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close this bookTraditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)
close this folderSpecies accounts
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcacia drepanolobium Sjöstedt
View the documentAcacia hockii De Wild.
View the documentAcacia nilotica (L.) Del.
View the documentAcacia senegal (L.) Willd.
View the documentAcacia seyal Del.
View the documentAcacia tortilis (Forssk.) Hayne
View the documentAcokanthera schimperi (A. DC.) Schweinf.
View the documentAdansonia digitata L.
View the documentAerva lanata (L.) Schultes
View the documentAlbizia amara (Roxb.) Boivin
View the documentAmaranthus blitum L.*
View the documentAmaranthus dubius Mart. ex Thell.*
View the documentAmaranthus graecizans L.
View the documentAmaranthus hybridus L.*
View the documentAmaranthus sparganiocephalus Thell.
View the documentAmaranthus spinosus L.*
View the documentAnnona senegalensis Pers. ssp. senegalensis
View the documentAntidesma venosum Tul.
View the documentAsystasia gangetica (L.) T. Anders.
View the documentAsystasia mysorensis (Roth) T. Anders.
View the documentAzanza garckeana (F. Hoffm.) Exell & Hillcoat
View the documentBalanites aegyptiaca (L.) Del.
View the documentBalanites pedicellaris Mildbr. & Schlecht.
View the documentBalanites rotundifolia (Van Tiegh.) Blatter
View the documentBasella alba L.
View the documentBerchemia discolor (Klotzsch) Hemsley
View the documentBorassus aethiopum Mart.
View the documentBoscia coriacea Pax
View the documentBoswellia neglecta S. Moore
View the documentBrassica carinata A. Br.
View the documentBridelia taitensis Vatke & Pax
View the documentCajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.
View the documentCanthium glaucum Hiern
View the documentCanthium lactescens Hiern
View the documentCarissa edulis (Forssk.) Vahl
View the documentCatha edulis Forssk.
View the documentCitrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Mansf.
View the documentCleome gynandra L.
View the documentCoccinia grandis (L.) Voigt
View the documentCoffea arabica L.
View the documentCommelina africana L.
View the documentCommelina benghalensis L.
View the documentCommelina forskaolii Vahl
View the documentCommiphora africana (A. Rich.) Engl.
View the documentCommiphora rostrata Engl.
View the documentCommiphora schimperi (O. Berg) Engl.
View the documentCorchorus olitorius L.
View the documentCorchorus trilocularis L.
View the documentCordia monoica Roxb.
View the documentCordia sinensis Lam.
View the documentCrotalaria brevidens Benth.
View the documentCrotalaria ochroleuca G. Don
View the documentCucumis dipsaceus Spach
View the documentCyperus blysmoides C. B. Cl.
View the documentCyphia glandulifera A. Rich.
View the documentDactyloctenium aegyptium (L.) Willd.
View the documentDactyloctenium giganteum Fischer & Schweick.
View the documentDialium holtzii Harms
View the documentDialium orientale Bak. f.
View the documentDigera muricata (L.) Mart.
View the documentDioscorea bulbifera L.
View the documentDioscorea dumetorum (Kunth) Pax
View the documentDioscorea minutiflora Engl.
View the documentDiospyros mespiliformis A. DC.
View the documentDobera glabra (Forssk.) Poir.
View the documentDovyalis abyssinica (A. Rich.) Warb.
View the documentDovyalis macrocalyx (Oliver) Warb.
View the documentEleusine coracana Gaertn.
View the documentEragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter
View the documentEriosema shirense Bak. f.
View the documentErucastrum arabicum Fisch. & Meyer
View the documentEuclea divinorum Hiern
View the documentFicus sycomorus L.
View the documentFicus thonningii Bl.
View the documentFlacourtia indica (Burm. f.) Merr.
View the documentFlueggea virosa (Willd.) J. Voigt
View the documentGarcinia livingstonei T. Anderson
View the documentGrewia bicolor Juss.
View the documentGrewia tembensis Fres.
View the documentGrewia tenax (Forssk.) Fiori
View the documentGrewia villosa Willd.
View the documentHoslundia opposita Vahl
View the documentHydnora abyssinica Schweinf.
View the documentHyphaene compressa H. Wendl.
View the documentHyphaene coriacea Gaertner
View the documentIpomoea aquatica Forssk.
View the documentIpomoea lapathifolia Hall. f.
