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Diospyros mespiliformis - Hochst. ex A. DC.

Common Name West African Ebony, Monkey guava, jackalberry
Family Ebenaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Sawdust of this species, as also of most Diospyros spp., causes dermatitis after continuous contact[ 332 ].
Habitats Riparian forest, more rarely on termite mounds or rocky outcrops or in dry semi-evergreen forest at elevations of 60 - 1,370 metres[ 308 ]. Drier northern borders of the humid rain-forest zone especially in wet situations[ 332 ].
Range Tropical Africa - Senegal to Eritrea and Yemen, south to Namibia, Transvaal and Mozambique.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Diospyros mespiliformis West African Ebony, Monkey guava, jackalberry

Diospyros mespiliformis West African Ebony, Monkey guava, jackalberry


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Also known as Monkey Guava or Jackalberry, West African Ebony (Diospyros mespiliformis) is an evergreen tree that reaches up to 20 m in height, or up to 45 m in forests. It is characterized by a wide spreading and dense canopy and dark grey bark. It is commonly found in tropical Africa, south of the Sahara. West African Ebony has a wide range of medicinal uses. Different plant parts can be made into variation and used in the treatment of a range of conditions like fever, pneumonia, dysentery, syphilis, leprosy, yaws, menorrhoea, diarrhoea, headaches, arthritis, gingivitis, toothache, cuts and wounds, otitis, stomach pains, sores, ulcers, etc. The yellow, globose fruit is edible and can be eaten raw, cooked, dried, or made into beverages. It has a sweet flavour. The leaves are edible as well. The bark produces a dark-coloured gum which can be used in broken pottery. The bark is also used for dyeing mats red. Fruit pulp is applied as varnish to pottery. The wood is used as chew-sticks and for black-wood cabinetry, furniture, carpentry, heavy flooring, interior trim, ship building, vehicle bodies, musical instruments precision equipment, turnery, carvings, knife-handles and brush backs, etc. Also, it makes good fuel wood and charcoal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Diospyros mespiliformis is an evergreen Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees. The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Diospyros bicolor Klotzsch Diospyros holtzii Gorke Diospyros ibo Gorke ex De Wild. Diospyros kiliman

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves
Edible Uses: Drink  Gum

Fruit - raw, cooked, dried or made into beverages by fermentation[ 308 , 332 , 335 ]. A sweet flavour[ 332 , 335 ], similar to the persimmon (D. kaki)[ 332 ]. A kind of soft toffee can be made from the fruits, which along with some other similar edible fruits, such as figs and dates, are known as lubiya[ 332 ]. The globose, yellow fruit is up to 25mm in diameter[ 308 ]. The leaves are sometimes eaten[ 317 , 332 ]. Chemical composition (Sudan sample, after Abdelmuti): Protein (crude) = 3.0% (dry). Fat = 0.9% )(dry). Fibre (crude) = 16.5% (dry). Ash = 4.5% (dry). Carbohydrate (soluble): Starch = 6.1% (dry). Sucrose = 0% (dry). D-Glucose = 7.61% (dry). F-Fructose = 9.9% (dry). Amino acids (g (16g N)-1): Aspartic acid = 5.7g. Threonine = 3.0g. Serine = 3.3g. Glutamic acid = 6.6g. Proline = 7.6g. Glycine = 4.0g. Alanine = 3.3g. Valine = 4.3g. Cysteine = 1.0g. Methionine = 1.0g. Isoleucine = 3.7g. Leucine = 5.0g. Tyrosine = 2.0g. Phenylalanine = 3.3g. Lysine = 4.0g. Histidine = 2.3g. Arginine = 4.0g. Minerals: Sulphur = 0.05% (dry). Phosphorus = 0.11% (dry). Magnesium = 0.08% (dry). Calcium = 0.37% (dry). Na = 0.01% (dry). K = 1.51% (dry). Zinc = 5 mg/kg-1 (dry). Iron = 192 mg/kg-1 (dry). Manganese = 5 kg/kg-1 (dry). Copper = 1 mg/kg-1 (dry).

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiarthritic  Antibiotic  Antidiarrhoeal  Antifungal  Astringent  Dysentery  Febrifuge  Haemostatic  
Laxative  Leprosy  Mouthwash  Odontalgic  Skin  Stimulant  Stomachic  

The plant is widely used in traditional medicine in parts of Africa, and a number of medically active constituents have been isolated. The principle constituent appears to be plumbagin, which has been shown to have antibiotic, antihaemorrhagic and fungistatic properties. It is found in the root-bark to a concentration of 0.9% and but a trace in the leaves[ 332 ]. Tannin, saponin and a substance probably identical to scopolamine are also present[ 332 ]. There is a high fluoride content[ 332 ]. The leaves are astringent, febrifuge, haemostatic, mildly laxative, stimulant and vermifuge[ 332 , 774 ]. Such reliance is placed on this drug-plant that it is usually prescribed alone[ 332 ]. An infusion is used in the treatment of a range of conditions - it is very effective in the treatment of fevers and infectious fevers; and is also used for dysentery; pneumonia; syphilis; leprosy and yaws[ 332 , 774 ]. A decoction of leafy twigs is taken in draught as a poison-antidote[ 332 ]. The leaves and fruit are used internally for treating menorrhoea and dysenteriform diarrhoea[ 332 ]. Externally, they are used in the treatment of headaches, arthritis and dermal troubles[ 332 ]. The leaves and fruit are chewed or applied as an infusion for treating gingivitis, toothache, as a dressing for cuts and wounds, and to prevent infection[ 332 ]. The sap is instilled into the ear for treating otitis[ 332 ]. An infusion of the bark is used to treat stomach aches[ 398 ]. Applied externally, it is used as a wash on sores, ulcers, etc[ 332 ]. Shavings of the wood, combined with the pods of Acacia nilotica and roots of Borassus spp, are pounded in water and boiled for about two hours, after which the liquid is used in Nigeria to rinse the mouth for treating toothache[ 332 ].. Sap from freshly felled trees, as also water from holes in the tree, or an infusion of the black heart-wood, are similarly used[ 332 ]

