Characteristics of Sourplum Tree (Ximenia caffra) in the Wild

Ximenia caffra
The Sourplum or Large Sourplum (Ximenia caffra) is a densely branched small tree or shrub. It is part of the Olacaceae family native to tropical regions of Southeast Africa (Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).

Sourplum trees produce fruit every year. The taste of the fruit is sour with a dry aftertaste and contains a lot of potassium.

The tree itself is quite tough, frost-resistant and drought tolerant. All parts of the sourplum tree such as fruit, seeds, leaves, and roots are used for human consumption, medicine, or fuel. The tree can also be used as a garden or yard guardrail.


Characteristics of Sourplum Leaf

Ximenia caffra Leaf

The leaves are simple, alternate, and elliptical.


Characteristics of Sourplum Flower

Ximenia caffra Flower
Source: McCleland

The flowers range from greenish, creamy white, to pink or red. Flowering in September to October during the dry season to the beginning of the rainy season.


Characteristics of Sourplum Fruit

Ximenia caffra Fruit
Source: Rulkens

The fruit is ellipsoidal, the skin is smooth and initially green when ripe becomes orange or red.

Likewise, the flesh of the fruit is orange or red and has juicy flesh. The fruit is 3.5 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter. The seeds are smooth, ellipsoid, brownish yellow to red. The seeds are tough and about 2 cm long.

Ripe fruit contains 27% vitamin C, 18% protein content, and is high in potassium. The seeds have a 65% oil content.


Characteristics of Sourplum Tree

Ximenia caffra Tree
Source: DUPONT

The sourplum tree is a shrub or small tree that is generally found to be 2 meters tall, but it can reach 5-6 meters in certain places. The branches are smooth or covered in flat hair and armed with thorns at the base. The bark of the tree is grayish brown to black and cracked longitudinally.

In the wild, sourplum trees can be found in secondary forests, grasslands, rocky areas, and sometimes on river banks. This tree can grow to a height of 2,000 m above sea level and likes clay or loam for effective growth.



  • The root is used to treat abscesses, stomach aches, colic, malaria, coughs, and bilharziasis.
  • The roots can also be ground into a pulp and eaten to prevent infertility in women.
  • It is thought that root powder can also be added to beer to act as an aphrodisiac.
  • Sourplum bark is used as a remedy for syphilis, hookworm, chest pain, and body aches.
  • The seeds can be roasted and then ground to extract oil which can be used on wounds as an ointment.
  • The leaves can be used to soothe inflamed eyes and as a medicine to treat tonsillitis.


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