Scolopia zeyheri (PROTA)

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Plant Resources of Tropical Africa
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List of species


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Scolopia zeyheri (Nees) Harv.


Protologue: Fl. cap. 2: 584 (1862).
Family: Flacourtiaceae (APG: Salicaceae)

Vernacular names

Thorn pear (En). Mgovigovi (Sw).

Origin and geographic distribution

Scolopia zeyheri occurs from Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda southward to Angola, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, eastern South Africa and Swaziland. It has also been reported from Cameroon.

Uses

The wood of Solopia zeyheri is used in house construction and for poles, tool handles and spoons, and also as firewood and for charcoal production. Because of its strength and hardness, it has been used for teeth of mill wheels and for axles, felloes and spokes in wagon-making.

Ripe fruits are fleshy and sweet, and eaten raw as an occasional snack. In East Africa Scolopia zeyheri is an important bee plant. In South Africa the foliage is a preferred browse of goats. Maasai people use the roots against venereal diseases.

Properties

The wood is very strong, hard and rather heavy, with a specific gravity (moisture content 0%) of 0.69. It is difficult to saw, but polishes well.

Description

Much-branched shrub or small tree up to 15(–25) m tall, glabrous except for the inflorescence; bole often branching fairly low, up to 60 cm in diameter, sometimes with branched spines; bark surface fissured, dark grey to brownish, inner bark rather thin; branches and twigs often with strong, axillary, simple, straight spines up to 20 cm long. Leaves arranged spirally, simple; stipules minute, caducous; petiole up to 1.5 cm long; blade obovate to oblanceolate or elliptical, 2–10 cm × 1–6 cm, base cuneate, apex acute to obtuse or rounded, margin entire, wavy or bluntly toothed, leathery, pinnately veined with 3–6 pairs of lateral veins. Inflorescence an axillary raceme 1–5(–6) cm long, short-hairy. Flowers bisexual, regular, (3–)4–5(–6)-merous, scented; pedicel (1–)2–5(–10) mm long; sepals elliptical to ovate, 1–1.5 mm × 1 mm; petals smaller than sepals or absent; disk small, lobed; stamens (20–)30–40; ovary superior, glabrous, 1-celled, style 1.5–2.5 mm long, stout, stigma obscurely 2–3-lobed. Fruit a globose berry 7–8 mm in diameter, fleshy, purple-red when ripe, 2–3-seeded. Seeds angular.

Other botanical information

Scolopia comprises about 40 species and occurs from tropical Africa through tropical Asia to Australia. In mainland Africa about 6 species are found, 14 in Madagascar and 1 in the Mascarene islands. In East and southern Africa, several other Scolopia spp. are used for similar purposes as Scolopia zeyheri.

Scolopia mundii

Scolopia mundii (Eckl. & Zeyh.) Warb. is a small tree up to 7(–20) m tall, occurring in dry evergreen forest and wooded grassland in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Its pale brown, heavy, hard and strong wood was formerly considered valuable for furniture and wagon-making, but large specimens are now rare. The bark is used in traditional Zulu medicine in the treatment of heart problems, but has been implicated in cases of lethal poisoning.

Scolopia rhamniphylla

Scolopia rhamniphylla Gilg is a shrub or small tree up to 15 m tall, locally common in rainforest or dry evergreen forest from Cameroon east to Kenya and south to Tanzania and Angola. The wood is hard and used for poles, tool handles and yokes, and also as firewood and for charcoal production. The fruits are edible and the flowers are a source of nectar for honey bees. A vapour bath from the leaves is taken as emetic.

Scolopia stolzii

Scolopia stolzii Gilg ex Sleumer is a small, much-branched tree up to 10(–15) m tall, occurring in dry evergreen forest or wooded grassland from Cameroon, DR Congo and Kenya south to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. The wood is hard and used for poles, tool handles and yokes, and also as firewood and for charcoal production. The fruits are edible. In Tanzania women drink a root decoction to treat boils on the breasts.

Scolopia theifolia

Scolopia theifolia Gilg is a much-branched shrub or small tree up to 15 m tall with bole to 25 cm in diameter, occurring in dry evergreen forest and wooded grassland in southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and northern Malawi. The wood is hard and used for poles and tool handles, and also as firewood and for charcoal production. The fruits are edible. The tree is used for shade. Maasai people of Kenya use a root preparation to treat venereal diseases.

Ecology

Scolopia zeyheri is found in dry evergreen forest, riverine forest and wooded grassland, up to 2400 m altitude, often open rocky and sandy sites.

Genetic resources

Scolopia zeyheri is common in East Africa and South Africa, but rare in southern tropical Africa. There are no indications that it is in danger of genetic erosion.

Prospects

The wood of Scolopia zeyheri, like that of other Scolopia spp., is likely to remain of local importance when hardness and toughnes are more important than workability.

Major references

  • Coates Palgrave, K., 2002. Trees of southern Africa. 3rd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 1212 pp.
  • Heine, B. & Heine, I., 1988. Plant concepts and plant use; an ethnobotanical survey of the semi-arid and arid lands of East Africa. Part 1. Plants of the Chamus (Kenya). Cologne Development Studies 6. Breitenbach, Saarbrücken, Germany. 103 pp.
  • Ruffo, C.K., Birnie, A. & Tengnäs, B., 2002. Edible wild plants of Tanzania. Technical Handbook No 27. Regional Land Management Unit/ SIDA, Nairobi, Kenya. 766 pp.
  • Sleumer, H., 1972. A taxonomic revision of the genus Scolopia Schreb. (Flacourtiaceae). Blumea 20: 25–64.
  • Sleumer, H., 1975. Flacourtiaceae. In: Polhill, R.M. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 68 pp.

Other references

  • Beentje, H.J., 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. 722 pp.
  • Breebaart, L., Bhikraj, R. & O’Connor, T.G., 2002. Dietary overlap between Boer goats and indigenous browsers in a South African savanna. African Journal of Range & Forage Science 19: 13–20.
  • Burring, J., 2005. Scolopia mundii Eckl. & Zeyh.) Warb. [Internet] South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, South Africa. http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantqrs/ scolopmund.html. November 2010.
  • Campbell, B.M. & Moll, E.J., 1977. The forest communities of Table Mountain, South Africa. Vegetatio 34(2): 105–115.
  • Kitula, R.A., 2007. Use of medicinal plants for human health in Udzungwa Mountains Forests: a case study of New Dabaga Ulongambi Forest Reserve, Tanzania. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 3: 7.
  • Lovett, J.C., Ruffo, C.K., Gereau, R.E. & Taplin, J.R.D., 2007. Field guide to the moist forest trees of Tanzania. [Internet] Centre for Ecology Law and Policy, Environment Department, University of York, York, United Kingdom. http://celp.org.uk/ projects/ tzforeco/. November 2010.
  • Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
  • Roux, J.P., 2003. Flacourtiaceae. [Internet] In: Flora of South Africa. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town, South Africa. http://plants.jstor.org/flora/ flosa002810366604001. November 2010.
  • Wild, H., 1960. Flacourtiaceae (incl. Samydaceae). In: Exell, A.W. & Wild, H. (Editors). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 1, part 1. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. pp. 261–298.

Author(s)

  • 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. Scolopia zeyheri (Nees) Harv. 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 27 July 2021.