Berchemia discolor

Botanical Name: Berchemia discolor

Common Name: Bird Plum, Makumba, Mtacha, Mwii, Mwinji

Plant Family: Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn Family)

Growth Form, Habitat and Distribution: A semi-deciduous shrub, scrambler, but usually a tree, branches trending upwards and then laterally producing a umbrella-like crown. Confined to the drier eastern, southern and western parts of Zambia and the shores of the northern lakes, but widely scattered. Often on termite mounds, riverine forest and on sandier soils, but occasionally in Mopane woodland.

Size: Height up to 18m, spread 8 to 12m.

Bark: Dark grey, or black with vertical fissures (sometimes twisted) and irregularly sized scales.

Leaves: Simple, alternate, leathery, elliptic to oblong-elliptic, 5 to 11cm, shiny green above, paler below and sometimes hairy on the obvious herring-bone veins, tapering to the apex base rounded. Petiole 1 to 1.5cm.

Flowers: Small, greenish-yellow, on slender stalks, or profuse (up to 10), loose axillary clusters, October to February.

Fruit: Oblong, yellow, smooth, edible, ovoid fruits (2cm), containing two seeds, ripening February to May.

Uses: The yellow wood is one of the hardest timbers in Central Africa. A good “bee tree” and the fruit are much favoured, with a high Vitamin C content.