Apodytes dimidiata (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
List of species

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distribution in Africa (wild)
1, flowering twig; 2, flower; 3, fruits. Redrawn and adapted by W. Wessel-Brand
leafy branches
inflorescence (Worldbotanical)
infructescence (Zimbabweflora)
wood in transverse section
wood in tangential section
wood in radial section

Apodytes dimidiata E.Mey. ex Arn.

Protologue: London Journ. Bot. 3: 155 (1840).
Family: Icacinaceae
Chromosome number: n = 12

Vernacular names

  • White pear, pear wood (En).
  • Bois bleu, bois Marie, peau gris (Fr).
  • Mlambusi, mbage (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Apodytes dimidiata is extremely widespread, occurring in many tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and Asia, and also in Queensland (Australia). In tropical Africa its area of distribution extends from Nigeria eastward to Eritrea and Ethiopia, and southward through eastern Central Africa and East Africa to Angola and South Africa; also on the islands of the Indian Ocean.


The wood of Apodytes dimidiata, named ‘white pear’ in trade, is used for construction in house building, flooring, furniture, agricultural implements, carving and turnery, and formerly for wagons. It is suitable for interior trim, ship building, vehicle bodies, musical instruments, toys, novelties and precision equipment. It is also used as firewood.

In tropical Africa Apodytes dimidiata is widely used in traditional medicine. In southern Africa, Zulu people apply an enema prepared from the root bark against intestinal parasites. In Madagascar a preparation from the bark is taken as a stimulant tonic. In Kenya the bark enters into medicines against stomach problems. Sap of the leaves is dropped in the ear to treat purulent ear-ache. A leaf decoction is taken against menorrhagia and madness. The tree is grown for its attractive display of white blossom and red and black fruit, and as ornamental shade tree and hedge plant. The flowers are much visited by honey bees.

Production and international trade

The wood of Apodytes dimidiata is mainly used and traded locally, but small amounts are also traded on the international market. No data on sources, destinations and quantities of traded timber are available.


The heartwood is pale grey to brownish grey or nearly white, with brownish patches, darker near the centre of the log; it is not clearly demarcated from the thin sapwood. The grain is straight, texture fine and even.

The wood is fairly heavy, with a density of 720–900 kg/m³ at 12% moisture content, hard and tough. It is recommended to discard dark-coloured core wood before drying to avoid damage due to differential shrinkage rates. Boards of 2.5 cm thick can be kiln dried in 20 days, but a mild drying schedule is needed. The shrinkage rates are high, from green to oven dry about 6.0% radial and 9.2% tangential. At 12% moisture content, the modulus of rupture is about 133 N/mm², modulus of elasticity 15,370 N/mm², compression parallel to grain 75 N/mm², shear 13 N/mm², Janka side hardness 9200 N and Janka end hardness 11,500 N.

The wood works well with hand and machine tools, but in boring and mortising it tends to become rough. It polishes to a very smooth surface. The wood nails, screws and glues well. It is not durable; it is susceptible to fungal and borer attacks. It is fairly easy to treat with preservatives.

The leaves of Apodytes dimidiata have shown antiprotozoal activity against leishmaniasis. Glycosides, named apodytine A–F, are at least partly responsible for the effect. The bark contains the iridoid genipin and a 10-monoacetate derivative. At low concentrations these compounds are active against the snail Bulinus africanus which transmits bilharzia, and at these concentrations their use was shown to be safe for mammals including humans. Eudesmane type glycosides have also been associated with the molluscicidal properties.

The leaves contain small amounts of camptothecin and related compounds, which are important antineoplastic agents. Endophytic strains of the fungus Fusarium solani isolated from Apodytes dimidiata also produce these compounds, and can be used for in-vitro production of anticancer drugs.


  • Much-branched shrub or small to medium-sized tree up to 25 m tall; bole branchless for up to 15 m, fluted in large trees, up to 70 cm in diameter; bark surface smooth, grey, flaking off in patches, inner bark thin; twigs purplish green, glabrous to sparsely pale brown hairy, becoming grey-brown with pale lenticels.
  • Leaves alternate, simple; stipules absent; petiole 1–3 cm long, channelled above, pinkish; blade ovate-elliptical to broadly elliptical or oblong, 2–15 cm × 1.5–8 cm, base broadly cuneate, apex notched to obtuse, acute or short-acuminate, margin entire or sometimes wavy and slightly recurved, thin-leathery, glabrous, pinnately veined with inconspicuous lateral veins.
  • Inflorescence a terminal panicle, sometimes axillary, many-flowered.
  • Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, sweet-scented, sessile or with short pedicel; calyx cup-shaped, up to 0.5 mm long, with deltoid lobes; petals free, linear, c. 5 mm × 1 mm, white; stamens alternating with petals; ovary superior, ovoid, c. 0.5 mm long, glabrous or hairy, with a fleshy lateral lobe, 1-celled, style eccentric, persistent.
  • Fruit an obliquely oblong-obovoid to nearly round, laterally compressed drupe 0.5–1 cm long, glabrous or sparsely short-hairy, when ripe black with large red lobe, with a persistent style; stone 1-seeded.

