The knobbly, sometimes spine-tipped, dwarf spur-branchlets from which the leaves emerge are visible on the smaller Ximenia caffra var. natalensis branches in the photo, lost from the older branch. The bigger branch still retains its smooth surface, very different from the real old, lower trunks that become rough and dark, grey-brown.
Where X. caffra leaves are not clustered, they are alternate (on young branches). Most leaf blades curve in variably from the sides while curving down slightly along the length of the midrib (that is prominent below).
The leaves are slightly darker above than below. Their leathery surfaces are shiny and hairless throughout their duration on the tree in this variety. X. caffra is sometimes deciduous. Leaf dimensions are 2,5 cm to 7 cm long and 1,2 cm to 4 cm wide, the stalk 8 mm long.
The entire margins are not always perfectly smooth even before outside interference. Here some deviate from their original shape by the extent to which they’ve been eaten. Various antelope species and giraffes eat these leaves, apart from evidently some insects.
Eaten above while eating below, this tree hides its parasitic tendency underground in its roots, like the pickpocket hides his hand from sight while extracting value from a handbag: X. caffra is a hemiparasite (partial parasite) that attaches its root to those of other trees for accessing some of its nutrient requirements from them; a bit like borrowing from the bank while spending on charity.
This tree seen in Mjejane in the east of Mpumalanga can be identified by its geographic position as X. caffra var. natalensis, the one on which leaves are hairless even when young. The hairier variety (young leaves and branches only) is X. caffra var. caffra (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Schmidt, et al, 2002; Van Wyk and Van Wyk, 1997; Pooley, 1993).