Diospyros austro-africana is a much-branched shrub with rigid branches. The bark is brown, dark brown or grey, sometimes flaking in strips.
The pendulous flowers grow solitary from leaf axils. The corolla is hairy on the outside, its lobes reflexed. Flowering happens in spring.
The fruit is a globose, fleshy berry covered in hairs. Red in the photo, these fruits may also be yellow, later black. The five-lobed calyx persists at the back of the fruit, its lobes round-tipped and recurving at this fairly late stage in the development. Fruit diameter is about 1,5 cm.
The generic name is derived from dios meaning divine in Greek and pyros meaning pear. Divine pear or pear of the gods suggests quality fruit, reinforced by the Afrikaans name hemelvrug (literally heaven fruit, suggesting heavenly fruit) for another member of the Diospyros genus, the persimmon.
To what extent the edible fruit in the photo measure up to the taste of D. lycioides is unknown. They are eaten by many kinds of birds (Van Wyk and Malan, 1997; www.plantzafrica.com; wildflowernursery.co.za).
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