Family: APOCYNACEAE (Amatungulu family).
- Acokanthera – from Greek ‘akis’, spike or ‘acoce’, pointed, and ‘anthera’ anther giving ‘a sharp or pointed anther’.
- oppositifolia – ‘opposite leaves’ referring to the leaf arrangement on the stems.
Common Names: Bushman’s poison-bush (Eng), boesmansgif (Afr), mothoko-nyepe (Nso) inhlungunyembe (Swa & Zul), serokolo (Tsw), mutsilili (Ven), and intlungunyembe (Xho).
FSA Number: 639 Zim Number: 838
- An evergreen, multi-stemmed shrub or small tree.
- Stem is fluted and twisted.
Size: 2 – 5 m (–7 m) by 3 – 5 m.
- The flowers are tubular (+/-1cm), pinkish outside with white petal lobes (.5 cm diameter).
- The flowers are densely clustered in the leaf axils.
- Trees in flower may be very showy.
Colour: White tinged with pink.
Flowering Months: Jun – Oct.
Fragrance: Sweetly scented.
- Leaves are simple, elliptic or obovate, 4 – 14 x 2 – 7 cm tapering to a sharp, spine-like tip.
- Margin is entire, rolled under.
- Leaves are smooth and leathery, mid to dark green, purple or reddish when young.
- Lateral veins often raised on both surfaces, reaching almost to the margin.
Thorns: No thorns.
- The fruit is an ovoid drupe (1-2cm).
- Green, ripening pink-red to purplish-black.
Bark: Dark brown bark, on old stems it is deeply fissured.
In the Garden:
- Its dark green leaves, scented flowers and attractive fruit make for a good garden subject.
- A good understorey fill plant as well as a screen.
- A good plant for a wildlife friendly garden, birds eat the fruit.
- Can be planted close to walls and paving.
- A water-wise choice.
- May be pruned to retain it as a shrub.
- Bushman’s Poisonbush makes a very good container plant.
- Not a particularly fast growing shrub, up to 50 cm a year.
Soil Needs: Grows well in humus rich soils.
- A low maintenance plant.
- Prune it to shape.
- Very drought hardy.
- The ripe fruit is eaten by birds.
- Not known to host any butterfly larva.
- Flowers feed many insects and adult butterflies with nectar.
- Dried leaves or roots are used in traditional medicine to treat headaches and snake bites.
- Weak infusions made from leaves used to treat abdominal pain.
- Plant is also used to treat tapeworm, anthrax, toothache and colds.
- Sap contains a toxic cardiac glycoside, acovenside.
The bark on old Acokanthera oppositifolia plants is dark brown and deeply fissured.
- The sap of all parts of this plant, except possibly the ripe fruit, is toxic.
- Extracts of Acokanthera species are used as a component for arrow poison.
- Although very poisonous, it tastes awful and one’s immediate reaction is to spit it out.
- It is perfectly safe to touch and does not produce any allergic reactions.
- Found in WC, EC, KZN, Swa, G, NWP, M, L, Moz and central Zim.
- Its range extends northwards into East Africa.
- Grasslands, thickets, forest, savanna-woodland and savanna-bushveld.
- Found under or with other trees on rocky outcrops, forest, riverine and coastal bush.
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.