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Boscia (Boscia angustifolia)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Boscia [English]; kalkaj [Borana, Kenya]; musambweke [Giriama, Kenya]; mulule [Kamba, Kenya];  lito [Kipsigis, Kenya]; ayiergweng, bware [Luo, Kenya]; oloireroi  [Maasai, Kenya]; likwon [Pokot, Kenya]; lororoi [Samburu, Kenya]; chieh [Somali, Kenya]; lito [Tugen, Kenya]; emejen [Turkana, Kenya]; cèkoroninkolo, kesebere, berejè [Bambara, Mali], diaba, ghinadiu, ghineghiu, nose, samon-kesebere, tiekoni-kolo, tutigi [Malinke, Mali]), tegelena [Minyanka, Senoufo, Mali], nubowewe [Bwa, Mali];  sel'pili, selem pilu [Dogon, Mali]; hassu [Songhaï, Mali, Niger, Benin]; agahini, ballakani [Hausa, Niger], hasu [Zarma, Niger]; hasou [Dendi, Benin], yiribé [Bambara, Benin], tipi [Peuhl, Benin]; Msingisa [Kigogo, Tanzania] (PROTA, 2019; Komwihangilo et al., 1995; Baumer, 1983).

Related feed(s) 

Boscia (Boscia angustifolia A. Rich.) is an African multipurpose tree that is mainly used for fodder and food (Orwa et al., 2009).


Boscia angustifolia is a shrubby, evergreen tree reaching a height of 6-14 m (Orwa et al., 2009; Fici et al., 1993; Dougall et al., 1958). In the wild, the crown of  boscia is cylindrical, but this shape is seldom found since the shrub is frequently lopped for feeding livestock and thus the crown is mostly round-shaped (Dougall et al., 1958). Its branches are leafy, bearing numerous leaves that are small, thick, fleshy and coriaceous. These leaves are narrow (hence the epithet "angustifolia" meaning narrow leaf) lanceolate or linear in shape and pale green in colour. They can be alternate on young twigs of clustered on old wood. The leaf blade is 2-4.5 (-6.5) cm long x 0.7-2 cm broad, with conspicuous midrib and reticulum on both faces (Orwa et al., 2009; Fici et al., 1993). There are 2 varieties of Boscia angustifoliaBoscia angustifolia var. corymbosa has minutely pubescent leaves and Boscia angustifolia var. angustifolia has leaves with completely glabrous lower face (Orwa et al., 2009). The shrub keeps its leaves during the dry season (FAO, 2016).

The flowers are small greenish-white, clustered in short terminal corymbose racemes, 3-6 cm long x 3-7 cm in diameter. Boscia angustifolia flourishes during the cool part of the dry season.The fruits need a year to ripen .They are edible, though bitter, spherical, rough-skinned berries, up to 13 mm in diameter, reddish grey in colour (Orwa et al., 2009; Fici et al., 1993; Dougall et al., 1958). They contain 7 cream-coloured seeds (Orwa et al., 2009).


All parts of Boscia angustifolia are used for food, fodder, or wood.

The foliage is nutritious and sometimes browsed by herbivores, especially at flowering stage and at the end of the dry season (FAO, 2016; Baumer, 1983). In dryland areas, farmers lop the branches to provide fodder to their herds and keep them from starving (Orwa et al., 2009; NRC, 2008; Dougall et al., 1958). It is foraged by bees (Orwa et al., 2009).

The wood is hard and can be used for carpentry or water storage. It is a valuable source of charcoal for gunpowder (Orwa et al., 2009). In Burkina Faso, the young leaves are eaten mixed with millet couscous (Doulkom, 2000). In Tanzania, the wood is burned to smoke milk fo preservation (Komwihangilo et al., 1995). Boscia angustifolia is used ethnomedicine (Baumer, 1983; Doulkom, 2000). In ethnoveterinary medicine, Boscia angustifolia leaves are used as tonic for horses and camels (Orwa et al., 2009) and to treat poultry diseases (Komwihangilo et al., 1995).


Boscia angustifolia is a Sahelo-Sudanese species that can be found from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea on a wide belt starting in Senegal, going both eastwards to the Horn of Africa and Arabia, and southwards to Guinea on the west side and Tanzania on the east side (Fici et al., 1993). Boscia angustifolia is more common in West Africa than in East Africa (FAO, 2016). It is found in savannahs, in deciduous woodland and in bushland. It is found from sea level up to over 1500 m altitude in areas where annual rainfall ranges from 200 to 400 (-800) mm. It grows on free-draining red and lateritic soils, in very arid sites like rocky screes, cliffs or dry riverbeds (FAO, 2016; Orwa et al., 2009). 

