Syzygium cordatum



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Syzygium cordatum

Myrtaceae

Hochst. ex Krauss

 umdoni


flower cluster (Trade winds fruit)

Unripe fruit (Trade winds fruit)

LOCAL NAMES

 Afrikaans (waterbessie); Bemba (mufinsa,mukute,mushingu); English 

(water-berry tree,water tree,waterwood); Lozi (mutoya); Luganda 

(kanzironziro,kalunginsanvu,muziti); Lunda (musombo); Nyanja 

(mwenye,nyowe,msombo,mchisu,katope); Swahili (mzambarau wa mwitu); 

Tongan (katope); Trade name (umdoni); Zulu (umDoni)

BOTANIC DESCRIPTION

Syzygium cordatum is a medium-sized tree, 6-15 (max. 20) m in height; 

dwarf forms 30-45 cm high have been reported; young trunks banded and 

blotched in grey and white and are fairly smooth; in old trees the bark is 

dark brown, light grey or reddish, thick, rough, fissured and can be pulled 

off in thick, corklike, square pieces; young stems squarish with winged 

edges.

Leaves very many, near the ends of branches, thick, leathery, smooth, 



opposite, elliptic, oval or almost circular, up to 2.5-13 x 1.9-8 (17) cm, 

bluish-green on top, paler green under, gland dots inconspicuous; apex 

bluntly pointed to rounded; base round and notched; margin entire and 

often wavy; petiole absent or extremely short; midrib lateral with 

conspicuous net veins; usually stalkless but may occasionally have short 

stalks, in which case they may be confused with those of S. guineense; 

new foliage is bright red.

Buds sturdy, in dense, branched terminal sprays, their round shiny pink 

tops appearing just above the smooth, green calyx. Open into creamy 

white to pinkish, sweetly scented flowers that yield excellent, abundant 

nectar; petals fall early, leaving the stamens forming an airy puff; stamens 

the most conspicuous feature, in dense heads, about 2-2.5 (max. 10) cm 

in diameter at the ends of branches; filaments 10-15 mm long.

Fruit an ovoid, fleshy berry, about 1.3-1.5 cm, slightly oblong, deep pink, 

purple or purple-black when mature, ellipsoid with a permanent calyx on 

top, 10-18 mm long; inside the fruit is a single, whitish seed.

The genus name, ‘Syzygium’, is derived from the Greek word ‘syzgios’ 

(paired), on account of the leaves and twigs that in several species grow 

at the same point; the specific name is the Latin word ‘cordatus’, meaning 

‘heart-shaped’, in reference to the heart-shaped base of the leaves.

BIOLOGY

S. cordatum hybridizes freely with S. guineense and S. gerrardii where 



they occur together. Flowers bloom from spring to winter and are popular 

with bees and other insects, which are the pollinating agents. The fruits is 

eaten by numerous animal species that act as the dispersal agents for the 

seeds.


Foliage with flowers and fruit cluster (Trade 

winds fruit)



Page 1 of 5

Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)

Syzygium cordatum

Myrtaceae

Hochst. ex Krauss

 umdoni


ECOLOGY

S. cordatum is common near fresh water or along fresh watercourses. It occurs in lowlands as well as medium- to high-

latitude forests, along stream banks and in riverine thickets. The tree is believed to indicate underground water and is 

strongly fire resistant. Trunk is forked and towards the coast it is often luxuriant looking, and is sparser inland in rocky 

places. In Natal, S. cordatum is an indicator of areas suitable for sugarcane farming. The tree is resistant to cold but not 

frost, and it is a protected species in South Africa.

BIOPHYSICAL LIMITS

Mean annual rainfall:  750-1 200 mm

Altitude: 0-1 800 m

DOCUMENTED SPECIES DISTRIBUTION

The map above shows countries where the species has been planted. It does neither 

suggest that the species can be planted in every ecological zone within that country

nor that the species can not be planted in other countries than those depicted. Since 

some tree species are invasive, you need to follow  biosafety procedures that apply to 

your planting site. 

Exotic range

Native range

Botswana, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, 

Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, 

Uganda, Zambia

Native:

Exotic:


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Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)

Syzygium cordatum

Myrtaceae

Hochst. ex Krauss

 umdoni


The map above shows countries where the species has been planted. It does neither 

suggest that the species can be planted in every ecological zone within that country, 

nor that the species can not be planted in other countries than those depicted. Since 

some tree species are invasive, you need to follow  biosafety procedures that apply to 

your planting site. 

PRODUCTS


Food:  The bitter-tasting fresh fruit is eaten raw or used to make an alcoholic drink. A good quality jelly can be cooked 

from the ripe fruit.

Fodder:  The leaves are browsed by game (kudu, nyala, bushbuck and grey duiker), and they eat the ripe fruit.

