The increasing demand for ornamental, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products is driving exploitation of plant species globally. Sub-Saharan Africa harbours unique and valuable plant resources and is now a target of plant resource depletion. African Sandalwood (Osyris lanceolata), a multi-purpose and drought-tolerant species, has seen increased exploitation for the last thirty years and is now declared endangered. Initiatives to conserve O. lanceolata are not yet successful in Africa due to poor understanding of the species. This review surveys relevant research on the ecology, taxonomy, population dynamics, genetic diversity and ethnobotany of O. lanceolata, and highlights gaps in the literature for further research. A scoping review of grey literature, scholarly papers and reports was applied with pre-determined criteria to screen relevant information. Review findings indicate O. lanceolata is a globally distributed species with no identified center of origin. In Africa, it ranges from Algeria to Ethiopia and south to South Africa; in Europe it occurs in the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands; in Asia from India to China, and also on Socotra. The species has a confusing taxonomy, with unresolved issues in nomenclature, country range distribution, extensive synonymisation and variation in growth form (shrub or tree). The species population is reported to be declining in Africa, but information on population dynamics across its entire range of distribution is anecdotal. Additionally, ecological factors influencing spatial distribution and survival of the species remain unknown. A variety of uses are reported for O. lanceolata globally, including: cultural; medicinal and food; dye; perfumery; timber; ethnoveterinary and phytoremediation. Key research areas and implications for conservation of O. lanceolata in Sub-Saharan Africa are proposed.
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