Harpephyllum caffrum (Wildepruim, Wild Plum, umGwenya) is a beautiful medium-sized tree with edible fruit, medicinal and magical uses.
Harpephyllum caffrum Monograph
This monograph contains details of Harpephyllum caffrum as per the references cited below. If you can provide any additional information, photos or reliable records, or spot any errors, please leave a comment below or in The Muthi Flora of southern Africa Facebook group.
Ethno Medicinal Uses of Harpephyllum caffrum
Administered to people: Bark infusions are taken in doses of one or two glasses daily or in larger doses as emetics to purify the blood and for skin problems such as acne and eczema. The bark is also used in washes for skin complaints. Powdered burnt bark is rubbed into scarifications around sprains and fractures. (Hutchings et.al.)
Applied in a magical sense: In Transkei, root decoctions are traditionally taken for paralysis thought to have been contracted from walking over an area that has been poisoned or polluted through sorcery. Bark decoctions are taken for rashes thought to have been contracted from river sprites. (Hutchings et.al.)
Edible: The fruit is widely utilised by humans, birds and animals. Many insects also utilise the tree. (Schmidt et.al.) The fruit becomes red when ripe and has a sour juicy pulp. Children appreciate the fruit and it makes a good table jelly. With the addition of sugar, the fruit make an outstanding refreshing lemonade. (Fox and Norwood Young)
Other: The pale red wood is not very durable and is used for furniture. It is a popular street tree in areas free of severe frost. (Schmidt et.al.)
Harpephyllum caffrum is a fairly hardy, large, evergreen tree that has attractive dark green foliage with unusual sickle-shaped leaflets and the odd red leaf in the crown. This is a beautifully shaped tree that has non-aggressive roots. The small yellowish-green flowers are followed by bunches of fleshy, red berries that are relished by birds, monkeys and bushbabies. It is an important butterfly and moth host plant. Harpephyllum caffrum is a lovely, shapely tree for gardens and makes a wonderful street tree. (Wildflower Nursery)
Harpehyllum caffrum makes a beautiful bonsai that quickly forms a thick trunk.
It is often confused with Ekebergia capensis which is distinguished by its drooping leaves, the absence of any red leaves, and the absence of watery resin in the severed petiole.
Name Derivation: Harpephyllum is Greek for sickle-like leaves, referring to the shape of the falcate leaflets. Caffrum is indigenous. (Schmidt et.al.)
Arnold. T.H., Prentice, C.A., Hawker, L.C., Snyman, E.E., Tomalin, M., Crouch, N.R. and Pottas-Bircher, C. (2002). Medicinal and magical plants of southern Africa: an annotated checklist. Strelitzia 13. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
Fox, F.W., Norwood Young, M.E. (1982). Food From The Veld. Edible Wild Plants of southern Africa. Delta Books, Craighall, South Africa.
Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G., Cunnigham, A.B., (1996). Zulu Medicinal Plants: an inventory. University of Natal
Schmidt, E., Lotter, M., Mcleland, W. (2007) Trees and Shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park. Jacana Media, Houghton, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Wildflower Nursery – https://wildflowernursery.co.za/indigenous-plant-database/harpephyllum-caffrum/. Accessed on 2020/01/06