Cordyla africana is a medium to large, deciduous tree growing a nearly flat, spreading crown to heights from 10 m to 23 m. The bark is pale grey-brown and rough, peeling in narrow, longitudinal strips from old trees.
The compound, hairless leaves grow 11 to 28 opposite to alternate pairs of elliptic to oblong leaflets. There is also a terminal leaflet on the imparipinnate leaves, all of the leaflets rounded at both ends, their margins entire.
There are pellucid (translucent) gland-dots on the lower leaflet surfaces that are paler than the glossy, dark green upper ones. The leaves become up to 32 cm long; leaflets are 2 cm to 5 cm long and 1,2 cm to 2,4 cm wide. The leaves have grooved petioles and the leaflets have short petiolules.
The yellow-orange flowers, rich in nectar, are positioned below the leaves on new shoots. They have no petals, dominated by dense masses of erect stamens. There may be up to 45 stamens per flower. The stamens are stouter than in Albizia flowers. The ovary is long-stalked. The flowers become 2,5 cm long. Flowering happens late in winter to after midspring.
The fruits are large ovoid, drupe-like pods up to 8 cm long, yellow and shiny when ripe (and indehiscent). A few seeds are embedded in a fleshy pulp that is edible, obtained from the trees during summer or ripening when they drop.
The species distribution is in Maputaland in northern KwaZulu-Natal and into Mpumalanga near Komatipoort, as well as in Swaziland and tropical Africa.
The habitat is hot, low altitude bushveld along river banks and sandy forests, some coastal. The species is not considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century.
Sunbirds (among others) pollinate the flowers, while elephants and sometimes people eat the fruit. The whitish resin exuded by twigs and green fruit is used as gum, the bark in traditional medicine. The wood is used for making drums, in building and general carpentry. The heartwood is brown and hard, not very durable.
The trees grow fast from fresh seeds in frost-free areas (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Schmidt, et al, 2002; Van Wyk and Van Wyk, 1997; iNaturalist; http://redlist.sanbi.org).