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Indigenous Fruits of Zimbabwe

A few years ago I was in Watsomba and came across so many indigenous wild fruits and it took me back to the days when we were growing up and all these fruits were in abundance and you didn’t have to buy them. I took as many of the fruits as possible and also added a few more which I got over the past two years. I have tried to get the fruits straight from the tree so they are as fresh as possible.

The use of indigenous has been used loosely to refer to fruits that are found in the wild in Zimbabwe’s countryside. I would like to thank Evelyn Roe for providing the English and Latin names for the fruits. Whenever I come to Zimbabwe I always look forward to getting my fix of indigenous fruits.

Nhengeni – Ximenia caffra, sour plum in the family Olacaceae. There is another species of Ximenia commonly found, which is Ximenia americana. It has slightly smaller fruits, more orange than red in colour, and its leaves are hairless and blue-green, whereas the one in your photographs has larger, reddish fruits, and hairy green leaves and stems. In Zambia, this red-fruited one is known as the ‘female’ one, and X americana as the ‘male’, but this is not a botanical distinction, more of a cultural one.

Matunduru or Mutunduru – (Garcinia buchananii, granite mangosteen, in the Clusiaceae)

Nhunguru – Flacourtia indica, governor’s plum, in the Flacourtiaceae

Hubva/Tsubvu – Vitez mombassae, in the Lamiaceae. Known as smelly-berry fingerleaf, according to the Zim flora website, www.zimbabweflora.co.zw.

Hubva/Tsubvu fresh from the tree

Masawu – Ziziphus, probably Ziziphus abyssinica, or jujube, in the Rhamnaceae

Mupfura – Sclerocarya birrea. Known as marula

Nyii – Berchemia discolor, birdplum, also known as ‘African sweets’, in the Rhamnaceae

Nyii straight from the tree in Victoria Falls!

Hacha or Muhacha – Parinari curatellifolia, mobola plum, in the Chrysobalanaceae

Nzambara – Carissa edulis, simple-spined num-num, in the Apocynaceae

Matohwe – Azanza garckeana, snot-apple, in the Malvaceae

Credit: Lambda Chetse

Matamba – Strychnos, but not sure which one. Family Strychnaceae. Umkhemeswane in Ndebele.

Tsambati – Lannea edulis in the Anacardiaceae. The Zim flora website calls it ‘wild grape’ but I haven’t heard that name, and it’s not in the grape family.

Mususu – Looks like Lantana camara to me. A seriously invasive plant introduced to South Africa over a hundred years ago and spreading rampantly throughout the southern hemisphere. There are native Lantana species, but I don’t think this is one. Just known as lantana in English. Family Verbenaceae.

Hute or Mukute – Syzygium cordatum, waterberry, in the Myrtaceae.

Madhorofiya/Madhorosiya – Opuntia, prickly-pear. Cactaceae. Introduced to Africa long ago. Sometimes categorised as invasive. There are no native cacti species in Africa.

Masekesa – Piliostigma thonningii, in the Caesalpinioideae section of the Fabaceae family (legumes)

Mazhanje, Uapaca kirkiana, the sugar plum or mahobohobo, is a species of dioecious plant in the family Phyllanthaceae.

Maroro, wild custard-apple, Annona senegalensis

©HopeMasike

Matufu, False wild medlar, Vangueria infausta 

Some are also known by different names in the different regions. If you have any additional info including descriptions of the fruits, taste, seasons, eating instructions etc please feel free to post in the comments. You can also checkout Zimbabwean Tropical fruits and Zim Flora for more resources on flora in Zimbabwe.

Evelyn Roe studied Botany at the University of Edinburgh and now work as a researcher with the North-West Naturalists’ Society of Zambia, which is based in Livingstone. I also have 16 years’ experience teaching biology, in the UK and Botswana. One of my first projects in Zambia was a floristic survey at the Victoria Falls on behalf of NHCC. She has published Wild Flowers of the Victoria Falls Area with Helen Pickering in 200

Baynham Goredema
Baynham Goredemahttps://baynhamgoredema.com
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70 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, took me back. I use to go to my grand parents house and have a field day in the countryside. There was no need to go back home for lunch, we would just pick fruits from the trees, fish in the river down by the valley… aww man now I have to go and pay at the supermarket for all these things.

