Syzygium guineense



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Syzygium guineense

Myrtaceae

(Willd.) DC.

Syzygium guineense foliage (Joris de Wolf, 

Patrick Van Damme, Diego Van 

Meersschaut)

Syzygium guineense bark (Joris de Wolf, 

Patrick Van Damme, Diego Van 

Meersschaut)

LOCAL NAMES

 Amharic (dokma); English (waterpear,waterboom,water berry,snake bean 

tree,woodland waterberry,mountain waterberry,bi-coloured waterberry); 

Luganda (kalunginsanvu,muziti); Ndebele (umdoni); Shona (mukute); 

Swahili (mzambarau,msambaran,mzambarani,mzambarau 

mwitu,mzuari,mzambarai); Tigrigna (liham)

BOTANIC DESCRIPTION

Syzygium guineense is a medium-sized or tall evergreen tree, 15-30 m 

high. The bark varies in subspecies and is greyish-white or silver mottled 

and smooth in young trees, turning rough, flaky, creamy, light grey, dark 

brown or black in older trees. Bark scales in rectangular flakes and 

produces red, watery sap if cut; slash is fibrous, even pale brown to dark 

red-brown. Branchlets sometimes drooping. Crown rounded and heavy; 

stems thick and angular. Bundles of fibrous aerial roots, about 2 m up the 

bole, have been observed in Botswana.

Leaves narrow at both ends, length 5-17.5 cm, width 1.3-7.5 cm; simple, 

opposite, elliptic, lanceolate or ovate-elliptic; with margins that are 

untoothed and sometimes slightly wavy and rolled inward; apex obtuse to 

acuminate and rounded, occasionally notched; base cuneate; stalk short 

and grooved; midrib sunken on top, raised below, with many fine, lateral 

veins; glabrous, grey-green, tough, shiny; fragrant when crushed.

Flowers (filaments) 1.5 cm in diameter, sessile or subsessile, fragrant, 

creamy white; borne in terminal panicles forming heads up to 10 x 10 cm, 

or with 4-8 widely spaced flowers in branched heads up to 3 cm in 

diameter; calyx persistent with 4 petals; stamens numerous, about 6 mm 

long. Petals fall early but the white stamens are showy, making a 

conspicuous short brush or puff contrasting with the red or pink calyx tips.

Fruits ovoid or ellipsoid drupes, 1.2-3.5 cm x 1 x 2.5 cm, 2-3 celled, in 

bunches of 20 to 30, whitish-green when immature, turning to shiny 

purplish-black and juicy after ripening; 1-seeded. Seeds are 1.3-1.4 cm in 

diameter, yellowish to brownish and rounded.

‘Syzygium’ is derived from the Greek ‘syzygios’ (‘paired’), on account of 

the leaves and twigs that in several species grow at the same point. The 

specific name means ‘of Guinea’, where the tree was first collected. The 

common name ‘water pear’ refers to its preference for stream banks and 

to its wood, supposedly like that of a pear.

BIOLOGY


S. guineense is able to interbreed with other species in the genus. 

Pollination agents are insects. Where there are 2 rainy seasons, the 

species flowers twice: during the short dry season and towards the end of 

the long rains. In areas with 1 rainy season, the species flowers once, 

starting towards the end of the dry season and extending into the rainy 

season.


Syzygium guineense slash (Joris de Wolf, 

Patrick Van Damme, Diego Van 

Meersschaut)

Page 1 of 5

Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)


Syzygium guineense

Myrtaceae

(Willd.) DC.

ECOLOGY


S. guineense usually occurs in lowland rain forests, mountain rain forests, fringing riverian swampy forests and open 

Brachystegia - Faurea woodland. It usually grows in moist conditions, sometimes even in water, and is usually found 

along streams and wadis and on rocky ground in high rainfall savannah.

BIOPHYSICAL LIMITS

Altitude:  0-2 100 m, Mean annual temperature:  10-30 deg. C, Mean annual rainfall:  1 000-2 300 mm

Soil type:  S. guineense prefers fresh, moist, well-drained soils with a high water table but will also grow in open 

woodlands.

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, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Somalia, South 

Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Native:


Exotic:

Page 2 of 5

Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)

Syzygium guineense

Myrtaceae

(Willd.) DC.

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 ripe, pleasant-flavoured fruits of S. guineense are gathered and eaten.

Apiculture:  Flowers provide good bee forage.

Timber:  Syzgium guineense provides reddish-brown, hard, strong, durable wood, that is easy to work and is suitable for 

poles, posts and for building and bridge construction.

Medicine:  Fruit is used as a remedy for dysentery, while a decoction of the bark is used as an antidiarrhoeic. In 

traditional medicine, liquid from the pounded bark and roots, mixed with water, is used as a purgative.

Poison:  The poisonous bark has been reported to cause human deaths.

Fuel:  S. guineense is used as firewood and in the production of charcoal.

Other products:  Smoke from the burning wood is used to season milk containers.

SERVICES

Shade or shelter:  The handsome evergreen tree is preserved in gardens for its deep shade.



Page 3 of 5

Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)

Syzygium guineense

Myrtaceae

(Willd.) DC.

TREE MANAGEMENT

S. guineense is planted on cleared sites, tolerates pollarding and is able to coppice. The species is sensitive to crown 

competition and is a strong light demander, thus it could be necessary to refine the crop in natural forests to distribute 

growth potential to trees.

GERMPLASM MANAGEMENT

Seed storage behaviour is recalcitrant with seeds being spoiled in less than 24 hours of storage. On average, there are 

2 400 to 3 700 seeds/kg.

PESTS AND DISEASES

S. guineense is liable to attack by a cerambicid beetle larva, which makes the timber defective. Inflorescence is 

frequently attacked by insects, in which case flowers do not develop and a spherical greenish-yellow head, 7.6-10.2 cm 

in diameter, is formed instead of the normal panicle. Vervet monkeys eat buds and flowers.



Page 4 of 5

Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)

Syzygium guineense

Myrtaceae

(Willd.) DC.

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

Albrecht J. ed. 1993. Tree seed hand book of Kenya. GTZ Forestry Seed Center Muguga, Nairobi, Kenya.

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

Bein E. 1996. Useful trees and shrubs in Eritrea. Regional Soil Conservation Unit (RSCU), Nairobi, Kenya.

Bekele-Tesemma A, Birnie A, Tengnas B. 1993. Useful trees and shrubs for Ethiopia. Regional Soil Conservation Unit 

(RSCU), Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA).

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.

Drummond BR. 1981. Common trees of the Central Watershed Woodlands of Zimbabwe. National Resources Board.

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

FAO. 1983. Food and fruit bearing forest species. 1: Examples from Eastern Africa. FAO Forestry Paper. 44/1. Rome.

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.


ICRAF. 1992. A selection of useful trees and shrubs for Kenya: Notes on their identification, propagation and 

management for use by farming and pastoral communities. ICRAF.

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).

Noad T, Birnie A. 1989.  Trees of Kenya. General Printers, Nairobi.

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



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Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)


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