Scientific name: Sterculia africana. Raisinbush group (290);
English Name: African star-chestnut, False baobab
Local Name: Mgoza (N) Mlele (N) Mukosa (T) Mulele (Soli)
Deciduous tree. Medium sized tree with a stout trunk. Bark smooth silvery-grey, often mottled with purple-brown, peeling. Leaves crowded near the ends of branches, broadly ovate-cordate in outline, variously 3-5- lobed. Flowers in compact terminal panicles, greenish-yellow with reddish guide lines, appearing before the leaves; sexes separate on the same tree. Fruit consisting of 1-5 beaked carpels, each splittindown one side, golden velvety on the outside; mouth fringed with highly irritant hairs, which protect the blue-black, tick-like seeds.
The leaves and bark are boiled and the decoction inhaled to treat fever and influenza. A strong fibre obtained from the bark is used to make ropes and mats. The wood is used for poles in house construction, for instance for making frameworks of movable houses of pastoralists, with the bark being used for tying the wood together. It is the preferred wood of the Damara people in Namibia for carving winnowing bowls. The wood is also used for making furniture, for fencing and as fuelwood. In Namibia the bark is burnt for its aroma. The tree produces a gum, which is used as additive to medicines, but the quantities are too small for commercial exploitation. The gum, which resembles gum tragacanth from Astralagus spp., was formerly used for making gun powder for muzzle-loading guns.