A shrub native to Africa, the Maurocenia frangularia, commonly known as “vulture berry”, bears edible berries. Often used in hedges, it has a fragrant inflorescence which encourages the arrival of pollinators.
Maurocenia is a genus named in honour of J.F. Mauriceni, Venice Congressman and great promoter of Botany. Frangularia means “whose wood is brittle” (in Latin, frangulare means to break, to snap).
Description and flowering period
This is a small rounded tree only reaching up to 4 meters in height. It grows very slowly despite having a very long lifespan. Its bark is scaly, and a yellowy-grey, veined with brown. Its leaves are elliptical, sometimes nearly round and have a very prominent midrib and recurved edges. They are overall deep green in colour except new growth which comes out scarlet red. The flowers are extremely small, white or pale yellow and appear in whorls along the stems. The species is dioecious, which means that male and female flowers are borne on different individuals. The flowers are extremely fragrant and visited by bees, whilst the fruits – which are edible red berries resembling cherries – are really appreciated by birds who, by eating them, help with seeds dispersal.
It requires sandy, preferably granitic, free-draining soils in full sun or light-shade. It is wind, cold and drought tolerant.
- Ornamental (especially used for hedges).
- Food & drink: The fruits have long been eaten in the bush by the Khoisan people of South-Africa.
- Miscellaneous: The wood is highly thought after to craft musical instruments.
This plant is endemic to the Cape Province (it only naturally occurs there). It has a natural ability to re-sprout after being burned: a very common adaptation in plants from areas frequently destroyed by bush-fires.
Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN