Natal Mahogany

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Indigenous natal-mahogany tree

Scientific name: Trichilia emetica, Kiaat group (548)

English Name: Natal mahogany

Local Name: Musikili

General information

Trichilia emetica is an evergreen medium-to-large tree, up to 25 m high, with separate male and female

plants. It has a dense, spreading crown. Leaflets are dark glossy green above, tips more or less rounded or broadly pointed, lower surface sparsely to densely hairy with principal side veins in 11-18 closely spaced pairs.

Trichilia emetica is very widely distributed in tropical Africa and occurs from Senegal east to Eritrea and south to South Africa. It also occurs naturally in Yemen and has been introduced as an ornamental into Cape Verde.

Human benefit

The tree has good timber, which is used for furniture, household articles, canoes, chew-sticks, music instruments and fuel. The tree is mostly grown in agro-forestry as a shade tree in gardens and to control soil erosion.  In gardens, parking lots and along roads it is grown as a fast-growing shade tree.

The seeds of trichilia emetica produces two kinds of oil: mafura oil from the fleshy seed envelope and mafura butter from the kernel. Mafura oil is edible while mafura butter is unsuitable for consumption because of its bitter taste. The seed is used in soap and candle making, as a body ointment, wood-oil and for medicinal purposes. The seed cake is only useful as fertilizer.



Health benefits

The bark soaked in water is used as an emetic, for treating intestinal ailments and as a purgative. It is used in small doses only as its effects can be violent. The bark and roots are also used as a remedy for colds, pneumonia and for a variety of intestinal disorders including hepatitis.  The root bark is used to treat epilepsy and leprosy and the powdered root is given to treat cirrhosis, river blindness, ascariasis and dysmenorrhoea. The roots are also used to treat infertility and to induce labour in women. The oil is consumed to relieve rheumatism and to treat leprosy and fractures.

Cultivation Details

A plant of the dry to moist tropics, where it is found at elevations from sea level up to 1,800 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures fall within the range 19 - 31°c. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 2,300mm.Succeeds in sun or shade