Other botanical information

Apodytes has been included in the family Icacinaceae, but its place is uncertain since that family was split. It comprises about 8 species and seems to be most closely related to Raphiostylis. Additional to the widespread Apodytes dimidiata, 2 other species have been described from southern Africa, 3 from Madagascar, 1 from northern Australia and 1 from New Caledonia, but opinions about the exact number of species vary widely. Apodytes dimidiata is variable and has been subdivided into 2 subspecies or varieties based on leaf shape and hairiness of the ovary, but these seem to be poorly segregated.


Wood-anatomical description (IAWA hardwood codes):

  • Growth rings: 2: growth ring boundaries indistinct or absent.
  • Vessels: 5: wood diffuse-porous; 9: vessels exclusively solitary (90% or more); 14: scalariform perforation plates; (15: scalariform perforation plates with 10 bars); 16: scalariform perforation plates with 10–20 bars; 17: scalariform perforation plates with 20–40 bars; (18: scalariform perforation plates with 40 bars); 21: intervessel pits opposite; 25: intervessel pits small (4–7 μm); 26: intervessel pits medium (7–10 μm); 30: vessel-ray pits with distinct borders; similar to intervessel pits in size and shape throughout the ray cell; 41: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 50–100 μm; 42: mean tangential diameter of vessel lumina 100–200 μm; 48: 20–40 vessels per square millimetre; (58: gums and other deposits in heartwood vessels).
  • Tracheids and fibres: 62: fibres with distinctly bordered pits; 63: fibre pits common in both radial and tangential walls; 66: non-septate fibres present; (69: fibres thin- to thick-walled); 70: fibres very thick-walled.
  • Axial parenchyma: 76: axial parenchyma diffuse; 77: axial parenchyma diffuse-in-aggregates; 78: axial parenchyma scanty paratracheal; 93: eight (5–8) cells per parenchyma strand; 94: over eight cells per parenchyma strand.
  • Rays: 97: ray width 1–3 cells; (98: larger rays commonly 4- to 10-seriate); (102: ray height > 1 mm); 107: body ray cells procumbent with mostly 2–4 rows of upright and/or square marginal cells; 108: body ray cells procumbent with over 4 rows of upright and/or square marginal cells; 115: 4–12 rays per mm.
  • Mineral inclusions: (136: prismatic crystals present); (138: prismatic crystals in procumbent ray cells); (139: prismatic crystals in radial alignment in procumbent ray cells).
(L. Awoyemi, P.E. Gasson & P. Baas)

Growth and development

In the evergreen forest in the Cape region of South Africa, Apodytes dimidiata is considered a pioneer species, with relatively weak competitive ability against species characteristic of later successional stages, such as Podocarpus latifolius (Thunb.) R.Br. ex Mirb. and Pterocelastrus tricuspidatus (Lam.) Walp. In South Africa flowering occurs in October–April, and fruits ripen in December–June. Germinating seeds have been found in excrements of wild pigs, which serve as seed disperser, probably together with other mammals.


In Ethiopia Apodytes dimidiata occurs in upland forest with Podocarpus, Olea and Syzygium spp. at 1700–2600 m altitude, often remaining scattered in grassland after forest clearing; it also occurs in fringing forest and secondary forest and in AcaciaCombretum woodland. In East Africa it grows mainly in dry upland forest and forest remnants, less often in humid forest and evergreen bushland, up to 2400 m altitude; in coastal areas it occurs in woodland or dry open forest. In southern Africa it is widespread in coastal evergreen shrub vegetation, riverine forest, BrachystegiaJulbernardia woodland and mountain grassland. In South-East Asia it is rare, occurring in primary rainforest on slopes and in ravines, and in fringing forest. Apodytes dimidiata is frost hardy.

