too often when we hear these kind of statistics there is little that we can do as individuals, but thanks to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership and the Adopt a Seed, Save a Species campaign there is something that you can do to ensure the survival of a plant species.

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