The phenomenon of distinct, absent or indistinct growth rings is a highly variable feature used for wood identification and a wide range of tree-ring studies. Causes for its variability are not yet fully understood. There is also a lack of consensus within the scientific community about how distinct and indistinct tree rings should be defined and classified. We use a selection of 103 Central African rainforest trees to analyse the anatomy of growth-ring boundaries of 103 Central African rainforest species and assessed the influence of the climate, tree organ and leaf shedding behaviour on growth-ring distinctness and anatomy. We observed a high variability of tree-ring boundaries anatomy and distinctness within and among individuals and species. Although, for some semi-deciduous species, higher incidence of distinct growth rings appears to be related with a more pronounced seasonal climate, no general trends are observed for the assembly of studied species. Growth rings are variable within individuals depending on the considered organ: trunks tend to show more distinct rings than branches. Growth-ring distinctness is difficult to implement as a trait to measure tree performance when only based on abrupt changes in fibre size and cell wall thickness. From the potential growth-ring markers identified in the IAWA list of hardwood features, those applying to vessel and parenchyma density and distended rays appear to be more useful in tropical trees than abruptly flattened latewood fibres or abrupt changes in vessel diameter.