Zanthoxylum chalybeum (Ruffo, 2002)

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Zanha africana
Ruffo, Edible wild plants of Tanzania, 2002
Zanthoxylum chalybeum (Ruffo, 2002)
Ziziphus abyssinica

Zanthoxylum chalybeum var. chalybeum, Rutaceae

syn.: Fagara chalybea



  • Arusha: Oluisuki
  • Barabaig: Wapkan
  • Bena: Lilungulungu
  • Bondei: Mlungulungu
  • Digo: Mdungu, Mrungurungu, Mudhungu
  • English: Knobwood
  • Fiome: Morungi
  • Fipa: Popwe
  • Gogo: Mkunungu, Mhunungu, Mlungulungu
  • Gorowa: Morungi
  • Haya: Entare yeirungo
  • Hehe: Mkunungu
  • Luguru: Mhunungu
  • Maasai: Oloisuki
  • Makonde: Navele
  • Mbugwe: Molongo
  • Ngindo: Mlungu
  • Nyamwezi: Mlungulungu
  • Pare: Msele
  • Rangi: Mkunungu, Mlungu, Mulungu
  • Sambaa: Hombo-muungu, Muungu-magoma
  • Sandawi: Khotso
  • Sukuma: Nungu
  • Swahili: Mjafari, Mkunungu
  • Zaramo: Mnungu
  • Zigua: Muungu-goma


  • A spiny deciduous shrub or tree, to 8 m, the crown rounded but open. The bole has characteristic large, conical woody knobs with sharp prickles.
  • BARK: Pale grey, smooth, dark scales and prickles protect buds.
  • LEAVES: Compound, a strong lemon smell if crushed, the leaf stalk with hooked prickles below, 6-9 pairs of shiny leaflets.
  • FLOWERS: Yellow-green, in short sprays below leaves on new branchlets.
  • FRUIT: Red-brown-purple, like berries, open to release shiny black seeds.


Dry bushland and wooded grassland; often on termite mounds, 0-1,600 m.


Found in all parts of Tanzania; Uganda, Kenya, parts of Central Africa, from Ethiopia and Somalia south to South Africa.



  • Leaves are used as a vegetable. Green leaves are collected, dried, pounded and sieved. The vegetable powder is soaked in hot water and stirred into a thick vegetable paste, which may be mixed with groundnut paste and eaten with ugali.
  • The bark is collected, dried and used as a substitute for tea.


  • A decoction of bark and roots is used as a remedy for malaria, generalized body pains, coughs, scorpion- and snakebite, oedema, anaemia, and body swellings and as a gargle for toothache.
  • Bark and root powder is mixed with oil and applied as liniment for pains and sprains.


  • The wood is used for firewood, building poles, bedsteads, spoons, mortars, stools, drums, combs, carvings and beehives. The tree is used for shade and is a source of bee forage.


Bark is collected all year round. Leaves are collected during the rainy and early dry season.


Dried leaves and bark can be stored for about 6 months. Leaves are usually pounded and stored in powder form.


Collected from the wild and not protected or cultivated by the local people. The species can be propagated using fresh seed.


Common and easily accessed.


One of the most important vegetable and medicinal plants of Tanzania.