View the documentIpomoea longituba Hall. f.
View the documentIpomoea mombassana Vatke
View the documentIpomoea oenotherae (Vatke) Hall. f.
View the documentKedrostis pseudogijef (Gilg) C. Jeffrey
View the documentKigelia pinnata (Jacq.) DC.
View the documentLablab purpureus (L.) Sweet
View the documentLagenaria siceraria (Molina) Standley
View the documentLandolphia buchananii Stapf
View the documentLandolphia kirkii Dyer
View the documentLannea alata (Engl.) Engl.
View the documentLannea edulis (Sond.) Engl.
View the documentLannea rivae (Chiov.) Sacleux
View the documentLannea schimperi (A. Rich.) Engl.
View the documentLannea triphylla (A. Rich.) Engl.
View the documentLantana trifolia L.
View the documentLaunaea cornuta (Oliv. & Hiern) Jeffr.
View the documentLeptadenia hastata (Pers.) Decne.
View the documentLippia carviodora Meikle
View the documentLippia kituiensis Vatke
View the documentMaerua decumbens (Brongn.) De Wolf
View the documentManilkara mochisia (Baker) Dubard
View the documentManilkara sansibarensis (Engl.) Dubard
View the documentManilkara sulcata (Engl.) Dubard
View the documentMeyna tetraphylla (Hiern) Robyns
View the documentMimusops fruticosa Bojer
View the documentMimusops kummel A. DC.
View the documentMomordica rostrata A. Zimm.
View the documentMondia whitei (Hook. f.) Skeels
View the documentMoringa oleifera Lam.
View the documentMyrianthus holstii Engl.
View the documentNymphaea nouchali Burm. f. var. caerulea (Savigny) Verdc.
View the documentOxygonum sinuatum (Meisn.) Dammer
View the documentPachystigma schumannianum (Robyns) Bridson & Verdc.
View the documentPappea capensis Eckl. & Zeyh.
View the documentParinari curatellifolia Planch. ex Benth.
View the documentPennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.
View the documentPhoenix reclinata Jacq.
View the documentPiliostigma thonningii (Schum.) Milne-Redh.
View the documentPortulaca oleracea L.
View the documentRhus natalensis Krauss
View the documentRhus tenuinervis Engl.
View the documentRhus vulgaris Meikle
View the documentRubus apetalus Poir.
View the documentRubus pinnatus Willd.
View the documentRubus volkensii Engl.
View the documentRumex usambarensis (Damm.) Damm.
View the documentSaba comorensis (Bojer) Pichon
View the documentSalacia madagascariensis (Lam.) DC.
View the documentSalvadora persica L.
View the documentSclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Hochst.
View the documentScutia myrtina (Burm. f.) Kurz
View the documentSesamum calycinum Welw.
View the documentSesamum orientale L.
View the documentSolanum nigrum L.
View the documentSorghum bicolor (L.) Moench
View the documentSorindeia madagascariensis DC.
View the documentStathmostelma propinquum (N. E. Br) Schltr.
View the documentStrychnos henningsii Gilg
View the documentStrychnos madagascariensis Poir.
View the documentStrychnos spinosa Lam.
View the documentSyzygium cordatum Krauss
View the documentSyzygium guineense (Willd.) DC.
View the documentTamarindus indica L.
View the documentThylachium thomasii Gilg
View the documentTylosema fassoglense (Schweinf.) Torre and Hillc.
View the documentUrtica massaica Mildbr.
View the documentUvaria acuminata Oliv.
View the documentUvaria scheffleri Diels.
View the documentVangueria apiculata K. Schum.
View the documentVangueria infausta Burch. ssp. rotundata (Robyns) Verdc.
View the documentVangueria madagascariensis Gmel.
View the documentVangueria volkensii K. Schum. var. volkensii
View the documentVatovaea pseudolablab (Harms) J. B. Gillett
View the documentVernonia cinerea Less.
View the documentVigna friesiorum Harms var. angustifolia Verdc.
View the documentVigna membranacea A. Rich.
View the documentVigna subterranea (L.) Verdc.
View the documentVigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.
View the documentVitex doniana Sweet
View the documentVitex ferruginea Schum. & Thonn.
View the documentVitex mombassae Vatke
View the documentVitex payos (Lour.) Merr.
View the documentXimenia americana L
View the documentZanthoxylum chalybeum Engl. var. chalybeum
View the documentZiziphus abyssinica A. Rich.
View the documentZiziphus mauritiana Lam.
View the documentZiziphus mucronata Willd.
View the documentTermitomyces-mushrooms (edible fungi)

