Genetic variation was assessed in the two bush mango species, Irvingia gabonensis and I. wombolu, valuable multipurpose fruit trees from central and west Africa that are currently undergoing domestication. A total of 130 individuals sampled from Cameroon, Nigeria and Gabon were analysed using 74 random amplified polymorphic DNAs (RAPDs). Significant genetic integrity was found in the two morphologically similar species (among-species analysis of molecular variance [amova] variance component 25.8%, P < 0.001), with no evidence of hybridization, even between individuals from areas of sympatry where hybridization was considered probable. Results suggest that large-scale transplantation of either species into new habitats will probably not lead to genetic introgression from or into the other species. Therefore, subsequent cultivation of the two species should not be hindered by this consideration, although further studies on the potential for hybridization/introgression between these species would be prudent. Significant genetic differentiation of both species (among-countries within species, nested amova variance component 9.8%, P < 0.001) was observed over the sampled regions, and genetic similarity of samples decreased significantly with increasing geographical distance, according to number of alleles in common (NAC) analysis. ‘Hot spots’ of genetic diversity were found clustered in southern Nigeria and southern Cameroon for I. wombolu, and in southern Nigeria, southern Cameroon and central Gabon for I. gabonensis. The possible reasons for this distribution of genetic variation are discussed, but it may reflect evolutionary history, as these populations occur in areas of postulated Pleistocene refugia. The application of these results to domestication programmes and, in the light of extensive deforestation in the region, conservation approaches, is discussed.