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Ficus natalensis


English: bark-cloth fig

Luganda: mutuba

Kiswahili: mchamwa, mrumbapori

Fodder characteristics

Palatability: Very good for goats and cows.

Nutritional value: Unknown, but rumen-digestibility is probably high, on the evidence below.

Safety: Despite very intensive use of this tree, only one incident was encountered - bloat in a young goat that had fed exclusively on mutuba. Care should be taken over identity (see comments).

Other characteristics/uses

Agroforestry: Suitable for interspersing in coffee and banana plantations - provides light shade and does not compete for water. Banana plants under mutuba do better in the dry season than exposed plants. Used for live fence-posts because it grows very readily from cuttings.

The bark is harvested to make traditional bark cloth.


In some literature Ficus natalensis is considered a sub-species of F Thonningii.

Very easy to establish in Central Uganda, but it does not do as well on black cotton soils or where there is a long dry season.

The local name, mutuba, is used for several other species of small-leaved ficus. Some of the other species are less palatable to goats, and although no cases of poisoning have been encountered, they should be used with caution.

Useful references

FigWeb (Iziko Museums, South Africa)

World Agroforestry Centre - Agroforestree Database

Click on the images to see larger pictures

Mutuba in bananas

Mature Mutuba
in banana plantation

Mutuba fenceposts 2

Mutuba used as live fence posts 2

Mutuba fenceposts 1

Mutuba used as live fence posts 1

Mutuba in coffee

Mature Mutuba
in coffee plantation

Mutuba leaves

Mutuba leaves