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The SOAS tree leaves

The ten leaves that make up the SOAS tree were chosen in 2012 to be representative of our regions of expertise, and for their interesting shapes.  They are from a variety of habitats and environments and were selected in consultation with academics and regional specialists across the School. Botanists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew have verified the accuracy of the leaf drawings and descriptions.


English Oak
English Oak (Quercus robur)

The English oak is probably the most well-known and best-loved of the tree species native to Britain. Found in a wide range of habitats in the UK, Europe, Asia, North Africa and North America, mature specimens can grow up to 40 m high and can live for more than a thousand years, giving home to a wide variety of wildlife. The English oak has for millennia played an important role in British culture, from providing community meeting places, to acorns for animal feed and timbers for building construction and the navy.


Bodhi Tree
Bodhi (Ficus religiosa)

A species of fig tree belonging to the Mulberry or Moraceae plant family, its natural habitat is the humid forests of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Southwest China, Indochina, India, Burma and Thailand. Also known as the Bo Tree or Sacred Fig, it is held sacred in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism and it is believed that Gautama Buddha received enlightenment under a Bhodi tree at Bodh Gaya some 2,500 years ago.

Coral Bark Maple
Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum)

A species of woody plant native to Japan, South Korea and China, Acers have been cultivated in temperate areas around the world since the 1800s.  They are now synonymous with the high art of oriental gardens, are a popular choice for bonsai enthusiasts and have long been a subject in art.  Preparations from the branches and leaves are used as a treatment in traditional Chinese medicine.

Teak (Tectona grandis)

A tall tree native to Burma and India and found in Indonesia and Malaysia, Tectona grandis is the source of a high quality general purpose hardwood known as teak. Teak grows best in a warm, tropical climate and is widely cultivated with teak timbers used for ship decking, flooring, furniture and construction. The tree is also used for traditional medicine in Southeast Asia.


Mountain Acacia
Mountain Acacia (Brachystegia glaucescens)

Native to south tropical Africa and the less humid parts of east equatorial Africa, the Mountain Acacia’s wide distribution is largely due to its ability to grow to a maximum size in places where many other trees would find the soil too thin or poor. It is dominant on rocky hills, escarpments, rocky granite soils and leached reddish soils and in high altitude and rainfall areas.

African Pear
African Pear (Dacryodes edulis)

A fruit tree native to most of Africa with a range extending from Nigeria in the North, Angola in the South, Sierra Leone in the West and Uganda in the East. It thrives in shady, humid tropical forest but can adapt well to variations in soil type, humidity and temperature.

Lasiodiscus (Lasiodiscus rozeirae)

Native throughout Africa and its adjacent islands, Lasiodiscus rozeirae was discovered and named in 1954 on South-eastern São Tomé island in the Gulf of Guinea.  Commonly found in the understory of tropical forests, or in swamp forest, the small trees have striking opposite, often asymmetric leaves.

Middle East

Date Palm
Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)

Found in Arabia and North Africa, the Date Palm is believed to have originated around the lands of the Persian Gulf, and to have been cultivated as early as 4000 BC. Dates are traditionally an important crop throughout the Middle East and Date Palms thrive in deep, sandy loam soils with plenty of water and sunshine. The traditional saying is that Date Palms will ‘grow with their feet in running water and their heads in the fire of the sky’.

Pomegranate Tree
Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

The Pomegranate is native to the area of modern day Kurdistan, Iran and Iraq but has been cultivated across the Middle East and the Caucasus since ancient times. Acclaimed for the beauty of its flowers and health-giving properties of its fruit, it has been important in art, culture, mythology and medicine for thousands of years. Pomegranates can adapt to all kinds of soil and climate and have a tolerance of drought. Today they are widely cultivated throughout Turkey, Kurdistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, as well as parts of Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean and tropical Africa.

Ghaf Tree
Ghaf (Prosopis cineraria)

The Ghaf is a small flowering tree native to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Iran and arid portions of Western and South Asia. Over the centuries it has provided shade, sand dune stabilisation, wood for cooking, timber for shelter and food in the form of edible leaves and fruit. It is a true desert survivor with a tolerance to saline conditions, and its long roots enable it to reach water from subterranean sources beyond the grasp of most other plants.