  2. Wow, took me back. I use to go to my grand parents house and have a field day in the countryside. There was no need to go back home for lunch, we would just pick fruits from the trees, fish in the river down by the valley… aww man now I have to go and pay at the supermarket for all these things.

  3. Please keep up your good work, this is wonderful just to see photos of your indigenous fruits and be able to show our kids and grandkids, who might never get to see these trees due to deforestation, which I think is a shame. We ought to preserve our heritage and treasure it.

      • umm bayhaus usada kundidepresser , how about we do something to ensure that wild fruit trees dont disappear. at the end of the day its up to us the people, we should give a damn so to speak.

        • I agree its up to us people but it needs the collective effort of those who live in areas where these fruit trees are and they need to be provided with an alternative for firewood today otherwise the fight is a tough one.

  4. Please keep up your good work, this is wonderful just to see photos of your indigenous fruits and be able to show our kids and grandkids, who might never get to see these trees due to deforestation, which I think is a shame. We ought to preserve our heritage and treasure it.

      • umm bayhaus usada kundidepresser , how about we do something to ensure that wild fruit trees dont disappear. at the end of the day its up to us the people, we should give a damn so to speak.

        • I agree its up to us people but it needs the collective effort of those who live in areas where these fruit trees are and they need to be provided with an alternative for firewood today otherwise the fight is a tough one.

  5. Last night at my tete’s house she had tubvu she had taken from a friends house. She reiterated to the kids not to throw them randomly in her garden coz they easily grow (she has enough trees). I got intrigued and kept some to plant at my house. So I came online to see if I could see a picture of what the tree looks like. I didn’t find pics of the trees but was pleasantly surprised to at least come across this website! I never in a million years thought I would find this. Beautiful! If you have pictures and more information on the actual trees I would be so grateful to see them. What a shame we have to view our own native trees online! Ndanyara chokwadi. Zvisineyi, ndichatoita muti wetubvu pamba pangu. Nhengeni! Yum!

    • Glad you liked these. Unfortunately I did not take any photos of the trees. I should have though. I will update this article soon with the English names for all the fruits here though.

  6. Last night at my tete’s house she had tubvu she had taken from a friends house. She reiterated to the kids not to throw them randomly in her garden coz they easily grow (she has enough trees). I got intrigued and kept some to plant at my house. So I came online to see if I could see a picture of what the tree looks like. I didn’t find pics of the trees but was pleasantly surprised to at least come across this website! I never in a million years thought I would find this. Beautiful! If you have pictures and more information on the actual trees I would be so grateful to see them. What a shame we have to view our own native trees online! Ndanyara chokwadi. Zvisineyi, ndichatoita muti wetubvu pamba pangu. Nhengeni! Yum!

    • Glad you liked these. Unfortunately I did not take any photos of the trees. I should have though. I will update this article soon with the English names for all the fruits here though.

  7. Ndeipi na bayhaus and your floor. I have taken it upon myself to try and conserve some of these trees, so I have a little nursery which has Nyii and Shuma. These are available at a small price to those who would like to grow them at their homesteads. I also have Mukweshangoma/Mupakangoma/Bolusanthus speciousus tree,an indigenous tree but non fruit. If interested contact on cnchimanda@gmail.com. Thanks 🙂

  8. Ndeipi na bayhaus and your floor. I have taken it upon myself to try and conserve some of these trees, so I have a little nursery which has Nyii and Shuma. These are available at a small price to those who would like to grow them at their homesteads. I also have Mukweshangoma/Mupakangoma/Bolusanthus speciousus tree,an indigenous tree but non fruit. If interested contact on cnchimanda@gmail.com. Thanks 🙂

