Strychnos madagascariensis

Botanical name

Strychnos madagascariensis (SA No 626)

Other names

Black monkey orange; swartklapper (Afrikaans)




Usually a small tree, but ranging from a shrub to a tree of  6 m

Description of stem

Often multistemmed; smooth grey bark; no thorns although persistent small branches appear like spines; young branches have conspicuous lenticels

Description of leaves

Oval to obovate opposite leaves of varying size; shiny, green above, paler green below; 3 veins emanating a short distance from the leaf base, 2 additional veins run close to the leaf edge; the margin is entire

Description of flowers

Yellow-green, four or five-lobed flower parts, flowers occurring in axillary clusters during August and September

Description of seed/fruit

A spherical berry, about 8 cm in diameter, changes from green or blue-green to yellow around February and often persists until the next summer; the seeds are embedded in a sweet, light yellow pulp; they are said to contain strychnine

Description of roots




Propagation and cultivation

Can be grown from seed


Mildly frost-resistant


The fruit is edible, it is sometimes dried to store; roots are ground up and a decoction is taken orally with hot water as an emetic; fruit used as ornaments; browsed by game

Ecological rarity

Not common

Pests and diseases



The wood is light coloured


Open bush areas or coastal forests, on hills and next to rivers

Distribution (SA provinces)

North West; Gauteng; Limpopo; Mpumalanga


South Africa; Swaziland; Mozambique; Zimbabwe; Botswana; Zambia; Madagascar; Tanzania

Category: Trees