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Native Plants in Africa

By Naima Manal ; Updated September 21, 2017

The tropical rainforests of Africa produce many native plants that receive regular sunlight, an abundance of rainfall and thrive in warm temperatures. Tall trees tower over the rainforest’s floor, creating shaded areas for partial- and full-shade tropical plants, many of which are favored as houseplants in homes around the world for their ability to thrive with little or indirect sun. Native plants in Africa grow in the other climactic regions throughout Africa—some cold-weather-tolerant and others drought-tolerant in the dry heat of the hot African sun.


Native to Ethiopia and Yemen, coffee (Coffea arabica) grows from a flowering scrub that produces the coffee berries or beans. Coffee is brewed from the roasted coffee seeds. Originally coffee seeds were chewed for their stimulating effect. Coffee is grown in many parts of Africa as well as in Latin America and Asia.

Babul Acacia

Babul acacia (Acacia nilotica L.), a tropical flowering and fruiting evergreen tree that grows to 25 meters tall, has a deep rooting system and is easily propagated by seed. Found in many mid- and southern African countries, Babul Acacia’s seed pods are used in leather tanning and fabric dyeing, ranging from tan to dark brown and grey when mixed with other agents. Other names include scented thorn, Babla, Mjungu and scented-pod acacia.

Guinea Millet

Native to the African savanna, Guinea millet (Brachiaria deflexa) grows as a weed in throughout central to South Africa—from the east to the west. Guinea millet is a food grain collected from the wild or cultivated on farms as a cereal or ground into flour for baking. Other common names for Guinea millet include animal fonio and false signal grass.

Black Fonio

Black fonio (Digitaria iburua) is an annual grass native to Nigeria, Cameroon, Guinea and the surrounding countries. The grass grows to more than one meter tall, and its grain is consumed as cereals or prepared like rice and couscous. Some of its other names are iburu, manne noire and black acha.

Guinea Yam

Native to West Africa and grown as far east as Ethiopia, Guinea yam (Dioscorea cayenensis) is an annual plant cultivated for its tuberous roots. The vine-like stems of the two main groups of Guinea yam—yellow Guinea yam and white Guinea yam—grow to heights 12 meters long. Yams are boiled, baked, fried, pounded or dried and ground into flour. Nigeria is the largest producer of Guinea yams.


About the Author


Naima Manal's articles on health, diet, nutrition, alternative medicine, education, parenting, crafts, travel, home and garden and home improvement have appeared on various websites. Manal received her Bachelor of Science in biology/pre-medical studies from Molloy College in 1994 and has been a freelance writer, teacher and homeschooling mom since 1993.