Understanding the history of forests and their species' demographic responses to past disturbances is important for predicting impacts of future environmental changes. Tropical rainforests of the Guineo-Congolian region in Central Africa are believed to have survived the Pleistocene glacial periods in a few major refugia, essentially centred on mountainous regions close to the Atlantic Ocean. We tested this hypothesis by investigating the phylogeographic structure of a widespread, ancient rainforest tree species, Symphonia globulifera L. f. (Clusiaceae), using plastid DNA sequences (chloroplast DNA [cpDNA], psbA-trnH intergenic spacer) and nuclear microsatellites (simple sequence repeats, SSRs). SSRs identified four gene pools located in Benin, West Cameroon, South Cameroon and Gabon, and São Tomé. This structure was also apparent at cpDNA. Approximate Bayesian Computation detected recent bottlenecks approximately dated to the last glacial maximum in Benin, West Cameroon and São Tomé, and an older bottleneck in South Cameroon and Gabon, suggesting a genetic effect of Pleistocene cycles of forest contraction. CpDNA haplotype distribution indicated wide-ranging long-term persistence of S. globulifera both inside and outside of postulated forest refugia. Pollen flow was four times greater than that of seed in South Cameroon and Gabon, which probably enabled rapid population recovery after bottlenecks. Furthermore, our study suggested ecotypic differentiation-coastal or swamp vs terra firme-in S. globulifera. Comparison with other tree phylogeographic studies in Central Africa highlighted the relevance of species-specific responses to environmental change in forest trees.