This species is one of South Africa's more popular veld fruits,
and can be enjoyed while walking. This lovely little tree is considered
to possess evil powers and not even the wood should be used for
making fire. It is believed that it could cause cattle to bear only
male offspring. Despite this, the plant is used extensively.
This is a deciduous shrub or small tree that varies in height from
3-7 m, depending on the habitat. It can be single or multistemmed,
but usually the latter. The bark is greyish to yellowish brown,
smooth and peeling in irregular small strips. The branchlets are
covered with short, woolly hairs, especially when young. The leaves
are single, oppositely arranged, as is typical of this family. The
leaves are light green in colour, covered with soft, velvety short
hairs and even more so when young. The margin of the leaf is entire.
The shape of the leaf is elliptic to ovate with the net veining
conspicuous below. When older, the leaves often appear twisted and
are rough to the touch.
velvety, acorn-shaped buds appear either before or simultaneously
with the new leaves around September to October. These open into
small flowers, greenish white to yellowish in colour. They occur
in clusters along the short lateral branches. The fruit is almost
round, glossy dark green when young and changing to a light brown
when ripe. The ripe fruit is soft and fleshy with a leathery shin
that encloses 3-5 seeds embedded in soft pulp. The fruit is edible
and has a pleasant sweet-sour, mealy taste. It tastes like an apple.
It can be found on the plants from January to April. The remains
of the old flower base can be seen on the tip of the fruit.
This plant can be found in woodlands, scrub, on stony koppies or
in sandy valleys. It is most common in open, exposed grassland.
It occurs from the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland,
Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Limpopo, the North-West to Northern Cape.
The generic name Vangueria was derived from the Madagascan
name for Vangueria edulis: voa vanguer. The word infausta
(Latin) means unlucky, referring to the magical properties it is
believed to have.
graze the leaves. Bushbabies, monkeys, baboons, squirrels and bushpigs
eat the fruit when ripe. Butterflies and flies visit the flowers.
One often finds elongated, papillate galls on the leaves that are
caused by insects.
Uses and economic value
The fruit is mostly eaten raw but in some parts it is stored as
dried fruit to be used in time of food scarcity. It is said that
mampoer, a strong alcoholic drink or brandy can be distilled
from it or fermented to make beer. If mixed with a little water
and sugar it produces an acceptable substitute for apple sauce.
The fruit juice can also be used for flavouring purposes by squeezing
it out in water, discarding the seed and skins. This is done often
for flavouring porridge. According to Betsie Rood (1994) vinegar
can be produced from the fruit. This plant has medicinal value as
well. An infusion of the roots and leaves has been used to treat
malaria, chest ailments like pneumonia, as a purgative and to treat
ringworms. An infusion of the leaves is used for the relief of toothache.
For the treatment of swelling of the limbs the affected parts are
bathed in a decoction of the pounded leaves and small twigs, especially
Growing Vangueria infausta
The wild medlar is a hardy and drought resistant plant
that can withstand moderate cold. It is rarely cultivated in the
trade. It can be propagated from fresh seed or cuttings. To make
sure that it germinates readily, remove the outer skin and the pulp.
Sow in well-drained, sandy seedling mix.
This plant is slow growing, but would make an attractive garden
plant if trimmed from the start to form a specimen plant.
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