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Ptaeroxylon obliquum - (Thunb.) Radlk.

Common Name Sneezewood
Family Rutaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The wood dust is very irritating and may cause violent sneezing[299 ]. Highly irritant, aromatic peppery oils, containing nieshoutol, are produced by the wood, causing violent sneezing by woodworkers after sawing or sanding[295 ].
Habitats Dry evergreen forest, often together with Podocarpus and Juniperus, and in bushland, at elevations from sea-level up to 2,000 metres[299].
Range Southern Africa - Tanzania, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland and S. Africa.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Ptaeroxylon obliquum Sneezewood

Ptaeroxylon obliquum Sneezewood


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Sneezewood. A tree 20-30 ft. high: lvs. opposite; lfts. ovate-oblong, obtuse, mucronulate: racemes shorter than the leaves. Said to grow up to 50 ft. with a trunk 2-4 ft. diam. and a beautiful crown. The wood is extremely heavy and hard, strong and close-grained, very durable in contact with the ground and easily split. Among its uses are for piles of bridges and jetties, fence-posts and recently for wood-engraving. It is said to turn readily even when green and to take a fine polish like mahogany. The seeds have short vitality.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Ptaeroxylon obliquum is a deciduous Shrub growing to 20 m (65ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Harrisonia lentiscoides (Engl.) Boas Kirkia lentiscoides Engl. Ptaeroxylon utile Eckl. & Zeyh. Rhus


Edible Uses

None known


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.

The wood has the scent of pepper and causes sneezing[46 ]. The bark, the sawdust and the smoke from burning wood are used as a snuff against headache[46 , 299 ]. Bark and wood infusions are considered remedies for rheumatism, arthritis and heart complaints[299 ]. The wood resin is applied to warts and is used to kill ticks on cattle[299 ]. A tea made from the twigs is used against urinary complaints[299 ]. The wood and leaves contain chromones and other phenolic compounds. Some of these, methylalloptaeroxylin and perforatin A, showed antihypertensive effects; 7-Hydroxychromones have anti-oxidant activity[299 ]. The tree lacks limonoids, which are commonly found in Rutaceae[299 ]. An alkaloid isolated from the bark showed cardiac-depressant activity[299 ]. Dichloromethane extracts of roots, leaves and stems showed moderate in-vitro antiplasmodial activity[299 ].


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Other Uses

The wood chips are used to repel moths from clothes[46 , 299 ]. The smoke from burning wood is used as traditional pesticide for stored grain[299 ]. The resin can be used as an insecticide[364 ]. The heartwood is rose-red to dark red, changing to orange-brown or golden brown on exposure, and distinctly demarcated from the pale grey, narrow sapwood[299 ]. The grain is wavy, texture fine[299 ]. The wood is hard, heavy, tough, dense and close-grained, it has a satiny lustre and a strong peppery smell[46 , 299 ]. The wood is extremely durable and resistant to termite, Lyctus and marine borer attacks[299 ]. Taking into account its hardness, the wood is not difficult to saw, but it is difficult to work because of its wavy grain. However, it can be finished to a smooth and lustrous surface. The turning properties are excellent. Pre-boring before nailing is necessary. Gluing is difficult[299 ]. The wood is highly valued for furniture and for poles in house building. In Mozambique it is favoured for making the keys of traditional xylophones, and for this purpose it is baked in an oven. It has also been used for railway sleepers and durable fence posts. It is suitable for heavy construction including marine works, heavy flooring, vehicle bodies, handles, sporting goods, implements, toys, novelties, precision equipment, carving, pattern making, vats and turnery[46 , 299 ]. When used as machine bearings, sneezewood often wears longer than brass or iron[295 ]. The wood contains an oil that makes it very inflammable - as well as being used as a fuel, it is employed as a tinder and is used to produce fire by friction[46 , 299 ]. The wood is reported to 'burn like paraffin'- giving a bright, hot fire[295 ].

Special Uses


Cultivation details

A plant of tropical and subtropical areas, where it is found at elevations from sea level to about 2,000 metres[299 ]. Tolerates moderate levels of frost[299 ]. Thrives best in shale or lime soils, though it also succeeds in well-drained sandy or rocky soils[299 ]. Established plants are drought tolerant[299 ]. The tree grows moderately fast, achieving annual increments of 40 - 100cm in height under good conditions[299 ]. Trees can be managed by coppicing, showing regrowth in about 75% of cut stems[299 ]. Natural regeneration often occurs in forest margins, but saplings have also been recorded in Pinus plantations in South Africa. Regeneration may be abundant after severe opening of the forest canopy, and seedlings may cover the bare forest floor after disturbance[299 ]. Dioecious, both male and female forms need to be grown if seed is required.


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Seed - pre-treatment before sowing is not necessary. The seed can be sown in an equal mixture of river sand and compost, and should be covered by a thin layer of sand. The germination rate of fresh seed is generally high, but seeds lose their viability rapidly, within a few months. It is recommended to transplant seedlings when they have 3 leaves[299 ]. Root suckers can also be used for propagation[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

motsane, munari-mulari, munukha-vhalo,i ndazi, ndzari, niesholz, nieshout, ombungululu, omfilu, omtata, omumbungururu, paku, sneezewood, tati, teheteheratane, thate, ubhaqu, umbengahonye, umbungurulu, umnembu, umpafa, umpahla, umtati, umthathe, umthathi, umthati, umthothe.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Angola; Botswana; Mozambique; Namibia; Tanzania, United Republic of; Zimbabwe; South Africa; Swaziland

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

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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Expert comment


(Thunb.) Radlk.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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