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Vitex doniana - Sweet

Common Name Black Plum
Family Lamiaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The sawdust from the wood has been known to cause dermatitis[299 ].
Habitats Dense forest, wooded savannah, coastal savannah, galleried soudanian and riverine thickets[332 ]. A deciduous forest tree of coastal woodland, riverine and lowland forests and deciduous woodland, extending as high as upland grassland[303 ].
Range Tropical Africa - Senegal to the Sudan, south to Angola, Zambia 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 Semi-shade Full sun
Vitex doniana Black Plum

Vitex doniana Black Plum


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Vitex doniana, or commonly known as Black Plum, is a deciduous flowering tree growing up to 20 m in height in tropical Africa. It has a heavy rounded crown. The clear trunk can be up to 1m across and is covered with pale brown or gray white bark that has long cracks sticky ridges. The leathery and shiny leaves are opposite and arranged like the fingers on a hand with five leaflets. The creamy with one hairy violet lobe flowers are fragrant and occur in clusters of up to 20 on a long stalk. The fruit is smooth and oblong, green marked with white dots, and turn black when ripe. The fruits can be eaten raw or cooked, or made into a jam or wine. A syrup can be made from the pulp of the fruit which can be used as a nutritive sweeten. Young twigs and leaves are consumed as a vegetable. Leaves can be pounded and added to warm filtered grain beer and then drunk. It can also be used as a substitute for tea. The seeds, on the other hand, are roasted and used to make a coffee-like drink. Black plum is used in traditional medicine for dysentery, diarrhea, anemia, jaundice, leprosy, gonorrhea, ankylostomiasis, rickets, fevers, respiratory diseases, headache, stiffness, measles, rash, chickenpox, hemiplegia, conjunctivitis, wounds, burns, colic, leprosy, etc. Dried fruits, young leaves, and bark produce an ink. The twigs are used s chewing stick for teeth cleaning. Dried seeds yield oil which can be used for skin cream, resin, and paint production. The wood is used for light building material, furniture, carvings, and boats. It also makes a good fuel and charcoal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Vitex doniana is a deciduous Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Sunbirds.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Vitex cienkowskii Kotschy & Peyr. Vitex cuneata Thonn. Vitex divaricata Baker Vitex paludosa Vatke

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Seed  Shoots
Edible Uses: Coffee  Condiment  Drink  Sweetener  Tea

Fruit - raw, cooked, candied etc[299 , 335 ]. A sweet flavour with a mealy texture, it tastes a bit like prunes[303 , 323 , 335 ]. It contains vitamins A and B and can be made into a jam[303 ]. The jam is of good quality, somewhat like plum jam but better for spreading[299 ]. A syrup made from the fruit pulp can be used instead of other syrups as a nutritive sweetener[299 ]. The black fruit is about 2cm long[335 ]. The fruit can be made into a wine[303 ]. Wine obtained from controlled fermentation had 10.5% alcohol content, and wine obtained from spontaneous fermentation 5%[299 ]. Young twigs and leaves are an esteemed vegetable[299 , 317 ]. The leaves are often used as a herb for cooking[303 ]. The pounded leaves can be added to warm filtered grain beer and then drunk[303 ]. It is said to make them stronger[299 ]. Seeds[299 ]. The seeds are roasted and used to make a coffee-like drink[323 ]. The leaves can be used as a tea substitute[301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Anodyne  Antidiarrhoeal  Dysentery  Febrifuge  Galactogogue  Hypotensive  Leprosy  Odontalgic  
Ophthalmic  Skin  Tonic

