The fruit of the mopane tree, properly known as Colophospermum mopane, is a flattened pod that has a kidney-shape, sometimes almost semi-circular. The green pod in the photo looks a bit like an upside down ear fitted with a hearing aid.
The translucence of this young pod discloses the presence of a number of nearly straight veins, converging on the developing seed. The pod has a leathery texture and doesn’t become woody. The ripe pod is papery and indehiscent, i.e. it does not burst open once the seed inside is ripe. Mopane seeds are flat and markedly wrinkled. It is sticky to the touch from resin glands scattered along its surface.
The wood of the mopane tree is red-brown and dark, sometimes almost black. It is durable and makes good furniture, but is difficult to work. Mopane trunks have been used as mine props and railway sleepers.
And, as so often happened with southern African plants, a series of medicinal uses have long ago been discovered among the indigenous tribes; the knowledge passed on from generation to generation, nobody knows for how long. Some arrangements, maybe not enough, have been put in place for rewarding local people for sharing their intellectual property with pharmaceutical companies that derive modern medicines from plants identified by the children of the land (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Schmidt, et al, 2002).