ETH 01.2014 (590)

Threatened trees of Ethiopia

Posted on by Kirsty Shaw
During a recent visit to Ethiopia, Global Trees Campaign staff encountered many amazing trees and identified exciting opportunities for tree conservation efforts. With growing momentum in the country for botanic garden development, the Global Trees Campaign is working with partners in Ethiopia to develop projects to save the country’s threatened trees from extinction.

Situated in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia possesses one of the richest assemblages of plants in the African continent. It is the origin of many globally important crop species, most notably Coffea arabica (coffee). The country has a high diversity of tree species, many of which are endemic to Ethiopia, or restricted to Ethiopia and its bordering countries.

In 2005, the Global Trees Campaign published a preliminary Red List of Endemic Trees and Shrubs of Ethiopia and Eritrea. This publication estimated that there are 428 endemic and near endemic woody taxa in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and presented conservation assessments using IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria for 135 woody taxa. Of the taxa assessed, 46 were assessed as Critically Endangered.

A particularly iconic genus in Ethiopia is Acacia. Dry Acacia forests cover large parts of the country. Six species were assessed as threatened in the 2005 Red List publication, including:

  • Acacia bricchettiana is assessed as Critically Endangered and reported as known from only two type collections.
  • Acacia prasinata, also assessed as Critically Endangered. Despite occurring in a National Park, the remaining populations of this species are reported to be threatened by overgrazing and cutting for firewood.

Another iconic forest type in Ethiopia is the Hagenia and Juniper forests of the Simien and Bale Mountains. This forest type has decreased rapidly in recent years. The largest remaining section of the Hagenia and Juniper forest occurs within the Bale Mountains National Park, but even within this protected area collection for firewood persists. A number of native species of fauna occur within this forest type including Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni), listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.


Hagenia abyssinica and Juniperus procera

  • Hagenia abyssinica is native to the Afromontane regions of central and eastern Africa. Despite a fairly large range, deforestation is occurring across these regions and this species is becoming locally rare in some areas. This species is noted as being of serious conservation concern within Ethiopia in the 2005 Red List publication. H. abyssinica is used locally in Ethiopia for timber and as a source of medicine. There is a great need to increase conservation work of this important species to support wild populations and provide material for reintroduction and restoration projects in future.
  • Juniperus procera is assessed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List due to a current wide distribution, however the population is reported to be declining due to continuing exploitation and deforestation. The species is noted to be at particular risk in Ethiopia and Kenya, due to depletion of old growth forest groves of this species. As the only juniper species occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa, J. procera should be an important conservation priority for countries within its range.
Wondo Genet workshop and arboretum (72)

Nursery at Wondo Genet College Arboretum

Botanic gardens and arboreta can play vital roles in the conservation of threatened tree species. It is therefore very encouraging to see the development of new botanic gardens and arboreta in Ethiopia, with accession plans focusing on conservation of the country’s diverse native flora. For example, a recently initiated project to restore the arboretum at Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources aims to maintain a national collection of endemic and endangered tree species for conservation, research and education. The arboretum has great outreach potential as it is based at the national forestry college and has already established strong links with international partners and other botanic gardens and conservation organisations in Ethiopia.

Following a recent visit by Global Trees Campaign staff to Ethiopia, we will be working during 2014 to establish conservation projects for the threatened and iconic tree species of Ethiopia with these institutions.

Click here to support our practical conservation work with threatened tree species.

Find out more about botanic garden development in Ethiopia here.

This post was co-authored by Dr. Peter Borchardt, Department of Geography, University of Hamburg, Germany. Peter is involved in the arboretum restoration project at Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Photo credits: Header image, Peter Borchardt. Embedded images, Kirsty Shaw.
Written by Kirsty Shaw

Kirsty is a Head of Ecological Restoration and Tree Conservation at Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), working on the Global Trees Campaign and botanic garden led forest restoration initiatives in Africa.


  1. Pingback: Two items of news about Botanical Gardens and Arboreta in Ethiopia | ssafricacd

  2. Itambo Malombe on

    Its an excellent activity by Global Tree Campaign in partnership with Wondo Genet arboretum to conserve engendered tree species. Our natural reservoirs are disappearing at an alarming rate and, given the fact that most of the ecosystems are not under protection or if so most of them are plantations, such initiatives need all the support possible.

  3. Berhane Measho on

    Ethiopia is a country with rich plant diversity and several endemic plants and trees have been destroyed with no return. It is a new thing to hear about arboretum in Ethiopia with a country with immense resource. However, this activity is timely and very appreciable work and hopefully it might the be only effort to save the engendered plants and trees. Great job to all those who are commuted to do such job.

  4. Gada Gimbe on

    its great work,i’m much proud of to see such conservation project,be continue the nature is in our hand to do so

  5. alganesh asgedom on

    Deforestation has badly affected existing forest cover with no effort being made to plant tree seedlings. Clearing and for settlement and charcoal making has a major role for devastation which had happened in the last 75 years. Thanks for the good job you are doing in Ethiopia.

  6. Dessalegne Gella on

    I want to get the lists of Indegenious Ethiopian Trees

    1. Kirsty Shaw Post author on

      Hi Dessalegne, The Red List of Endemic Trees & Shrubs of Ethiopia and Eritrea is available here: This is endemic trees, not all indigenous trees. Another useful reference is Professor Legesse Negash’s book: “A Selection of Ethiopia’s Indigenous Trees: Biology, Uses and Propagation Techniques”

  7. Asmare Adegeh on

    In our country natural resources are degrading at an alarming rate and, given the fact that most of the ecosystems are not under protection or even plantation carried out couldn’t sustain, hence from such type of initiatives need all support possible.
    Thank you!

  8. Yenew on

    This is a wonderful effort. In fact, it should have been done yesterday but better late than never. In a remote village i grew up, people never went to clinics when they were sick. they went to traditional healer who used trees, shrubs and herbs for curing people; they were doing an amazing job. I’m afraid some of these have disappeared for good. However, if we join hands, we can still save a lot. Thank you guys for doing such an excellent job.

  9. Solomon Estifanos Bekele on

    This is very important piece of information about the trees of Ethiopia. Kirsty Shaw, Really very nice work and I know that you are contributing a lot with this regard and I hope also that you will continue to contribute. Thank you very much!!


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