|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
syn: V. rotundata Robyns, V. tomentosa, Hochst., V. campanulata sensu Dale & Greenway 1961
Digo: mviru English: false medlar Giriama: mviru, muviru Kamba: mukomoa, muteleli Keiyo: kimolwet Kipsigis: kimolwet, komolik Kisii: omokomoni Luhya (Bukusu): kumukhomoli Luhya (Maragoli): mukhomoli, kumukhomoli, mughomoli Luhya: shikomoli Luo: anyuka (Homa Bay), omuya, apindi (Siaya) Maa: olgumi, olgum (plural), engumi-etari (Loita) Mbeere: mbiruiru, mukomora Meru: mubiru Nandi: kimolwet Pokot: komolwo Samburu: lkoromosyoi, lkoromosien Swahili: mviru Taita: mboghombogho Tugen: kimolik Turkana: emaler
Description: A deciduous, usually multi-stemmed bushy shrub or, less often, a small tree rarely exceeding 5 m. BARK: Smooth and grey. LEAVES: Opposite, large, dark green (light green beneath), soft and covered with minute hairs, especially on the veins. Minute growths on the surface often present. FLOWERS: Up to 5 mm long, green or greenish white, borne on a branched inflorescence. FRUITS: Up to 4.5 cm across, shiny dark green, spherical or nearly so and with a circular scar at the tip left by drying floral parts. Ripe fruits greenish brown and soft. Dry fruit brown, grooved like a pumpkin.
Ecology: Widespread in Kenya and also found in Tanzania and Uganda. In Kenya, e.g. on the south-eastern slopes of Mt Elgon and in Kibwezi, Machakos and Nairobi in a wide range of habitats. Bushland, especially along streams, dry forests, fringing forest, woodland, grassland with scattered trees, rocky bushland, 10-2,450 m. Does well in open as well as partially shaded areas, especially under acacias. Prefers well-drained soils, especially sandy, rocky and light clay, but can occasionally be found in places that are briefly waterlogged during the rainy season.
Uses: FOOD: The ripe fruits are much relished. The tough brown elastic skin of the ripe fruit encloses a brown edible mealy pulp and about four seeds. This pulp is sucked and the skin and seeds discarded. Pulp used to be added to milk or water to make a kind of porridge given to children (Maasai). Mature unripe fruits may be picked and kept to ripen. Dry fruits may be stored for over a year without much loss of the sweet-acid taste. Soaking fruits overnight softens them once more. The tough outer skin offers good protection.
OTHER: Shade, fuelwood, stirrers, poles (centre pole for huts) (Kamba). Stems are tough and used as handles for hoes and small implements, and for building temporary structures. Fruits were used by children to make tops (Makueni). The large dark green leaves give the plant an attractive appearance and hence its use as an ornamental. A major disadvantage is that it sheds its leaves at times of acute water stress. Leaves are occasionally browsed by animals but are not a favourite.
Management: Naturally propagated through seeds and root suckers. Seeds germinate in about 3-4 weeks. Scarification of the hard seed coat may enhance the germination rate. The plant may also be propagated through cuttings but the success rate is low. If planted near the home, it will act as a shade and ornamental tree as well as providing a source of fruit, and the leaf litter improves the condition of the soil. Vangueria infausta is quick growing-healthy plants may fruit in about three years. Mature Vangueria plants should be pruned occasionally. Preferably, one or two branches should be maintained. In cropland this is necessary to avoid over-shading crops.
Season: Flowers are normally produced just before or during the rainy season in October-December and April-June. Generally fruits are ready in April-May (Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Makueni, Kiambu, Embu) and August-October (West Pokot, Samburu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Trans Nzoia, Baringo). Local variations in climate may affect the seasonality of this species.
Status: Locally common.
Remarks: ssp. infausta is found in Rwanda, Tanzania and south to South Africa.