This species has a wide distribution throughout sub-Saharan Africa and is found in upland rainforest and riverine forest, or on termite-hills in Brachystegia woodland.
In Uganda, Prunus africana, commonly called ‘red stinkwood’, is abundant in mixed forest, gallery forests and forest edges. The largest populations of this species can be found in Kibale National Park (notable as an eco-tourism destination to see Chimpanzees), Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also notable for its populations of threatened primate species), Kalinzu Central Forest Reserve and parts of Mount Elgon National Park.
To date, regulations to ensure sustainable harvesting have been developed, however, due to a lack of resources and awareness these regulations have been difficult to enforce. In western Uganda, strong efforts have been made to encourage the adoption of the sustainable practices necessary to preserve Prunus africana. These efforts have resulted in the development of a model with government support, which involves paying higher wages to workers and giving collectors training in sustainable harvesting techniques. Although this development is encouraging, there is still much more that needs to be done to secure the future of this species.
Prunus africana is at risk from selective logging for its timber, the heartwood of which develops an attractive deep red colour when exposed to the air. It is also under pressure from habitat loss due to development of housing and urban areas, as well as livestock agriculture. This species is also highly valued for its medicinal properties both in traditional medicinal practices and as a treatment for several conditions in Europe and North America.
Local community members will be directly empowered as the seed of Prunus africana will be collected and grown in a community-led nursery. Community members will be trained to plant and restore forests with threatened trees species such as Prunus africana. Training will also be delivered on how to establish a monitoring programme, which is essential for determining growth rates and seedling health.
These training programmes will also increase awareness of the various uses of native tree species and directly address the need to promote threatened species conservation. A more direct benefit will be that local communities will gain access to new food sources, medicines and materials to be used sustainably once trees reach maturity. Saving this species will also serve as a source of food to attract local wildlife, thus increasing the potential for eco-tourism in the region. Furthermore, by saving this species local communities will be better able to protect their cultural heritage.
The efforts of Tooro Botanical Gardens have resulted in 950 individuals of this species being planted in arboreta. They have also raised 7,000 seedlings of Prunus africana annually which are made available for community and restoration planting.