Bushman’s poison was used in the preparation of arrow-heads for poisoning game when that kind of hunting still occurred in southern Africa. It is said that the plant is so toxic that fatalities may occur when meat is roasted over a fire made of Acokanthera oppositifolia wood. All parts of the plant are toxic.
This tree species (SA Tree List No. 639) is the most widespread geographically among members of its genus in southern Africa. It is found all along the southern and eastern coastal areas of South Africa as well as in the northern provinces of Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. A. oppositifolia typically grows as underbrush and in forest margins. The tree also occurs in Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and further afield.
The leaves are opposite, oblong-elliptic to obovate, glossy, leathery and dark green above. The margins are entire, the lower surfaces sometimes coloured purplish or red. There is a small spiny point at the leaf tip.
The flowers grow in axillary clusters, white within and pink on the outside of the corolla tubes. The fruit is ovoid, becoming red and later purple as it ripens. Birds eat the fruits that are fatally poisonous to humans (Coates Palgrave, 2002; www.plantzafrica.com).