African Star Apple

This tall West and Central African tree (Chrysophyllum africanum A. DC or Chrysophyllum delevoyi De Wild.)5 is found from Sierra Leone to the Congo basin and Angola. Its fruits have an apricot color and a pleasant acid pulp that is much esteemed. Although children scavenging the hillsides grab most of them, enough surplus occurs that they are sold in both rural and urban markets and eaten with relish by many adults. Across most of its range there are no organized plantings. However, in villages in Benin and southern Nigeria the tree is apparently deliberately cultivated.

Internationally, the species is known for its top-grade timber, marketed under the name longhi (or longui) rouge.


This small evergreen tree (Bequaertiodendron magalismontanum (Sond.) Heine & J.H. Hemsl.)6 is distributed widely, from Guinea to Tanzania and from Nigeria to South Africa, where it is one of the more popular “veld fruit.” Its bright scarlet, plumlike fruits have a pinkish-purple pulp of pleasant flavor. Women often collect large quantities, crush them in water, and boil the resulting extract with maize to produce a colorful and tasty porridge. The fruits are so relished that there are seldom enough on hand to meet the demand. Jam and jelly, not to mention vinegar, wine, brandy, and syrup, are also made. The jam—not unlike plum jam in appearance and flavor—is slightly, and deliciously, tart. It has been called “excellent.”

The small tree, often hardly more than a shrub, is relatively drought-resistant and at least some types seem frost-hardy. It grows on many soils, but seems to occur most commonly on dry and well-drained slopes. In South Africa, for instance, it is found in ravines (kloofs) or small rocky hills (kopjies), notably in the Gauteng-KwaZulu-Natal region. The fruits cluster along the branches, hanging like small, bright-scarlet plums. Inside, they lack the segments and star-shaped arrangement of seeds. Instead, there is a single central seed. The fleshy pulp is rich in sugars and contains moderate amounts of vitamin C and minerals.

Regardless of its food value, this species is promising for protecting and improving stressed sites. It could prove useful, for example, in land reclamation, erosion control, and especially wind erosion reduction. Its use as a fruit crop in orchards or mixed cropping systems is as yet unexplored, but that also seems to be a promising line of investigation.


The taxonomy of this species remains somewhat murky. Chrysophyllum africanum (C. delevoyi) is so similar to C. albidum that it may be just a variety of it. C. edule Hoyle may be another synonym. Common names include omumu, alasema, or odara pear.


Synonym are Chrysophyllum magalismontanum Sond and Englerophytum magalismontanum (Sond.) T.D.Penn. It is also called wild plum, stem fruit (stamvrug in Afrikaans), or red milkwood.

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