Syzygium guineense

Botanical Name: Syzygium guineense

subsp. barotsense

Common Name: White-bark Water Berry, Mufinsa, Chibumbya, Musombo, Musompe, Mfowo, Musombo, Katope

Plant Family: Myrtaceae (Myrtle Family)

Growth Form, Habitat and Distribution: A medium sized evergreen tree, often multi-stemmed, with wide spreading branches giving an open crown. Occurring as a distinctive feature of southern Zambia’s main river banks and islands at low and medium altitude.

Size: Height up to 12m, spread 10 to 20m.

Bark: Pale grey and smooth, sometimes buttressed and sometimes with aerial roots from the branches. Produces a reddish sap if damaged.

Leaves: Simple, opposite in pairs, not normally with successive pairs at right angles, elliptic, leathery (5 to 10cm), glossy green above, paler below, apex tapering to a point. Petiole short (1 to 2cm).

Flowers: Sweet-scented, creamy-white with conspicuous stamens in clusters (6 to 8cm), August to November.

Fruit: A smooth, large, ovoid, fleshy, glossy, edible, half white/half purple-black berry (up to 3.5cm) in clusters of 20 to 30, floating if falling in water, each fruit containing a single whitish seed, October to January.

Uses: The wood is usable for furniture and canoes, but splits. The fruit are edible and also favoured by wildlife and birds. The bark produces a tannin and with the leaves and roots are used in traditional medicine. Makes an attractive garden tree near a pond.