Skip to main content
You are here
Facebook icon
Pinterest icon
Twitter icon

Isoberlinia doka (doka)

Doka is a vigorously colonising African tree which often dominates the woodland belt that stretches from Guinea in the west to Uganda in the east.
Doka in Burkina Faso

Isoberlinia doka, near Folonzo, SW Burkina Faso (Photo: Marco Schmidt, licensed under CC by 3.0)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Isoberlinia doka Craib & Stapf

Common name: 


Conservation status: 

Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria.


Savanna woodland.

Key Uses: 

Timber, fuelwood, medicinal, carpentry, believed to have magical uses.

Known hazards: 

Alkaloids are present in small amounts in the bark. The leaves and bark contain cardiac glycosides.


Leguminosae/Fabaceae - Caesalpinioideae
Genus: Isoberlinia

About this species

Isoberlinia doka is a woodland tree which is common and widespread in west and central Africa, where it often dominates the landscape in uncultivated areas. This hardwood tree is quick to colonise clearings and abandoned land, and grows gregariously, often establishing near-pure stands.

I. doka has been reported as a major food source for several species of silk-producing moths and is the principal host plant of the silk-producing moth Anaphe moloneyi (family Thaumetopoeidae). The use of silk moths in silk production is a sustainable industry that not only provides an income for local people, but also encourages the conservation of doka woodlands by rural communities.


Berlinia doka


Discover more

Geography and distribution

Native to west and central Africa, Isoberlinia doka is a major constituent of the woodland belt which stretches from Guinea in the west to Sudan and Uganda in the east. It also occurs extensively to the south of these woodlands, but in a more scattered manner, and is unknown south of the equator.

I. doka occurs in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo, and Uganda.


Isoberlinia doka is a tree measuring 10-20 m tall with a trunk of about 40-50 cm diameter, branching from about 5 m upwards. The leaflets are arranged in three or four pairs. The flowers are small and white, forming large open inflorescences that are held conspicuously above the leafy crown. 

Herbarium specimen of Isoberlinia doka collected in Nigeria by Dalziel, J.M. in 1911.



The pods are oblong, flat and quite large, about 30 cm long and 10 cm wide. When they are mature, the two halves twist apart with such force that they can expel the seeds about 50 cm from the tree.

Threats and conservation

Widespread in west and central Africa, Isoberlinia doka populations appear to be stable at present, and not unduly affected by harvesting for timber and other uses. However, the tree is known to be fire-sensitive, so any drying of the climate in the future may potentially pose a threat to some stands.

There are no known conservation measures currently in operation specifically for I. doka, but it does grow in many protected areas. Samples of seed have been collected and are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank as an ex situ conservation measure. It is recommended that further monitoring should be carried out to ensure this species is not over-exploited in the future.

Conservation assessments carried out by Kew

Isoberlinia doka is being monitored as part of the 'Sampled Red List Index Project', which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world’s plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.


Widely exploited for its timber in West Central Africa, Isoberlinia doka is used in carpentry and for making furniture, although the wood is somewhat difficult to work with hand-tools. It is also used as fuelwood.

It is used for treating muscular-skeletal system disorders in traditional West African medicine. An infusion of the leaves is used for treating jaundice. Doka is also used to treat infectious diseases, and scientific investigations have confirmed its antibacterial activity. The tree is thought by some to have magical properties.

It is potentially useful for land reclamation and reforestation schemes on account of its vigour, and ability to colonise clearings and abandoned land.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: One

This species at Kew

Dried and spirit-preserved specimens of Isoberlinia doka are held in the behind-the-scenes Herbarium at Kew, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details, including images, of some of these specimens can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

View details and images of specimens

References and credits

Brenan, J.P.M. (1963). The species of Isoberlinia (Leguminosae). Kew Bull. 17: 219-226.

Burkill, H.M. (1995). The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa, Volume 3, Families J-L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Contu, S. (2009). Isoberlinia doka. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Lawal, I.O. et al. (2010). Evaluation of plant-based non-timber forest products (ntfps) as potential bioactive drugs in south-western Nigeria. J. Clin. Med. Res. 3: 61-66.

Lewis, G., Schrire, B., Mackinder, B. & Lock, J.M. (eds) (2005). Legumes of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Magassouba, F.B. et al. (2007). Ethnobotanical survey and antibacterial activity of some plants used in Guinean traditional medicine. J. Ethnopharmacol. 114: 44-53.

Mbahin, N., Raina, S.K., Kioko, E.N. & Mueke, J.M. (2008). Use of sleeve nets to improve survival of the Boisduval silkworm, Anaphe panda, in the Kakamega Forest of western Kenya. J. Insect Sci. 10: 1-10.

Pare, S., Savadogo, P., Tigabu, M., Oden, P.C. & Ouadba, J.M. (2009). Regeneration and spatial distribution of seedling populations in Sudanian dry forests in relation to conservation status and human pressure. Trop. Ecol. 50: 339-353.

Kew Science Editor: Barbara Mackinder
Kew contributors: Steve Davis (Sustainable Uses Group)
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell

While every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, the notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

Full website terms and conditions

Related Links

Courses at Kew

Kew offers a variety of specialist training courses in horticulture, conservation and plant science.

Students learn about plant taxonomy and identification

Why People Need Plants

A compelling book from Kew Publishing that explores the crucial role that plants play in the everyday lives of all of us.

image of book cover