Species Description Format

Field Guide to the Moist Forest Trees of Tanzania

Jon C. Lovett, Chris K. Ruffo, Roy E. Gereau & James R.D. Taplin
Illustrations by Line Sørensen & Jilly Lovett

Species description format

The aim of the field guide is to enable field identification of moist forest trees by people who do not necessarily possess specialist botanical knowledge and who come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. The descriptions in the guide are concise in order to keep it as short as possible so that it can be carried in the field. About two-thirds of the species are illustrated and continental scale distribution maps are provided for around a quarter of the species.

Botanical terminology has been kept to a minimum. The description is written using combinations of terms rather than by the use of a specific esoteric term. The descriptions are largely drawn from existing floras supplemented by field and herbarium observations. Taxonomically, the lowest taxon recognised in the descriptions is usually subspecies. This avoids having to deal with poorly defined taxa at a varietal level for species which are very variable. When varieties are distinct, or have been widely recognized as separate species in the past, then full entries are given for each variety. Subspecific variation is mentioned under notes.


The taxonomic nomenclature is derived from taxonomic literature and field experience. Lack of space precludes citation of literature. The familes are ordered alphabetically and the genera and species are ordered alphabetically within the families. This arrangement is for ease of reference. The Leguminosae are treated as three subfamilies rather than separate families in order to keep them together in the text. The following abbreviations are used: NC = No change. NP = Not published. NR = Not recorded. The following information is given for each species:

Currently accepted family name with alternative names in brackets.

Currently accepted genus and species name, or name prefered by the authors if this differs from taxonomic revisions felt to be unacceptable. Species author citations are cited in the abbreviation suggested by the Kew Index of Authors.

Synonym in the Flora of Tropical East Africa (FTEA). Various editors and authors. 1952 – to date. Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agent. London. Later, A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam.This updates taxonomic changes from earlier volumes of FTEA. FTEA contains an extensive synonymy, which is not repeated here.

Synonym in the Tanganyika Territory Check-List (TTCL). Brenan, J.P.M. & Greenway, P.J. 1949. Check-list of the Forest Trees and Shrubs of the British Empire. No. 5. Tanganyika Territory. Part 2. Imperial Forestry Institute, Oxford. 653 pp. The names used in TTCL are widely used in Forest Division reports and early publications on Tanzanian forests. The inclusion of TTCL synonyms enables cross reference to be made to earlier work without having to include extensive synonymy.

Syn other:
In certain cases it may be necessary to cite additional synonyms in order to clarify the nomenclatural position of the name used by the authors. For example some authors include the East African Pencil Cedar Juniperus procera in Juniperus excelsa.

Local name:
Local names in common use with abbreviation of language. A = Arusha, B = Bondei, Ba = Bara, Bar = Barbeig, Be = Bende, Bn = Boran, C = Chagga, D = Digo, E = English, F = Fipa, G = Gogo, Ga = Luganda, H = Hehe, Ha = Haya, Ir = Iraqw, K = Kinga, Ki = Kikuyu, L = Luguru, M = Maasai, Me = Meru, Mt = Matengo, Mw = Mwera, N = Nyamwezi, Ng = Ngindo, Ngi = Kingindo, Ngu = Nguu, Nh = Nyiha, Nt = Nyaturu, Ny = Nyakusa, P = Pare, Po = Pogoro, R = Rangi, Ru = Runyoro, S = Shambaa, , Sd = Sandawi, Su = Sukuma, Sw = Swahili, T = Tongwe, Z = Zigua, Za = Zaramo, Zn = Zinza.

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The description is based on published descriptions of the species, field observations and examination of herbarium specimens. The aim is to include as many characters as possible that can be used for field identification based on our own field experience. Emphasis is given to vegetative characters, with minimal description of flowers and fruits. In our experience, fertile characters, whilst of primary importance in taxonomic studies, are rarely used for field identification. To avoid obscure botanical terms, terminology is limited to combinations of a few broad terms. Similarly, use of colours is kept to dark and light shades of brown, black, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and white, and combinations of these colours. This avoids using colour descriptions which may not be familiar to all users of the guide, eg. peach, wine red, maroon etc. An illustrated glossary gives definitions of the terms. Most measurements are in centimetres. The description is formatted in the following order. When we have not been able to find information the character is omitted or NR (Not recorded) given.

Straight/ Fluted/ Buttressed/ Stilt roots/ Crooked/ Branched/ Scandent.
Maximum size: Large >30 m./ Medium 15 – 30 m. / Small <15 m. Bark:
Colour. Texture.


Colour. Texture: Fibrous/ granular. Smell. Exudate: Present/absent, description: latex/sap.


Simple/ Palmate/ Digitate/ Trifoliolate/ Odd-pinnate/ Even-pinnate. Number of leaflets and size for pinnate leaves.
Opposite/ Alternate/ Whorled. Numbers of leaves for whorls. Clustered at ends of branches or not.
Small/ Medium/ Large (examples of these leave sizes are: Anisophylla/ Allanblackia/ Myrianthus), with approximate dimensions as length x width cm.

Sessile, or length (cm.). Characters: channelled; pulvinus; colour; wings.

Ovate/ Elliptic/ Oblong/ Lanceolate/ Oblong-lanceolate/Deltoid
Cuneate/ Cordate/ Sagittate/ Hastate/ Auriculate/Rounded/Peltate. Symmetrical/asymmetrical. Number of nerves from the base if this is greater than one.
Acuminate/ Acute/ Obtuse/ Truncate/ Retuse/ Emarginate/ Apiculate/ Mucronate/ Caudate
Entire/ Serrate
Glabrous/ Hairy. Simple/stellate.

Present/absent. Pits/hairs.

Present/absent, with some description.

Present/ Absent. With some description, if needed.

Present/Absent. With some description if needed.

Colour, scent. Short description of the infloresence type and position (terminal/axillary/cauliflorous). Dioecious/monoecious/hermaphrodite.

Colour/shape. A short description of the fruit.

Based on altitude, moister gradients and successional stage. (Woodland. Grassland. Thicket. Riverine. Groundwater. Dry lowland, lowland, submontane, dry montane, montane, upper montane). See Section 3.

Main areas (see Figure 1 in Section 3): Coastal (C). Eastern Arc (EA). Northern (N). Lake Nyasa (LN). Lake Tanganyika (LT). Lake Victoria (LV). Mountains (north to south): Teita Hills (Te), Pare (P), Usambara (Us), East Usambara (EUs), West Usambara (Wus), Northern Nguru (NNg), Southern Nguru (SNg), Nguru (Ng), Uluguru (Ul), Malundwe (Mal), Udzungwa (Udz), Mahenge (Ma). Also includes a summary of distribution outside Tanzania where relevant.

Includes further species information such as seasonality (evergreen/deciduous), distinguishing features. Key characters, including notes on floral and fruit characters necessary for definitive identification if they are needed to seperate closely related species. Variation below subspecific level, and other interesting information.

Short description of local and commercial uses.

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Last Updated: 21 March 2017