In Swahili this tree is called mvule, and in Latin it was formerly called Cholophora excelsa. It is traded as iroko.
It is found in patches of taller, damper miombo woodland and coastal forest in Kilwa District, and is widely distributed in tropical Africa. Although it can grow to 50m, it is usually felled soon after it reaches timber size. Typically it has a single, tall grey trunk that does not branch until at least 6m above ground level. During the dry season the grey branches are bare. Just before the rains arrive, it produces big, pointed, oval leaves (that are initially hairy but later like sandpaper on the upper side) and later catkins, like an outsized beech tree. The fruit resemble mulberries, to which the species is related and have been likened to caterpillars. In common with other members of the fig family, when damaged the tree exudes a milky, white latex.
Its highly sought after timber resembles teak and is harvested for export. It is one of the best-known African timbers, suitable for both indoor and outdoor furniture and construction. Locally it is used to make chairs. Short sections of the trunk are used in villages to make huge mortars to grind maize by hand.