The spatial patterns of canopy tree and seedling life stages in the African Tropical Tree Milicia excelsa were examined to test the Janzen–Connell hypothesis (escape hypothesis). The Janzen–Connell hypothesis states that the mortality of seeds and seedlings is highest near the adult tree and declines with distance away from the adult tree of the same species. This hypothesis argues that this effect is partially responsible for maintaining the high tree species diversity of tropical forests. Solar radiation and fruit dispersal were investigated as possible explanations of observed patterns in seedling distribution. Milicia excelsa trees ≥30 cm DBH were found to be randomly dispersed and occurred at a density of ≤1 ha. Milicia excelsa seedlings were located in small clumps between parent trees and up to 150 m from parents at a mean density of 65 seedlings ha−1. Fruits were in abundance (>9000 on the ground) beneath female trees. Light levels at locations of natural seedlings ranged from 2–29% of full irradiance. Planted seedlings did not suffer greater mortality closer to adult conspecifics, and survived at light levels between 2–37% of full irradiance. Phytolyma spp., gall-forming psyllids which cause high mortality in Milicia seedlings in large openings and plantations, were not observed on any natural or planted seedlings, although galls were present in the crowns of dominant trees.