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Reproductive biology of the endangered medicinal Prunus africana tree in central Kenya

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Prunus africana (Hook. f.) Kalkm. is an evergreen tree species with pentameric flowers and belongs to the family Rosaceae. It is the only species of the genus Prunus genus that is native to highland forests of Africa at altitudes of 900- 3400 m with an average annual rainfall of absout 1000 mm. It may grow to more than 40 m with a diameter more than 1 m. Populations of P. africana show unusual size class distributions, suggesting that natural regeneration is episodic as a result of forest disturbance (Cunningham et al., 1998). The species is light demanding and is often associated with the forest edge; it would probably grow as an early secondary species (Geldenhuys, 1981). Prunus africana is widespread in Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopian highlands, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, southern Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, western Uganda, eastern Zaire, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and the islands of Grand Comore, Fernando Po and Sao Tome (Kalkman, 1965). In Kenya, where this study was carried out, P. africana grows naturally in the highland rainforest on the slopes of Aberdares mountain ranges, Cherangani Hills, Chyulu Hills, Kakamega Forest, Mau ranges (western part), Mt Kenya, Mt Elgon, Nandi Forest, Nyiro Hills (Marsabit), Taita Hills, Timboroa and Tugen (Albrecht (ed), 1993).

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