Rauvolfia caffra, the quinine tree occasionally grows to great height (about 20 m) in conditions where ample water allows this at forest edges. More often it only becomes a small to medium sized tree. The leaves grow in whorls crowded at the end of the branchlets. They are simple, narrow, obovate to elliptic and have entire edges. Leaves tend to be slightly leathery, shiny above and pale below, with conspicuous net-veining evident on both surfaces. The flowers are white, growing in dense terminal cymes during winter and spring. They are followed by the fleshy green drupes covered in the white spots that can be seen in the picture. These fruits become dark purplish and wrinkled as they ripen. The bark is light coloured, the trunk straight, becoming buttressed in mature specimens.
The tree resembles Breonadia salicina, the mingerhout (Afrikaans) or matumi (Swazi?), which lacks the milky latex found in the quinine tree. The latex has been used as a malaria cure in the past without positive results. The bark does, however, contain a substance used effectively as a tranquilliser and in reducing blood pressure. Various parts of the tree are used in a multitude of traditional remedies. The wood is soft and pale, suitable for making curios and woodcut objects. The distribution area includes many central African countries and the north-eastern parts of South Africa.
The tree belongs in the Apocynaceae or dogbane family. The Rauvolfia genus comprises about 85 species, many of them evergreen trees that grow naturally in tropical areas (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Wikipedia).