Muhuhu (Dig Dur Gir Swa)
Muhugu is both the Kikuyu and trade name for this highly valuable species, known throughout Kenya as muhugu or muhuhu. Among the Kamba, it is one of three major carving woods, second only to Dalbergia melanoxylon. (The third being Olea europaea, var. africana.) The fine, wavy-lined, exceptionally hard and smooth wood finishes very well, and is extremely durable in the ground or in water, almost impenetrable to wood borers and termites. Hindus formerly used it in cremations because of the woods scent, a replacement for sandlewood. It grows into a tall, slender tree, 20m or more, with a straight, but fluted, main stem. Most trees seen these days are 15-20cm in diameter and 10-15m tall, although still somewhat common, muhugu is losing ground to woodcarvers making animal carvings for export. Many people feel it can associate with crops, especially along fence rows. Its narrow crown and abundant growth under the tree, certainly indicates some agroforestry potential. Muhugu would be an excellent choice for shamba border plantings, roadsides, or as pathways makers.
Preferred Climate Type:
Muhugu's preference for both the Lamu and Nairobi climate areas indicates that there are two distinct provenances. It grows in the Coast Province forests of Witu and Arabuku Sokoke on red soils. It is also abundant near Karen, following the 1500-1800m elevation line to Nyeri on red soils around the base of the Aberdares. Rainfall in both these areas fluctuates between 700-1200mm annually. Muhugu does best on deep, well-drained sites, it is not found in swamps or areas with a high water table. (Lamu, Kwale, Nairobi: Zone II, 1-5; III, 1-5; IV, 1-5.)
Like most members of the Compositae family, seeds from muhugu are quite small and difficult to collect. Undoubtedly the easiest method is to collect wildings. At Karura (near Nairobi), seeds are available in February and March. These are collected by sweeping beneath the tree and sowing directly in seed beds. Germination is poor, and muhugu is a slow grower in all situations, though there are no studies known looking at growth rates through time.
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Additional Sources of Information:
(Links in this section will open a new window and display information from an external website.)
Center for Wood Anatomy Research: Technology Transfer Fact Sheet
Kenya Wildlife Service