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close this bookTraditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)
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View the documentTermitomyces-mushrooms (edible fungi)

Carissa edulis (Forssk.) Vahl

Apocynaceae

Borana: dagams Chonyi: mtandomboo Embu: mukawa Gabra: dagams Giriama: mtandamboo Kamba: mukawa (Machakos, Makueni), mutote (Kitui), ngawa, ndote (fruit), nzunu (fruit, Kitui) Kambe: mtandamboo Kikuyu: mukawa Kipsigis: legetetyet, legetiet Kisii: omonyangateti, Kuria: munyoke Luhya (Bukusu): kumurwa (plant), burwa (fruit) Luhya (Tachoni): oburwa Luo: ochuoga Maa: olamuriaki, ilamuriak (plural) Malakote: mokalakala, kaka-mchangani Marakwet: leketeet (plural), leketetwa (singular), leketetwo Mbeere: mukawa Meru: kamuria, nkawa-mwimbi (fruit) Nandi: legetetwa Pokot: lakatetwa, lokotetwo Rendille: godhoom-boor Samburu: lamuriei, lamuriai Sanya: gurura Somali: adishawel Swahili: mtandamboo Taita: kirimba, ndandangoma Teso: emuriei Tugen: legetetwa

Description: Dense, evergreen, spinous shrub commonly found scrambling on other bushes or, rarely, standing by itself and sending out branches from the main bush. All parts exuding white latex on slight injury. SPINES: Straight, sometimes forked and up to 5 cm long. LEAVES: Broadly ovate to elliptic, glossy green, opposite and with a pointed apex. FLOWERS: Reddish pink outside, white inside as seen when they open. FRUITS: Round or ellipsoid, up to 26 mm in diameter, green, often tinged red or purple when unripe but turning dark purple (almost black) and glossy when ripe. Seeds few, dark brown, often compressed or undeveloped.

Ecology: Widespread in Kenya and much of Africa. Forest edges, bushland and thickets, especially on rocky hillsides. Common in rocky areas, on clay soils, especially black-cotton soils at valley bottoms and near seasonally flooded areas, 0-2,500 m. Rare in the coastal belt. Rainfall: 500-1,800 mm. Zones II-V.

Uses: FOOD: Both the unripe and ripe fruits are eaten whole (+++) (in the case of ripe fruits seeds may be discarded). The unripe fruits (green to purple) taste tart. Ripe fruits delicious-sweet and soft. Much liked by both children and adults. All fruits exude a milky latex. Flowers eaten (Luhya (Bukusu)).

MEDICINAL: The plant is among the most important sources of traditional medicine. Roots boiled and taken with soup to strengthen bones, for general fitness (Kamba, Meru, Pokot, Maasai) and (usually with other plants) for gonorrhoea (Maasai, Samburu, Kikuyu-Nyandarua). Boiled root extract drunk for chest pain (Kamba), indigestion, lower abdominal pains in pregnant mothers (Luo), polio symptoms (Samburu), headache and fever in children (Pokot). Decoction from boiled branches and leaves used for treating breast cancer, headache and chest pains (Nandi).

OTHER: Good goat fodder (+++). Good hedge plant (+++). Ripe fruits used as a dye by children. Silk-moth cocoons occasionally found on the plant.

COMMERCIAL: Fruits occasionally sold in markets.

Management: Seeds sown directly germinate easily. Saplings often grow under parent bushes and may also be used. Cultivated in several parts of the world for its fruit and as a hedge plant.

Status: Locally common. Rare in some parts (coastal areas) and Machakos, Makueni (partly due to over-exploitation for medicinal purposes).


Figure


Figure

Remarks: Carissa edulis is a variable species in Kenya. Variation is seen in the spines (some individual plants have almost all spines forked), fruits (while some are almost spherical, others have a slightly pointed base), leaves (some glabrous while others are hairy, and others conspicuously narrowed towards the apex). Some large fruit-bearing plants are found in parts of Ngong forest and in the Kitui highlands. The germplasm for some of these populations is threatened and hence the need to collect it. The taxonomy and herbarium collections of this species in Kenya (especially as it relates to C. bispinosa, with which it seems to share many features) needs to be clarified. Typically, the petals of C. edulis overlap to the left while those of C. bispinosa overlap to the right.

A related species, C. tetramera (Sad.) Stapf (Swahili: mtandamboo, Digo: mtandamboo, Giriama: mtandamboo, Chonyi: mtandamboo, Kambe: mtandamboo, Sanya: gurura) with forked spines, smaller fruit and slightly toothed leaf margins also has delicious edible fruits. Distribution: Kwale, Kilifi in coastal bushland and wooded grassland, 0-450 m. Propagation: Seed, direct sowing. Season: Flowers in December, January, February, May, June. Fruits in January, February, June, July, August in Nairobi, Kitui, Machakos, Embu.


Carissa tetramera


Carissa bispinosa