Apiculture:  Flowers are popular with bees, which results in a very good honey flow.

Fuel:  S. cordatum is popular as a source of firewood and charcoal.

Timber:  The light, reddish-brown to greyish wood is medium hard, heavy (750 kg/cubic m) and works well but should 

be water seasoned. It is used for good quality furniture, window frames, beams and rafters and, being durable in water, 

it is especially suitable for boat building.

Tannin or dyestuff:  A blue dye can be obtained from the bark.

Poison:  Pieces of the bark or powdered bark are used as a fish poison for catching small fish in small ponds; it turns 

the water bluish for up to 3 days.

Medicine:  Roots and bark are boiled and the decoction is used as a remedy for indigestion and giddiness; an extract of 

the leaves is used as a purgative or diarrhoea treatment.

SERVICES


Erosion control:  S. cordatum can withstand extended periods of waterlogging and can be used to stabilize river and 

stream banks.

Shade or shelter:  S. cordatum provides the much-needed shade and shelter for domestic stock and game on the farm.

Ornamental:  S. cordatum, with its evergreen glossy leaves, abundant, creamish-white flowers and blackish fruit, is an 

asset to any garden.

Boundary or barrier or support:  S. cordatum makes an effective screen plant in a shrubbery.

Other services:  Milk gourds are seasoned by the pleasantly aromatic wood smoke of S. cordatum. The tree is used in 

magic.


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Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)

Syzygium cordatum

Myrtaceae

Hochst. ex Krauss

 umdoni


TREE MANAGEMENT

Pollarding is practised to produce close, rounded heads of young branches. Groves of this tree should be planted 

around water points, springs or on banks of streams or rivers. This is one of southern Africa’s fastest growing trees (up 

to 1m/year), with a rather aggressive root system. If there is limited space, trees can be grown in containers, in which 

case they will flower and fruit at an earlier age.

GERMPLASM MANAGEMENT

Seed storage behaviour is recalcitrant; the seed maintains its viability for a day. Embryo mc at maturity is 60.8%; whole 

seed mc is 46%. Lowest safe mc is 43.5% for slow drying and 31.5% for rapid drying. On average, there are 400-450 

seeds/kg. All the flesh should be removed before seeds are dried in the shade.

PESTS AND DISEASES

Larvae of Charaxes protoclea azota, C. druceanus, Deudorix dinochares, D. diocles, and D. antalus (butterflies) feed 

on the leaves of S. cordatum.



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Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)

Syzygium cordatum

Myrtaceae

Hochst. ex Krauss

 umdoni


Orwa C, A Mutua, Kindt R , Jamnadass R, S Anthony. 2009 Agroforestree Database:a tree reference and selection guide 

version 4.0 (http://www.worldagroforestry.org/sites/treedbs/treedatabases.asp)

SUGGESTED CITATION

FURTHER READNG

Beentje HJ. 1994. Kenya trees, shrubs and lianas. National Museums of Kenya.

Coates-Palgrave K. 1988. Trees of southern Africa. C.S. Struik Publishers Cape Town.

Dale IR, Greenway PJ. 1961. Kenya trees and shrubs. Buchanan’s Kenya Estates Ltd.

Eggeling. 1940. Indigenous trees of Uganda. Govt. of Uganda.

Friis I. 1992. Forests and forest trees of northeast tropical Africa. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London.

Hamilton A.C. 1981. A field guide to Uganda forest trees.

Hines DA, Eckman K. 1993. Indigenous multipurpose trees for Tanzania: uses and economic benefits to the people. 

Cultural survival Canada and Development Services Foundation of Tanzania.

Hong TD, Linington S, Ellis RH. 1996. Seed storage behaviour: a compendium. Handbooks for Genebanks: No. 4. 

IPGRI.


Katende AB et al. 1995. Useful trees and shrubs for Uganda. Identification, Propagation and Management for 

Agricultural and Pastoral Communities. Regional Soil Conservation Unit (RSCU), Swedish International Development 

Authority (SIDA).

Mbuya LP et al. 1994. Useful trees and shrubs for Tanzania:  Identification, Propagation and Management for 

Agricultural and Pastoral Communities. Regional Soil Conservation Unit (RSCU), Swedish International Development 

Authority (SIDA).

Palmer E, Pitman N. 1972. Trees of Southern Africa Vol. 2. A.A. BalKema Cape Town.

Storrs AEG. 1995. Know your trees: some common trees found in Zambia. Regional Soil Conservation Unit (RSCU).

Venter F, Venter J-A. 1996. Making the most of Indigenous trees. Briza Publications.

Williams R.O & OBE. 1949. The useful and ornamental plants in Zanzibar and Pemba. Zanzibar Protectorate.



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Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)


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