Forage management 

One important characteristic of Boscia angustifolia is that it remains leafy for most of the year, with only one month of full defoliation. An observer in Burkina Faso reported that foliage began in mid-October. Full foliage was reached early November and continued until the end of the rainy season (late August). In early September, foliage started drying out and defoliation occurred abruptly (Doulkom, 2000).

Environmental impact 

Shade or shelter

In very sunny and dry areas, the boscia trees provide shade for livestock (Orwa et al., 2009).

Reclamation and forest sustainable management

Boscia (Boscia angustifolia) shrub is reported to readily establish itself in adverse conditions and to have potential for reclaiming degraded sites (Orwa et al., 2009). In the "Say management method" proposed for "spotted bush sustainable management, boscia was the only shrub that could be cut for forage above 2 m high (Peltier et al., 1995)

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Boscia angustifolia has a widely variable nutritive value, with a protein content reported to be in the 10-25% DM range. It is also relatively fibrous (NDF 27-57%), depending probably on maturity and on the amount of branches in the browse (Osuga et al., 2006). The tannin content was reported to be low, and the addition of polyethylene glycol did not improve DM digestibility (50%) when added into the medium (Osuga et al., 2006).


In drylands of Africa, Boscia angustifolia is generally used as fodder during the dry season. Herders and others pastoral groups habitually cut down its branches to feed livestock (Sanon et al., 2007). In Kenya, observations in the 1950s Boscia angustifolia was reported to be extensively used in the dry season for feeding cattle, goats and sheep, and to of considerable importance to the local stock owners. The branches are lopped and the animals eat the leaves and young twigs on the ground (Dougall et al., 1958). Studies in the arid lands Northern Kenya in the 1970-1980s showed that Boscia angustifolia was reluctantly browsed by livestock. Camels, sheep, goats found it undesirable during both the wet and dry seasons. Cattle found it undesirable during the wet season and of intermediate desirability during the dry season, when they were observed to feed on Acacia tortilis flowers, Grewia bicolor and Boscia angustifolia as these plants green longer than other plant species (Lusigi et al., 1984). Northern Ethiopia (Tigray), Boscia angustifolia is used as a dry season fodder by goats, sheep and cattle, and it is less preferred by sheep and cattle in the midlands than by those in the highlands (Gebremeskel, 2016).


No information seems available on direct use of the foliage Boscia angustifolia in rabbit feeding (November 2018). As noted above, Boscia angustifolia is commonly used by herders in African drylands during the dry season and this shrub could therefore be used for rabbits, as it is relatively rich in protein and fibre. Still, feeding trials would be necessary before recommending this forage. The estimated digestible energy content of dry matter would be around 8 to 9 MJ/kg, and protein digestibility about 55% (Lebas 2016).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 59       1  
Crude protein % DM 17.3 3.7 9.6 25 22  
Crude fibre % DM 30 10.4 10.3 40.3 8  
Ether extract % DM 1.9 0.7 1.2 3.2 8  
Ash % DM 8.7 2.7 5.1 15.6 13  
Insoluble ash % DM 1.9 1.6 0.4 4.5 5  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 46 14.5 27.4 57 6  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 32.7 6.7 22.2 39 6  
Lignin % DM 8.3 3.3 4.1 12.2 5  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.5       1 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 9.2 5.4 5.6 22.4 9  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 2 1.8 0.6 5.6 8  
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.8   2.2 3.3 3  
Potassium g/kg DM 14.3 5 7.6 20.6 6  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.1   0.03 0.21 3  
Manganese mg/kg DM 537   231 843 2  
Zinc mg/kg DM 52   19 85 2  
Copper mg/kg DM 14   10 17 2  
Iron mg/kg DM 273       1  
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Tannins (eq. tannic acid) g/kg DM 5   2 8 3  
In vitro digestibility and solubility Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
In vitro OM digestibility (pepsin) % 47 11 31 61 9  
In vitro DM digestibility (pepsin) % 54       1  
In vitro DM digestibility (pepsin-cellulase) % 54   50 57 2  
In vitro OM digestibility (pepsin-cellulase) % 50   47 53 2  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.5         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.1         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 62         *
OM digestibility, ruminants % 64.9         *
Dry matter degradability (effective, k=6%) % 57   43 65 2 *
a (DM) % 9   8 10 2  
b (DM) % 79   78 79 2  
c (DM) h-1 0.093   0.049 0.137 2  
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 8.5         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 45.8         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


CGIAR, 2009; CIRAD, 1991; de Bie, 1991; Diagayété et al., 1986; Dougall et al., 1964; Doulkom, 2000; Gebremeskel, 2016; Osuga et al., 2006; Wilson et al., 1963; Woodward et al., 1995

Last updated on 21/07/2019 17:29:19

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Hassoun P., Lebas F., 2019. Boscia (Boscia angustifolia). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/176 Last updated on July 21, 2019, 18:48