Ziziphus mucronata

Botanical name Ziziphus mucronata
Other names Buffalo thorn, juba plant (Herman Charles Bosman), blinkblaar wag-'n-bietjie (Afrikaans); mokgalo (Tswana); umphafa (Zulu & Xhosa)
Family Rhamnaceae
Dimensions A medium sized, deciduous tree up to 9 m in height and with spreading branches and much lateral development
Description of stem Dark grey, rough bark, fissured into small portions on mature stems, lighter and smooth on young branches that start off green; heavily spined by pairs of characteristically different spines, one being straight, the other curved; in older trees the spines are markedly fewer to absent
Description of leaves Shiny (above, duller and sometimes hairy below), simple, ovate, alternate and asymmetric leaves, variable in size; three-veined from the base; leaf edge finely toothed close to the apex
Description of flowers Small, yellowish green, clusters in leaf axils, appear during summer
Desciption of seed/fruit Spherical, green, turning reddish brown, remains on the tree into winter when the leaves have fallen; thin layer of edible pulp around the hard seed
Description of roots
Propagation and cultivation Grows easily from seed
Tolerances Survives as a shrub in areas not quite conducive to its full flourishing
Uses Seeds are edible (fresh, green or dry, mature), made into a porridge and even a liquor by some indigenous populations; also roasted into a (poor) coffee substitute; usually a supplementary or famine food; Coates Palgrave refers to magico-medicinal uses, including use in making rosaries; a poultice of ground and baked root is reported for use in alleviating pains; also used in treating boils, skin infections, lumbago, dysentry, tubercular gland swellings, coughs and chest complaints (Coates Palgrave); the fallen leaves are often preferred winter grazing for cattle and some game
Ecological rarity Common
Pests and diseases Rarely some fungal growths
Other Herman Charles Bosman describes it, the Juba plant's seed, as a base for an aphrodysiac, to be ingested by the target person at midnight
Location Wide range of habitats, including woodland, bushveld, along river banks
Distribution (SA provinces) Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo
Country South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, further north into Ethiopia
Category: Trees