Propagation and planting

Propagation by fruit stones is easy, but they take 4–12 months to germinate. They are placed in a seed tray 3–5 mm deep in a mixture of river sand and compost (1:1 ratio) and shallowly covered with fine sand or fine compost. They should be dipped in a fungicide before sowing. The seed tray should be kept moist. The fruit stones are easily attacked by insects, and the germination rate varies greatly, between 10% and 70%. Early growth is slow and young plants have to be kept in the nursery for another year. Once established the plants are hardy.


In the Knysna forest in the Cape region of South Africa, Apodytes dimidiata is the fourth most common tree after Olea capensis L., Podocarpus latifolius (Thunb.) R.Br. ex Mirb. and Platylophus trifoliatus (L.f.) D.Don, accounting for about 6.3% of the trees 10–30 cm in bole diameter, and 7.5% of the trees with a bole diameter of more than 30 cm. The standing volume of trees with a bole diameter of more than 30 cm is nearly 10 m³/ha, their annual increment 0.06 m³/ha, whereas the mortality rate of such trees is about 6.6% per 10 years. In the management system adopted, which aims at optimal sustainable utilization by effective mortality pre-emption and minimal interference, a 10-year harvesting cycle is used in which about 7% of the Apodytes dimidiata trees with a bole diameter of more than 30 cm are harvested every cycle.

Apodytes dimidiata is well suited for home gardens because it usually does not disturb foundations of buildings or paved areas.

Handling after harvest

Logs should not be left in the forest for long periods because they may split badly. In the core of the bole, the heartwood is often darker due to starting decay.

Genetic resources

Apodytes dimidiata is widespread and locally common. There are no indications that it is in danger of genetic erosion.


No selection programmes are known to exist.


The wood of Apodytes dimidiata is likely to remain important for various purposes, including more special applications such as precision equipment. Apodytes dimidiata is an attractive garden and amenity tree that deserves more attention outside South Africa, where it has already some reputation. Its possible role in snail control for the prevention of bilharzia needs further research, as well as its antileishmanial activity. Also its role in the production of anti-cancer drug precursors by Fusarium solani warrants investigation. The taxonomy of Apodytes needs clarification.

Major references

  • Bekele-Tesemma, A., 2007. Useful trees and shrubs for Ethiopia: identification, propagation and management for 17 agroclimatic zones. Technical Manual No 6. RELMA in ICRAF Project, Nairobi, Kenya. 552 pp.
  • Bolza, E. & Keating, W.G., 1972. African timbers: the properties, uses and characteristics of 700 species. Division of Building Research, CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia. 710 pp.
  • Coates Palgrave, K., 2002. Trees of southern Africa. 3rd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 1212 pp.
  • Lucas, G.L.L., 1968. Icacinaceae. In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 18 pp.
  • Mbambezeli, G., 2003. Apodytes dimidiata. [Internet] South African National Biodiversity Institute, Kirstenbosch, South Africa. http://www.plantzafrica.com/ frames/ plantsfram.htm. March 2012.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Seydack, A.H.W., Vermeulen, W.J., Heyns, H.E., Durrheim, G.P., Vermeulen, C., Willems, D., Ferguson, M.A., Huisamen, J. & Roth, J., 1995. An unconventional approach to timber yield regulation for multi-aged, multispecies forests. II. Application to a South African forest. Forest Ecology and Management 77: 155–168.
  • Shweta, S., Zuehlke, S., Ramesha, B.T., Priti, V., Mohana Kumar, P., Ravikanth, G., Spiteller, M., Vasudeva, R. & Uma Shaanker, R., 2009. Endophytic fungal strains of Fusarium solani, from Apodytes dimidiata E. Mey. ex Arn. (Icacinaceae) produce camptothecin, 10 hydroxycamptothecin and 9-methoxycamptothecin. Phytochemistry 71(1): 117–122.
  • Takahashi, A., 1978. Compilation of data on the mechanical properties of foreign woods (part 3) Africa. Shimane University, Matsue, Japan. 248 pp.
  • Vollesen, K., 1989. Icacinaceae. In: Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia. Volume 3. Pittosporaceae to Araliaceae. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. pp. 348–352.