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Adhesive  Charcoal  Containers  Dye  Fencing  Fuel  Furniture  Gum  Teeth  Varnish  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: Said to be a suitable species for reforestation[ 332 ]. Natural regeneration is good[ 332 ]. Other Uses: The bark contains a dark-coloured gum which is used to mend broken pottery[ 332 ]. The bark is used for dyeing mats red[ 398 ]. The fruit-pulp is applied to pottery to glaze and varnish it[ 332 ]. The wood is used as chew-sticks[ 332 ]. The heartwood is black, very hard, but appears only in older trees over a certain girth; it is clearly demarcated from the 5 - 12cm wide band of creamy to reddish yellow sapwood that produces bands of black[ 848 ]. The freshly cut wood is light pinkish-brown, slightly darker to the centre[ 332 ]. Blackening of the heart-wood develops only after felling and appears to depend on edaphic characters, trees from savannah situations blackening while those from more thickly forested areas do not[ 332 ]. Blackening is possibly a pathological process and burying is said to accelerate it[ 332 ]. The texture is fine; the grain straight or slightly interlocked. The wood is heavy, very hard, strong; very durable, being resistant to fungi, dry wood borers and termites. It seasons slowly, with a high risk of checking or distortion; once dry it is poorly stable in service. The wood is difficult to saw and work, with serious dulling effect on saws and cutting edges - stellite tipped and tungsten carbide tools are recommended; the surfaces take an excellent polish, but picking up of interlocked or curly grain may occur in planing and a reduced cutting angle is recommended; it has a tendency to split upon nailing, and pre-boring is advised; it has good slicing properties, but powerful machines are needed; the gluing properties are satisfactory. The heartwood is valued for black-wood cabinetry, furniture manufacture and high-class carpentry. It is also used for heavy flooring, interior trim, ship building, vehicle bodies, musical instruments (especially the black keys of pianos, but also guitar fingerboards), precision equipment, turnery, carvings, knife-handles and brush backs[ 46 , 299 , 308 , 332 , 774 , 848 ]. The sapwood, and sometimes also the heartwood, is used for poles, posts, vehicle bodies, agricultural implements, toys, novelties, sporting goods, combs, ladders, boxes, crates, crossbows, veneer and plywood[ 299 ]. The wood makes good fuel wood and charcoal[ 303 ].

Special Uses

Coppice  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the dry to moist tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,300 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 16 - 27c, but can tolerate 12 - 34c[ 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 500 - 1,300mm, but tolerates 400 - 1,500mm[ 418 ]. Prefers a sunny position[ 418 ]. Prefers heavy soils[ 303 ]. Prefers rocky soils along seasonal water courses and swamps[ 303 ]. It grows well in moist, red loams, volcanic and loamy sands[ 303 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, tolerating 5 - 7[ 418 ]. Trees can be coppiced[ 303 ]. A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - pre-soak overnight by immersing the seed in hot water which is allowed to cool in order to break dormancy[ 303 ]. They should be sown in flat seed trays filled with river sand. Under ideal conditions seeds germinate within 50 days[ 303 ]. Seedlings are then planted out when they reach the 3-leaf stage because if left longer, the taproot may be damaged when transplanting[ 303 ]. They are rather slow growing initially but the growth rate speeds up considerably after a year[ 303 ]. Young trees do not transplant easily[ 332 ] Seed storage behaviour is orthodox. Viability can be maintained for one season in open storage, but can be maintained for several years in hermetic storage at 3?c with 5-6% mc[ 303 ]. Root suckers.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Betre musie, Chuma, Cum, Cumu, Ekumi, Ekumoit, Gaa, Gar, Gughan, Houang, Jackal berry, M'cheng, Maumwa, Mchenya, Mkululu, Mokutshumo, Msumwa, mu -Koro, Mucula, Mukengia, Muqueue, Murriparipa, Mutona, Nana, Nyelenje, Omwandi, Rhodesian ebony, Swamp ebony, Toma, Umtfoma, Umtoma,

Namibia; Kenya; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Angola; Malawi; Mozambique; Zambia; Zimbabwe; Swaziland; Yemen; Burkina Faso; Eritrea; Botswana; Nigeria; Central African Republic; Benin; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Côte d'Ivoire; Mauritania; Niger; Senegal; Burundi; Cameroon; Ethiopia; Chad; Mali; Sudan; South Sudan; South Africa, Africa, Angola, Australia, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, East Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinée, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Sahel, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Southern Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, West Africa, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Hochst. ex A. DC.

Botanical References

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