Gabon appears to be the center of origin for the genus Dacryodes; among the 19 species that occur in Africa, 11 are found there.21 Dacryodes edulis seems to originate in the humid intertropical regions of southern Nigeria, Congo, and Cameroon. As noted, it is cultivated throughout West and Central Africa: the Gulf of Guinea, the interior basin of Congo, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Nigeria, Uganda, and central Angola.

Horticultural Varieties

There are no named cultivars but, botanically speaking, the species involves at least two distinct varieties:22

  • Dacryodes edulis var. edulis has large fruit, usually more than 5 cm long by 2.5 cm wide;

  • Dacryodes edulis var. parvicarpa has small, more or less conical fruit, usually less the 5 cm long by 2.5 cm wide.

Environmental Requirements

Most of the world’s oil-bearing plants are confined to narrow ecological areas. (Oilpalm and coconut, for instance, are restricted to hot and humid areas.) Butterfruit, however, tolerates several. It thrives, for example, in all the ecological zones of Nigeria and Cameroon except the very dry northern provinces. Although it fits well into savanna zones, its fruit production is greatest in the humid forest zones. In general, performance is best in the shade and in good soil.

Rainfall The plant tolerates rainfall from 600 mm to 3,000 mm and more. By some accounts, low humidity at flowering time may frustrate fruiting.

Altitude Low-medium elevation, from sea level to 1,500 m.

Low Temperature Unknown. One contributor reports the minimum at his location as 9°C (in January). Possibly the plant requires “low” night temperature for uniform flowering (22°C or 14°C have been suggested).

High Temperature Thrives where temperatures top 40°C.


Aubreville A. 1962. Flore du Gabon, No. 3: Irvingiaceae, Simaroubaceae, Burseraceae. Museum. National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris.


J.C. Okafor described two varieties, both of which are cultivated (though var. edulis is preferred on account of large size). Okafor, J.C. 1983. Horticulturally promising indigenous wild plant species of the Nigerian forest zone. Acta Hort. 123:165-176

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