(Pappea cappenses)


A tree of jacket plum


Family: Sapindaceae.

Common names: Indaba tree, bushveld cherry, doppruim, umQhokwane, umVuna, iliTye, umGqalutye, mongatane, Mopsinyugane, liLetsa, Xikwakwaxu, Gulaswimbi.


Jacket plum is a fruit from Africa.  It is widespread there in Southern Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and northwards into eastern and southern tropical Africa.   It naturally occurs in bushveld, riverine thicket, wooded grassland and rocky outcrops in grassland as well as scrub veld and is often found on termite mounds. Due to its wide distribution range it is well suited to cultivation in a wide variety of climatic conditions.

Ripe fruits of jacket plum


The red fruit of this tree is a tasty treat for humans, birds as well as animals. A fine oil is also extracted from the seeds.


Jacket plum is a long-lived, hardy, evergreen, small to medium tree with a height of 2-8 m. Under ideal conditions it can grow at a moderate rate but can be slow-growing under dry and/or cold conditions.

The leaves are simple and oblong, hard-textured and wavy. The leaf margin may vary from sharply toothed (especially in young growth) to almost smooth in mature growth.

The greenish flowers are borne on catkins in the axils of the leaves.  These are sweetly scented.

 Fruits are round, green and velvety. These split open to reveal bright red flesh and a dark brown to black seed imbedded within.


Thefruits are delicious and very juicy fruit with a tart flavour.  These are not only popularly eaten by local people but are also processed to make preserve, jelly and vinegar.  An alcoholic drink is also made from these fruits.

An oil is extracted from the roasted seeds. This oil, which looks golden yellow, is fragrant and non-drying. golden yellow.  There are reports of it being used for oiling rifles. It is also used as a purgative and for lubrication, as a cure for ringworm, to restore hair, as well as for making soap.

Leaves, bark and the oil extracted from the seed are used medicinally against baldness, ringworm, nosebleeds, chest complaints, eye infections, and venereal disease. Bark is also used in protective charms that are sprinkled on the ground.

Recent research has shown that the leaves are very effective in killing snails. Infusions of the bark are also used by Kenyan Masai warriors to gain courage as well as an aphrodisiac and a blood-strengthening tonic. The root is used orally or as an enema and as a purgative for cattle.

The wood is hard, light brown with a reddish tint, tough and heavy with a twisted grain. There is apparently little difference between the heartwood and the sapwood. The stems seldom attain significant girth and therefore do not yield much useable wood. It is, however, used to make sticks, poles, cattle yokes, furniture and kitchen utensils. This tree is still used as an important source of traditional medicine today.


The jacket plum is a tree that needs to be promoted and planted in gardens.  It can tolerate cold and heat as well as prolonged periods of drought. It may be used as a specimen tree or as a focal point. Its attractive pale grey stem often has patches of darker colours. It is useful as a street tree or for shade in parking lots as it does not have an aggressive root system. It is also well suited to being employed as part of a mixed screen or wind barrier.

The new leaves are an attractive pinky-bronze when they emerge in spring, this contrasts well with the dark green of the old leaves making an attractive display.

The new plants may be raised from seed.  Seed should be collected from the ripe fruits. Remove the red flesh. Store or sow immediately. Sow seed in trays using a well-drained seedling mixture with some river sand added. The seed should be pressed into the medium and covered with approximately 5 mm of sand or seedling medium. Keep the trays in a warm and lightly shaded position until germination, which may take from six to ten weeks under ideal conditions. The seedlings are best left in their trays until they are approximately 20-50 mm tall before planting out, taking care not to bruise or damage the young taproot.

Nursery-grown plants adapt well to cultivation and respond well to organic and synthetic horticultural fertilizers. Saplings are slow-growing especially when young but growth increases as the tree matures. Growth is also considerably quicker in warmer climates or warmer positions of the garden.

Input from:

              Andrew Hankey
                 Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden


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