Shea butter appearance & cultivation

Family pedigree: Vitellaria paradoxa, syn. butyrospermum paradoxum, shea tree or Karité tree


The natural occurrence of the Shea tree is from West Africa to the Upper Nile region, i.e. in 21 countries of the Sahel zone. The main producing countries of shea butter, also called Karité butter or Beurre de Karité, are Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Benin and Burkina Faso. The shea tree is a characteristic tree of the savannah woodland.


The shea tree grows wild and has a height of 6 to 12 metres and is the most similar to the oak tree. The large leaves are in clusters at the end of the branches and are elongated and rounded at the front with a wavy edge. The flowers grow in dense clusters of 50 to 100 flowers. The flowers are beige-white and smell similar to honey. The fruits have a size of approx. 5 x 3 cm and the nut contained in it has a thick skin. The ripe flesh is edible. The nuts have a similar shape to the fruit and are chestnut-like with a brownish shiny colour. When the shell of the nut is cracked open, the shea nut kernel is obtained. It is collected in May, June and July during the shea season, when the fruits fall to the ground.