BUTTERFRUIT (Safou, Bush Mango)

The colorful prunelike morsels of the butterfruit1 (Dacryodes edulis) are well known in Central and West Africa. They are roasted or boiled with maize as a main course, they are enjoyed (fresh or cooked) as snacks, and they feature in traditional ceremonies and special functions. These are commercial fruits that pour into cities and rural markets in considerable quantities. They are especially important in the hot and humid zone stretching from Eastern Nigeria to Angola. There, women peddling the fruits at locations along the highways are a common sight.

The trees are much appreciated in their own right. They are deliberately planted in and around countless farm plots as well thousands of villages. Indeed, they occur in most or possibly all West and Central African villages. And from the appearance of both the fruits and the trees it is clear that generations of Africans have exercised selection for quality and desirable growth forms. Many of these trees receive at least rudimentary horticultural care. Indeed, good specimens are zealously protected. And when forests are felled and burned to open up farmland, butterfruits are left standing.

As a result of all this interest, the species is a major component of the traditional farming systems in parts of West Africa, especially Nigeria (Eastern, Delta and Edo states), as well as in the four Central African neighbors, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, and Gabon. Throughout this region, it is an important source of nutrition and income for many farmers and is among the most widely used fruit trees.

Yet for all its geographical spread, ancient heritage, and current value, butterfruit is barely known to science. This is both strange and sad. People tend to like this fruit once they get to know it. Given a push, it could definitely be a bigger contributor, perhaps eventually reaching millions who today have never heard of it. That would contribute to enhancing the welfare


In popular literature this fruit is often called “African pear” or “bush mango,” awkward terms that are botanically and culinarily misleading. A common English name in Central Africa is just “plum,” “bush plum,” or “African plum,” due to its shape and color. It is called safou in Angola, Gabon, Cameroon, and the Congos. It is also known in French as “prunier” and the fruits called “prunes.” Because they resemble avocado in composition and texture we suggest “africado” for international marketing purposes.

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