Pappea capensis fruit capsules grow in clusters on the female tree, the preceding inflorescence having been a catkin-like raceme. In picture only one fruit per cluster developed, although several may succeed. The photo was taken at Minwater near Oudtshoorn in January where a severe drought had reigned for a few years before this moment.
The almost spherical green fruit is densely velvety and sessile. The fruit may also be bilobed or trilobed, presumably containing more than one seed then. The fruit becomes 1 cm to 2 cm in diameter, turning brown when ripe and dehisces, i.e. bursts open. This happens any time from end summer to midwinter. Dark, empty shells of the fruit may persist on the tree long after the inner parts have dropped.
The shiny black seed is covered in an orange-red, jelly-like appendage, an aril that is edible and pleasantly flavoured. Birds, animals and people eat the fruits. People also use them to make jam, an alcoholic beverage or vinegar.
The seeds yield a fragrant, edible oil that is mildly purgative. The oil is also used as a lubricant, as gun-oil, for making soap and in the treatment of ringworm and eye infections, as well as for restoring hair growth.
The leaves and bark also feature in traditional medicine, while animals browse them. The hard stems are used as sticks for walking or fighting. Butterflies breed on the tree. This tree is a veritable supermarket for customers of wide-ranging species; some eating each other as well.
People with suitable gardens will do well by growing a P. capensis, but remember the tree is dioecious, the neighbours need to plant one as well for fruit production. If yours turns out to be a male tree, there are at least the catkins of pale green, fragrant flowers from spring to autumn to enjoy. Negotiate for a share of the fruit or threaten to remove your tree (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Van Wyk and Van Wyk, 1997; Pooley, 1993).