The plant is often used in traditional medicine. Modern research has shown that the plant has a range of actions upon the body. Consumption of large amounts of the fruits has been shown to cause a transient reduction in reproductive functioning in female olive baboons. The presence of progestogen-like compounds in the fruit has been suggested as the probable cause[299 ]. An aqueous extract of the stem bark has been shown to produce a dose-dependant hypotensive effect and to also be hepato-protective[299 ]. Stem bark extracts can inhibit the growth of clinical isolates of Salmonella typhi, Shigella dysenteriae and Escherichia coli, suggesting that they may be valuable in the treatment of dysentery and other gastroenteritic infections[299 ]. The fruit is used to improve fertility and to treat anaemia, jaundice, leprosy and dysentery[303 ]. Both the dried and the fresh fruits are eaten as a treatment against diarrhoea[299 ] The root is anodyne[299 ]. A decoction is used to treat gonorrhoea, ankylostomiasis, rickets, gastro-intestinal disorders and jaundice[299 , 303 ]. A decoction of the root is drunk by women to treat backaches[303 ]. The leaves are anodyne, febrifuge, galactagogue and tonic[299 ]. A decoction is taken internally as a tonic and to treat fevers and respiratory diseases[299 ]. It is applied externally to increase milk flow and as a treatment for headache, stiffness, measles, rash, fever, chickenpox and hemiplegia[299 ]. The young tender leaves are pounded and the juice squeezed into the eyes to treat conjunctivitis and other eye troubles[299 , 303 ]. A paste made from the pounded leaves and bark is applied to wounds and burns[299 ]. The powdered bark is added to water and then taken to treat colic[299 ]. A bark extract is used to treat stomach complaints, kidney troubles, leprosy, liver diseases, and to control bleeding after childbirth[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Dye  Friction sticks  Fuel  Furniture  Ink  Mulch  Pioneer  Resin  Soil conditioner  Teeth  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: The heavy rounded crown provides good shade[303 ]. The tree has nitrogen-fixing roots and this, combined with the leaf fall, contributes to the improvement of soil fertility[299 , 303 ]. The leaves can be used for mulch[303 ]. The tree has some potential for use as a pioneer species - in Central Africa it is often the first species to establish when gallery forests evolve in low-lying areas in the savannah[299 ]. Other Uses An ink is produced from the dried fruits, young leaves and bark[317 ]. The blackish extract obtained by boiling the leaves, bark, roots and/or fruits is used as ink and as a dye for clothes[299 , 303 ]. The twigs are used as chewing sticks for teeth cleaning[299 ]. An aqueous extract of the chewing sticks has been shown to exhibit strong activity against a wide spectrum of bacteria including medically and dentally relevant bacteria, although the extracts of chewing sticks from Garcinia kola and Anogeissus leiocarpa had broader and generally stronger effects. This supports the traditional use of these chewing sticks with reported anticaries effect[299 ]. The dried seeds yield about 30% oil[299 ]. The oil has high iodine and low saponification values and can be used for skin cream, resin and paint production[299 ]. The wood is said to be used as friction sticks to start a fire[323 ]. The heartwood is creamy white to pale brown, yellowish brown or greyish brown; it is indistinctly demarcated from the 25 - 60mm wide sapwood[299 ]. The grain is straight to wavy or interlocked; texture moderately fine to moderately coarse. The wood resembles teak; it is medium-weight and soft; usually not durable, although good durability has also been reported, especially resistance against termites[299 , 303 ]. It is easy to saw and work with hand and machine tools; it often planes to a silky or furry surface due to the presence of interlocked grain; it nails well with little splitting, but it does not always hold nails well. Veneer of good quality can be produced, but the logs are often too irregular to be suitable for rotary peeling. The wood is often too soft for turnery[299 ]. It is suitable for light building material, furniture, carvings and boats[303 ]. The wood makes a good fuel and is also used to make charcoal[303 , 323 ].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Black plum is a plant of hot, tropical climates where it is found at elevations from near sea level to 1,850 metres[303 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 14 - 28°c, but can tolerate 10 - 36°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 750 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 600 - 2,500mm[418 ]. Grows best in a sunny position[418 ]. Occurs on a variety of well-drained soils of varying origins, usually alluvial soils[303 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7, tolerating 5 - 7.5[418 ]. The growth rate is moderate. In plantations in northern Cote d'Ivoire, seedlings were on average 70 - 90cm tall after 3 years, the tallest ones reaching 170cm[299 ]. On good soils in southern Burkina Faso early growth is a bit faster[299 ]. Trees respond well to coppicing and also produce root suckers[303 , 323 ]. The fruit falls from the trees when it is ripe. It is not damaged by this fall so people generally harvest from under the tree rather than picking it from the tree[323 ]. The flowers are extremely attractive to bees[323 ]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - The seed has a hard coat, which slows down germination. Any pre-treatment would be to soften or abrade this seed coat and allow the ingress of water[303 ]. This can either be done by soaking the seed in hot water that is allowed to cool - if the seed has not shown signs of swelling within 12 - 24 hours then remove from the water and abrade the seedcoat, being careful not to damage the seed below[K ]. It is thought forest fires help in inducing germination because they help break the hard seedcoat[303 ]. The treated seed is said to germinate easily - it can be raised in a nursery and transplanted, or can be sown in situ[323 ]. Root suckers[323 ]. Cuttings[323 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Afua, Bessapale, Boye, Bugia, Bukinke, Bume, Cetona-preta, Cetona, Cutobulo, Dhumnia, 'Dinya, Ekarukei, Ekarukei, Elumutuke, Evoula, Ewelu, Galbije, Gua, Juguet, Jwelo, Kalembe, Mangua, Mbindimbi, Mfudu, Mfudwe, Mfula, Mfuru, Mfuu, Mhulu, Mkhulu, Mpindimbi, Mpitimbi, Mpyumbya, Msimpsya, Mtonongoli, mu -Buru, Mufuru, Mufutu, Muholu, Mukoga, Muni, Munsopane, Muri, Mutahuru, N'bumbo, Ngaribi, Nrindimbi, Omufuto, Oyelu, Oywelo, Oywelu, Prumier-noir, Silanri, Ubumbo, Ubunvo, Uchakoro, Uruziroziro, Vetona-pequeno, black plum, bois mozambique, kiputu, kumufutu, mburu, mfudu, mfulu, mfuru, mfuu, mfuzu, mgobe, mkoga, mpindimbi, mpuru, mu-buru, mufita, mufutu, mukoronto, mutahuru, oori-nla.

Guinea-Bissau; Guinea; Sierra Leone; Côte d'Ivoire; Ghana; Mali; Burkina Faso; Togo; Benin; Nigeria; Chad; Cameroon; Equatorial Guinea; Gabon; Ethiopia; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Congo; Angola; Kenya; Uganda; Tanzania, United Republic of; Zambia, Africa, Botswana, Cameroon, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Congo R, Côte d'Ivoire, East Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinée, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sahel, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Southern Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, West Africa, 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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