WILD or SOUR PLUM (Ximenia spp.)

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Munhengeni / Mutsvanzva (Sh), Umthunduluka / Uholotshane (N)

Ximenias are drought-resistant, thorny shrubs or small trees. In Zimbabwe, there are 2 species: Ximenia americana, the species that is currently commercialised and X. caffra, the fruit of which is commonly eaten. The oil of this species could prove to be commercially interesting as well, but is different from the oil of X. americana.


Where they can be found:
Although both ximenias are widespread across Zimbabwe – found at low altitudes in woodlands, grassy savannahs and rocky outcrops -, species distribution and abundance vary between regions and locations. The highest concentrations of X. caffra are found in the north-west and east of the country; the highest numbers of X. americana are found in Hwange district. When growing in the same location, X. caffra is common on rocky hillsides while X. americana prefers flat catchment areas and termite mounds.

Propagating ximenia trees would increase harvesting volumes and reduce the present harvesting effort of collecting fruits from distant trees that need to be visited regularly throughout the fruiting season. Propagation can also counteract bad harvesting years, which make supply unreliable and are currently a threat to the commercialisation of the resource.

What is harvested – Harvesting time:
The fruits resemble plums and vary in colour from yellow to bright orange and dark red-brown. X. caffra fruits in November-March during the rains; X. americana produces fruit all year round. The pulp contains a stone with an oil-rich seed. Decortication can take place later in the year, after cultivated crops have been harvested and people have more time.

Average yield per tree:
The trees produce 15-17kg of fresh fruit per year.

Ximenia fruits are rich in vitamin C.

  • The seed has 60-70% oil content. americana oil specifications are presently used in the international cosmetic trade. The oil’s anti-aging properties probably attract the keenest commercial interest. It has been shown to be an effective treatment for dry skin prone to ageing, since it increases moisture levels, improves the functioning of sebaceous tissues and improves skin elasticity. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, while the presence of active fatty acids has been shown to improve blood flow in the skin.

The fruits of X. caffra are locally consumed fresh in season, made into jams, jellies and drinks or added to porridge.

Seed oil from X. americana is traditionally used as an ointment, moisturising, softening and revitalizing the skin. Chapped skin is often soothed by massaging ximenia oil into the affected area. It is a very effective hair oil and rich conditioner. Cosmetic and personal care products with X. americana oil include skincare, bath and body, anti-aging and hair-care products.

The main outlet for ximenia oil is through exports; interest in this unique oil is continuously increasing. The market is relatively niche and generally of higher value, targeting consumers who seek natural, organic and efficacious products and are interested in ethical trade.

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