Balanites aegyptiaca (L.) Del.


Borana: baddan Digo: mwambangoma English: desert date Gabra: baddana Ilchamus: lowei, Iowa Kamba: mulului, kilului Kambe: mkonga Keiyo: ng'osonaik, ng'oswet, ng'osyet (fruit) Kipsigis: ng'oswet Luo: otho, othoo Maa: olokwai, ilokwa (fruits), olng'oswa, osaragi Malakote: mubadana Marakwet: tuyun, tuyunwo (plural) Mbeere: mububua Orma: baddan Pokot: tuyunwo Sabaot: chuuandet Samburu: lowvai, lowwai Somali: kullan (Tana River) Swahili: mjunju, mchunju Taita: kiwowa Teso: echomai Tharaka: mubuubua Tugen: ngonswo, ngoswa Turkana: eroronyit

Description: A much-branched spiny shrub or tree up to 10 m high. Crown rounded, dense (but still can be seen through, cf. B. glabra which has a more dense crown and long stout branchlets). BARK: Trunk grey, deeply fissured longitudinally. Branchlets green, with (or without) long straight green spines (up to 10 cm). LEAVES: With a conspicuous petiole to 2 cm long, two leaflets, usually small, greyish green, normally shed in severe drought. FLOWERS: Small, greenish yellow, in leaf axils. FRUITS: Ellipsoid, up to 4 cm long, green. Ripe fruit brown or pale brown with a brittle coat enclosing a brown or brown green sticky pulp. Seed a hard stone.

Ecology: An important tree found from West and North Africa south to Zimbabwe and Angola from arid and semi-arid regions to sub-humid savannah. Found in many parts of Kenya, e.g. in Lambwe valley and Kaputei plains, but rare in the coastal zone. Pound at 250-2,000 m in bushland and wooded grassland. A common tree in open grassland with black-cotton soil. Soils: Mainly red and black-cotton clay. Zones IV-VI.

Uses: FOOD: Ripe fruit is edible (++). The brown fruit shell, which is readily detached from the pulp, is removed. The brown pulp is sucked and the seed discarded. It has a sweet taste, rather bitter nearer the seed. Young leaves and tender shoots are used as a vegetable (Pokot, Turkana, Tugen, Marakwet, Keiyo, Ilchamus). The vegetable is boiled (water may be changed), pounded then fried or mixed with fat (Pokot, Marakwet). Seeds (with shell) or cotyledons (shell removed) are boiled for 2-3 hours and the bean-like cotyledons eaten (Pokot, Tugen, Marakwet). Gum is edible (Maasai). Elsewhere the seeds are a source of oil.

MEDICINAL: Decoction of roots is used for the treatment of malaria (Pokot). Roots boiled in soup used for oedema (sir) and stomach pains (Pokot). Roots are used as an emetic (Pokot). Bark infusion used to treat heartburn (Machakos).

OTHER: Fuelwood, charcoal (+++). Wood hard, durable, worked easily and made into yokes, wooden spoons, pestles, mortars, handles, stools, combs. Resin from stems used to stick feathers on to arrow shafts (Pokot, Turkana) and spear heads on to shafts (Pokot, Maasai, Turkana, Kipsigis), and repair cracks in tool handles, arrows, etc. (Turkana, Pokot). Branches used for fencing. Bark used as fish poison. Animal fodder (++). Elsewhere fruits are used as poison to kill some stages of the bilharzia fluke in water. Even a few are effective. Activity has been reported in other Balanites species, and B. maughamii of southern Africa, with forked spines, is reportedly even more potent.

CULTURAL/BELIEFS: Fire made using this tree used to warm beer gourds for elders (Mbeere).



Season: Fresh new leaves in July-August (West Pokot). Fruits in March-April (Machakos, Kitui, Kajiado).

Management: Propagated by planting seed directly or by raising seedlings in a nursery.

Status: Common.

Remarks: The name olng'oswa (Maa) is mainly used for B. glabra Mildbr. & Schlecht., an evergreen, much-branched dense bush, shrub or small tree 2-4 m high. Branches green, drooping. Spines thick, long, to 10 cm or more. LEAVES: Usually without a conspicuous petiole and usually with two almost round fleshy looking leaflets. FLOWERS: Greenish yellow. FRUITS: Shortly ellipsoid, with light green longitudinal lines. The plant is common in Kajiado and Kaputei plains at 1,400-1,800 m on black soil. The commonest Balanites around Athi River. Ripe fruit pulp is sweet, juicy and eaten (Maasai) but is said to be mildly poisonous, causing a feverish feeling, stomach-ache and even diarrhoea (Maasai). B. wilsoniana Dawe & Sprague (Swahili: mtonga, Giriama: mkonga, Kamba: kivuw'a) is a large, extremely thorny tree (when young) up to 10 m tall. It is only found in the coastal area and in Kibwezi forest. Its leaves and fruits are larger than those of the other Kenyan Balanites species. Fruits are edible. The plant is often infested with caterpillars (maungu) which are collected for food by the Giriama.

Balanites wilsoniana

Balanites glabra

Balanites glabra