Other references

  • Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
  • Bekele-Tesemma, A., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 1993. Useful trees and shrubs for Ethiopia: identification, propagation and management for agricultural and pastoral communities. Technical Handbook No 5. Regional Soil Conservation Unit/SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 474 pp.
  • Boiteau, P., Boiteau, M. & Allorge-Boiteau, L., 1999. Dictionnaire des noms malgaches de végétaux. 4 Volumes + Index des noms scientifiques avec leurs équivalents malgaches. Editions Alzieu, Grenoble, France.
  • Boutique, R., 1960. Icacinaceae. In: Robyns, W., Staner, P., Demaret, F., Germain, R., Gilbert, G., Hauman, L., Homès, M., Jurion, F., Lebrun, J., Vanden Abeele, M. & Boutique, R. (Editors). Flore du Congo belge et du Ruanda-Urundi. Spermatophytes. Volume 9. Institut National pour l’Étude Agronomique du Congo belge, Brussels, Belgium. pp. 237–278.
  • Brackenbury, T.D., Appleton, C.C. & Thurman, G., 1997. Mammal toxicity assessment of the plant molluscicide, Apodytes dimidiata (Icacinaceae), in South Africa. Acta Tropica 65(3): 155–162.
  • Clark, T.E. & Appleton, C.C., 1997. The molluscicidal activity of Apodytes dimidiata E. Meyer ex Arn. (Icacinaceae), Gardenia thunbergia L.f. (Rubiaceae) and Warburgia salutaris (Bertol. f.) Chiov. (Cannelaceae), three South African plants. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 56: 15–30.
  • Clark, T.E., Appleton, C.C. & Drewes, S.E., 1997. A semi-quantitative approach to the selection of appropriate candidate plant molluscicides – a South African application. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 56: 1–13.
  • Drewes, S.E., Kayonga, L., Clark, T.E., Brackenbury, T.D. & Appleton, C.C., 1996. Iridoid molluscicidal compounds from Apodytes dimidiata. Journal of Natural Products 59(12): 1169–1170.
  • Foubert, K., Cuyckens, F., Matheeussen, A., Vlietinck, A., Apers, S., Maes, L. & Pieters, L., 2011. Antiprotozoal and antiangiogenic saponins from Apodytes dimidiata. Phytochemistry 72(11–12): 1414–1423.
  • Harinantenaina, L., Mananjarasoa, E. & Yamasaki, K., 2006. An acetylated eudesmane glucoside from Apodytes dimidiata growing in Madagascar. Zeitschrift für Naturforschung 61b: 113–115.
  • Keay, R.W.J., 1958. Icacinaceae. In: Keay, R.W.J. (Editor). Flora of West Tropical Africa. Volume 1, part 2. 2nd Edition. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 636–644.
  • Kokwaro, J.O., 1993. Medicinal plants of East Africa. 2nd Edition. Kenya Literature Bureau, Nairobi, Kenya. 401 pp.
  • Labat, J.-N., Rabevohitra, R. & El-Achkar, E., 2006. Révision synoptique du genre Apodytes (Icacinaceae) à Madagascar et aux Comores. Adansonia, sér. 3, 28(2) : 379–387.
  • Maundu, P. & Tengnäs, B. (Editors), 2005. Useful trees and shrubs for Kenya. World Agroforestry Centre - East and Central Africa Regional Programme (ICRAF-ECA), Technical Handbook 35, Nairobi, Kenya. 484 pp.
  • Mendes, E.J., 1963. Icacinaceae. In: Exell, A.W., Fernandes, A. & Wild, H. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 2, part 1. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 340–351.
  • Peng, H. & Howard, R.A., 2008. Icacinaceae. [Internet] Flora of China. Vol. 11. Science Press, Beijing, China. http://www.efloras.org/ florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=10447. March 2012.
  • Potgieter, M.J. & van Wyk, A.E., 1994. Fruit structure of the southern African species of Apodytes E. Meyer ex Arn. (Icacinaceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 115: 221–233.
  • Potgieter, M.J. & van Wyk, A.E., 1994. Two new species of Apodytes (Icacinaceae) from southern Africa. South African Journal of Botany 60(5): 231–239.
  • Seydack, A.H.W., 2004. Schutz und Bewirtschaftung des immergrünen Feuchtwaldes in der Kapprovinz, Südafrika. Forst und Holz 59: 563–566.
  • van Daalen, J.C., 1993. The effect of competition on timber growth in a mixed evergreen forest stand. South African Forestry Journal 165: 21–28.

Sources of illustration

  • Lucas, G.L.L., 1968. Icacinaceae. In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 18 pp.


  • L.P.A. Oyen, PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article

Oyen, L.P.A., 2012. Apodytes dimidiata E.Mey. ex Arn. In: Lemmens, R.H.M.J., Louppe, D. & Oteng-Amoako, A.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 10 July 2021.