Pappea capensis, Jacket-plum, is a well-shaped, small to medium sized tree with a dense, rounded crown. A very adaptable tree that grows in many different types of habitat except forest. It is used extensively in traditional medicine and produces tasty fruit that are rich in vitamin C and pectin.
Pappea capensis is a single or multi stemmed, small to medium sized tree with a shapely, rounded crown.
Family:                       SAPINDACEAE   (Litchi family) Name Derivation:
  • Pappea  –  Named after Carl Pappe (1803 – 1862), the first Colonial botanist and professor of botany at the South African College (became the University of Cape Town). He founded the South African Museum Herbarium which now forms part of the Compton Herbarium.
  • Capensis – from the Cape of Good Hope.
Common Names:           Jacketplum, indabatree (Z)  (Eng), doppruim (Afr), mopsinyugane (Nso) liletsa (Swa), xikwakwaxu (Tsw), mopennweeng (Tsw), tshikwakwashi (Ven), ilitye (Xho), and umgqogqo (Zul) FSA Number:                  433                         Zim Number:                  554           
  • A single or multi-stemmed tree with a dense, rounded crown.
Size:                                   6 – 8 m ( –13m) by 4 – 6 m  (-10m) Flower:
  • Small unisexual flowers borne on flower-spikes at the end of branches and in the leaf axils.
  • Male and female flowers may or may not be borne on the same tree, but at different times.
  • Male flowers are borne before female flowers.
Colour                           Yellowish-green Flowering Months:       Sep – Mar
Male and female flowers of Pappea capensis are separate but may be borne on the same tree at different times. These are male flowers.
The leaves of Pappea capensis have very serrated margins while young. The midrib and parallel secondary veins are clearly visible on both upper and lower leaf surface.
Fragrance:                      Sweetly scented. Foliage:
  • Evergreen or semi-evergreen.
  • Simple leaves are lanceolate variable, oblong to almost round.
  • The leaves are spiraled towards the ends of the branchlets.
  • Olive or greyish green above and paler green below, leaf texture is rough and leathery
  • Margin in young leaves is typically very serrated, older leaves are entire but wavy and wrinkled.
  • The yellowy green midrib and parallel veins are clearly visible on both sides.
Thorns:                          No thorns.
  • The fruit capsules are round and velvety (1 – 1.5 cm), green, ripening to a dark brown.
  • Ripe capsules split open to reveal bright red, sticky flesh that surrounds a dark brown seed.
  • The flesh is edible, tart but pleasant taste.
Bark:                            The pale grey or light brown bark is distinctive, it is smooth to touch . In the Garden:
  • A wonderful specimen tree for the garden with its beautiful bark and its compact, rounded crown.
  • Suitable for most gardens, from small to large, in school grounds, parks and on pavements..
  • May safely be planted close to walls and paving.
  • Very good tree for wildlife friendly plants, attracting insects, butterflies and birds.
  • Young plants grow moderately quickly in good soil, between 500 and 800 cm per year.
  • Water-wise.
Soil Needs: Will grow in most soil types, does far better in good soil than poor.
Pappea capensis fruit are round and protected by a velvety green jacket that turns dark brown when ripe.
Pappea capensis has a lovely shape and will make a lovely feature tree in most gardens.
When ripe. the fruit covering of Pappea capensis splits open to expose the tasty, orange flesh that surrounds the dark brown seeds.
  • A low maintenance garden shrub or small tree.
  • Feed and water in growing season for good results.
  • Prune to create a good shape.
Cold Hardiness:              Cold hardy, but protect while young. Water Requirements:
  • Drought hardy.
  • Water-wise.     
Light Requirements:     Full sun or partial shade. Roots:                                The roots are not aggressive.
  • The fruit are eaten by many different bird species.
  • Used by insectivorous birds for foraging and gleaning.
Insects and Butterflies:
  • Bees and other insects visit the flowers.
  • The larval host to the Common Hairtail, Pearl-spotted Charaxes and Brown Playboy, all are found in Gauteng.
  • In KwaZulu-Natal, Pappea capensis is the larval host of the beautiful Gold-banded Forester.
  • It is also known to host 6 moth species.
Medicinal:                      Plant parts and extracts are used to cure ringworm, baldness, eye-infections and venereal diseases. Poisonous:                      Not poisonous.
African Green Pigeons will readily eat Pappea capensis fruit when it is available and ripe.
Pappea capensis can safely be planted close to walls or paving.
Notes of interest:
  • The fruit can be used to make a nice jelly, vinegar or an alcoholic drink.
  • A non-drying, fragrant oil is extracted from roasted seeds and is often used as a gun oil and to make soap.
  • Leaves are browsed by stock and most browsing game species.
  • The tasty fruit is eaten by humans, monkeys, jackals and many different birds.
Natural Distribution:
  • Found in southern Nam, NC, EC, KZN, Swa, M, L, G, NW, Zim and Moz.
  • North of our area its range extends through tropical Africa and as far north as Ethiopia.
Natural Habitat:
  • Grasslands, succulent Karoo, Nama-Karoo, thickets, savanna-bushveld, savanna-Kalahari, savanna-lowveld and savanna-woodland.
  • Favours rocky outcrops, also found on termite mounds, in riverine thickets and Bushveld.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018