African Ebony

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Scientific name: Diospyros Mespiliformis

English Name: African ebony, Jackalberry

General Information

It is most commonly found on savannas or savanna woodlands where it can be found growing on termite mounds. As they live on dead organic matter the termites don't eat the living wood. Jackalberry wood is almost termite-resistant after it has been cut down.

Grows very tall, up to 80 feet, with a trunk circumference of 16 feet. The average tree only reaches heights of 15 to 18 feet. The trunks grow straight and high, with the first spreading branches growing far above the ground. The mature trunks from older and heavier trees have fluted, flattened ridges along the trunk which strengthen them.

The bark is dark brown when young, turning dark grey as the tree matures, with a rough texture, forming deep horizontal grooves. They have a dense, dark green and spreading crown. The single leaves are elliptical in shape, up to 5,5 inches long and 3 inches wide with smooth or slightly wavy edges. Older leaves have a glossy, leathery look, darker green above and a lighter green below.

Fruit Description

The fleshy fruit is oval, almost round in shape and about 1 inch in diameter and yellow or yellow-green in colour. Two to six wrinkled seeds can be found inside the fruit. The skin is tough but the edible fruit has a chalky, floury consistency with a lemon-sweet flavour. They can be eaten fresh or preserved. They are also dried and ground into flour.


Health Benefits

Tannin is present in the leaves, bark and roots, and acts as an astringent that helps stop bleeding. The tree is known to have antibiotic substances that help heal wounds. A mixture made from the roots is used to get rid of parasites like ring worm, and dysentery and fever. It is also considered a remedy for leprosy.

Human Benefits

The heartwood is fine-grained and good for floors, high quality furniture and pestels. The trunks are used to make canoes and the seeds are often eaten as nuts. Fruits are often used to brew beer or fermented for wine. Fruit and plant parts contain tannin.

Wildlife Benefits

The fruit of the Jackalberry tree is a favourite of many animals. Animals such as nyalas, impalas, warthogs, baboons and hornbills to name a few, love to eat the fruit of the Jackalberry. It got its name because the Jackalberry seeds are also found in the dung of jackals. The leaves are eaten by elephants, rhinos, giraffes, buffaloes, and kudus. The larvae of the bushveld emperor butterfly also eat the leaves of this tree.