  9. Very informative. Keep on researching. By the way There are to types of Matamba, Ma’nono and Mazhumwi. Mazhumwi are sweeter than Man’ono. Mazhumwi are all edible but some Mano’no are toxic and can cause stomach upsets that can even lead to death. one has to be very careful with Man’ono. One needs to have an accurate history of a Mun’ono tree before eating fruits there from. A Muzhumwi tree has a very rough bark while a Mun’ono tree has a relatively smooth bark. The ripe Muzhumwi fruit has dark spots over a yellow skin while a Mun’ono fruit is usually yellow without spots. In terms of size, Mazhumwi are generally smaller than the Mano’no fruits.

  10. The last photo which you have posted as unknown, is known in English as a Custard Apple, the botanical name is Annanon senegalensis. It has a variable soft custard to creamy colour delicious flesh with multiple elongated smooth shiny dark brown pips about 1.5 to 2 cm. long by about 1 cm. wide. From my own personal observations they can be found in the Marrondera area (Essexdale Farm along Rockery road) and fruiting on very small bushes about 15 cm. high, while in the Chipingi area near the dam they are small trees up to 2 or 3 m. high.

  11. Maroro ekuZimbabwe don’t look like that. Those in Zimbabwe are on small ground plants, not big trees like these. These are East European versions which are white inside when ripe. The Zimbabweans are smaller and turn orange when ripe

    Plus pama fruits aya pasiiwa chokochiyana, magodzombo, shumha, makwakwa (similar to matamba but smaller), mawonde (figs) and mawuyu (baobab fruit). These are what l can think of.

    • Those Maroro are what we have where I come from in Nyamaropa area in Nyanga District. The muroro trees vary with location. Where I stay in Harare the trees are indeed small shrubs.

      Then names also differ depending on where you come from. What is called tsambatsi in Mashonaland we call tsombori in Nyamaropa. what is called tsombori in Mashonaland we also have a different name

  12. Kindly note that tsombori and tsambatsi are two completely different plants. Tsombori is an underground tuber like a carrot, while tsambatsi are like berries on a short shrub plant. Tsambatsi is Lynnea edulis. Still need to get the scientific name for tsombori

  13. Quite enthused by the fact you mentioned Watsomba, my hood.
    a few names you used are not the ones we use and will list them below:
    1. Nhunguru, we call matudza
    2. Tsambatsi, that’s tsombori
    3. Mususu, is magupa (and is indeed the lantana camara plant)
    4. Matufu is nzviru

    In the same area, we also have maonde (figs), mawuyu

    • Thanks for this I am originally from Mutare urban, ndirimukwasha kuWatsomba uko! Someone mentioned that Tsambatsi and tsombori are different altogether. I didn’t know that mauyu are found in Watsomba!

    • 2. I remember tsombori as being a root. It was a very small plant which was hard to notice as we through the forest but once you dug it up you would uncover a huge potato like bulb.
      I am form the Musengesi area near Chegutu. Now live in Houston TX.

  14. Amati matufu ayo, kwedu kuNyanga haasi, dzinonzi nzviru/nzviro, matufu have a way softer skin and the trees mainly are found paruvare or thereabouts. Nonethelessthe article is great.

  15. First, i really loved this piece. Just made me desire to be home with its wealth in healthy fruits.

    Names however, differ from place to place. Where i come from in Gokwe the maroro is exactly as in the picture. We dont call matufu nzviru because nzviru is also a fruit on its on, though they look a lot alike, they do test very differently.

    Matamba as i have come to believe is a family name for a number of different fruits. So where i come from we have mazhumwi in the (matamba in the pics) then we have man’ono which is a sister to mazhumwi, not very sweet and these are not eaten much except by people who dont know or during years of starvation. Then there is magwadhi and hwakwa. These sister fruits have the same smell and appearance but hwakwa is usually smaller and orange inside while magwadhi are yellow

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