Phytoliths are solid silica bodies formed in various plant tissues and organs, e.g. in leaves, stems, fruits and seeds. Due to their very durable nature, they are often present in ancient sediments and soils where other plant remains have not been preserved. Therefore they can play an important role for reconstructions of palaeoenvironments and human plant use in the past. Grasses (Poaceae) produce a myriad of different phytolith morphotypes and are therefore well-suited for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, especially in Africa where savannas and grasslands constitute the majority of vegetation types. Woody plants and herbs, on the other hand, often have only very few or unspecific phytoliths and are therefore mostly under-represented in phytolith assemblages. We will discuss potential and limitations of phytolith research in West, Central and East Africa, based on recent case studies.