Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1
Prodr. 8: 203 (1844).
Coastal red milkwood (En). Tinzol (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Mimusops caffra occurs along the coasts of Mozambique and eastern South Africa.
The wood is locally popular and used for construction and boat building. The mealy fruit pulp is agreeably sweet and starchy and is used in the production of jelly and an alcoholic beverage. Mimusops caffra is important for reclaiming sand dunes. The bark is used in traditional medicine to treat wounds and sores. Mimusops caffra is planted in South Africa and the United States as an ornamental tree.
Production and international trade
Mimusops caffra wood of South African origin is sold on the international market in small amounts. In 2004 a few hundred m³ were offered for sale as sawn green timber (3 cm × 15 cm). The bark is sometimes marketed for medicinal purposes.
The wood is reddish, close-grained, heavy, hard, strong and elastic. It is durable when exposed to water.
Shrub or small to medium-sized tree up to 15(–20) m tall, containing latex; bole up to 50 cm in diameter, often gnarled or twisted; bark thin, wrinkled longitudinally, dark grey; young branches densely pubescent. Leaves arranged spirally, more or less in tufts at the ends of branches, simple and entire; stipules absent; petiole 0.5–1.5 cm long; blade cordate to narrowly obovate, 3–9 cm × 1.5–4.5 cm, cuneate at base, notched or rounded at apex, thickened and revolute at margins, leathery, pubescent below, with many indistinct lateral veins. Flowers in fascicles of up to 8 in the leaf axils, bisexual, regular; pedicel 1.5–3 cm long; sepals in 2 whorls of 4; corolla whitish, with a short tube and 8 lobes each with 2 appendages divided almost to the base into 2 narrowly triangular lobes, c. 8 mm long; stamens 8, alternating with 8 hairy staminodes; ovary superior, 8-celled. Fruit an ovoid berry up to 2.5 cm × 1.5 cm, orange to red when ripe, 1-seeded. Seed 1–1.5 cm long, with small circular basal scar.
The seeds are dispersed by water and probably also by fruit-eating animals.
Mimusops caffra is sometimes confused with Mimusops obtusifolia Lam., which may also occur in coastal vegetation, but the latter differs by its longer petioles and glabrescent leaves.
Mimusops caffra occurs in coastal thickets on sand dunes, where it rarely exceeds 5 m tall and where its foliage suffers under salt spray and sea winds. It may be dominant in sheltered coastal forest behind the littoral zone, where it can reach 20 m in height.
Propagation of Mimusops caffra is by seed. It can be planted in full sun and is ideal for coastal areas. Young plants grown as ornamentals require regular watering during dry spells.
Genetic resources and breeding
In 2004 Mimusops caffra has been declared a protected species in South Africa.
Mimusops caffra is an interesting multipurpose species for planting in coastal regions, and deserves more attention in research.
• Coates Palgrave, K., 1983. Trees of southern Africa. 2nd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, South Africa. 959 pp.
• Kupicha, F.K., 1983. Sapotaceae. In: Launert, E. (Editor). Flora Zambesiaca. Volume 7, part 1. Flora Zambesiaca Managing Committee, London, United Kingdom. pp. 210–247.
• Meeuse, A.D.J., 1963. Sapotaceae. In: Dyer, R.A. & Codd, L.E. (Editors). Flora of southern Africa. Volume 26. Botanical Research Institute, Department of Agricultural Technical Services, Pretoria, South Africa. pp. 31–53.
• van Wyk, B.E. & Gericke, N., 2000. People’s plants: a guide to useful plants of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 351 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Lemmens, R.H.M.J., 2005. Mimusops caffra E.Mey. ex A.DC. In: Louppe, D., Oteng-Amoako, A.A. & Brink, M. (Editors). Prota 7(1): Timbers/Bois d’œuvre 1. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
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