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Trees of the year
Trees of the year


Scientific name: Zanthoxylum capensis  

Family: Fagara capensis 


Common names: small knobwood (Eng.); kleinperdepram (Afr.); umlungumabele (isiXhosa); umnungamabele (isiZulu); monokwane (Sotho); khunugumorupa (Tsonga))

Dicoma capensis

Zanthoxylum capensis

Description: Zanthoxylum capense is usually a small multi-branched tree about 5 m in height, but may reach 15 m under favorable conditions; male and female plant organs on different plants, with a yellowish and fairly hard wood.

The bark on young branches is smooth with straight dark brown thorns, and light to dark grey on older branches and on stems, with straight spines on scattered cone-shaped knobs.

Leaves are glossy, dark green with clear gland dots in the scalloped margin. They are borne in clusters on short side branches, unevenly compound with 4-8 pairs of leaflets plus a terminal one. They have a strong citrus smell when crushed.

Flowers have a sweet smell and are greenish-white in colour, with 4 sepals and 4 petals.

Flowering time:  January.

The fruit is a round splitting capsule up to 5 mm in diameter, covered with glands, green, turning red when ripe, splitting later to reveal a single black, oil-rich seed per capsule.

Fruiting Time February and May

Origin: Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe

Medicinal Uses:  Ground stem, bark or leaves are commonly used as a snakebite remedy either as an oral medicine or as a local application to the wound. The root, bark or stem is chewed as a mouth wash to treat mouth ulcers and to treat toothache.

Propagation: Seed sowing


Buwa, L.V. & Van Staden, J., 2006. Antibacterial and antifungal activity of traditional medicinal plants used against venereal diseases in South Africa. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 103(1): 139–142.
van Wyk, B. and van Wyk, P. 2009. Field guide to trees of Southern Africa. Struik Nature Publishers
van Wyk, B.E., van Oudtshoorn, B. & Gericke, N., 1997. Medicinal plants of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 304 pp