Decaying Belgian Congo–era maps reveal secrets of valuable African tree

In the dusty library of a research station on the Congo River, a decaying map holds secrets to saving an endangered tree treasured for decades by boat builders and furniture makers.

A favorite of mid-century designers like Wendell Castle, lumber from the hard-to-find Afrormosia tree (Pericopsis elata) is prized for its color, hard-wearing properties and ability to resist termites and harsh weather. But deep in the Yangambi Man and Biosphere Reserve in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a lone sentinel of peeling reddish-brown bark highlights the species’ current problem: there are no saplings to be seen.

Using Belgian Congo-era maps showing where these trees used to thrive, one student is on a quest to discover the secrets to their successful, sustainable growth. Read the full story on Forests News.