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Syzygium guineense (Umdoni wamanzi)

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Family: Myrtaceae

Scientific name: Syzguim guineense

Authority: (Willd.) DC

Common names: umdoni wamanzi (Zulu), waterpear (English), waterpeeer (Afrikaans)

Growing up my grandmother used to always call me umdoni wamanzi. My grandmother was born and raised in Swaziland. Her home was near a stream of water. She used to say that near the stream of water was a huge evergreen tree. This tree had shiny dark green leaves, a really dark bark, and dark purple edible berry fruits. The dark features of this tree are said to have made this tree stand out from the rest of the trees that were near the water. Hence, people with dark features are often called umdoni wamanzi, because their dark features tend to make them stand out from the rest.

The bark is variable. When young, it is smooth and grey and when matured it is rough, flaky and dark brown sometimes even black in color.

Umdoni wamanzi is scientifically known as Syzygium guineense. The genus name Syzygium is Greek for “paired” and refers to the paired leaves. The plants in the Syzygium genus are known as either umdoni or different versions umndoni. For example, Syzygium cordatum is simply known as umdoni, Syzygium cumini is known as umdoni omnyama, and Syzygium gerrardii is known as umdoni omhlophe. The Syzygium genus belongs to a very large and diverse family with about three thousand (3,000) species. This family also includes the Eucalyptus and Guava genera. The species name guineense means “of Guinea” and refers to the region in Africa where this tree was first found, and its samples first collected. 

Umdoni wamanzi is an odorous, fast growing, medium sized tree that typically grows up to 15 m in height, however, in some places it has been reported to grow to 30 m in height. The tree is widespread in countries such as Cameroon, Uganda, Swaziland, and South Africa. It usually grows near water but can also be found in growing in the woodland, savannah, bushveld, and tropical forest areas with sufficient underground water. 


Umdoni wamamazi has a dense crown making it an ideal tree for shade. The tree’s durable wood is used to make brushes, tools, utensils, furniture, flooring, carvings, and paneling. The wood is also used to make bows, canoes, firewood, and charcoal. The edible fruits are used to make beverages, vinegar, and essential oils. The bark is rich in tannin and ideal for dying leather.

The roots, bark, leaves, fruits, and seeds are the plant parts used in the preparation of traditional medicines. Research has shown these plant parts to contain antibacterial and antifungal activities. Therefore, umndoni wamanzi is used as follows:

  • It is used to treat stomachache, hypertension, and diarrhoea.
  • It is used to treat amenorrhoea – missing a menstrual cycle after having a normal cycle. 
  • It has been used to treat mental disorders.
  • It is a laxative.


Umdoni wamanzi is prepared in a number of ways, including as follows:

  • The roots are used to make tea to treat aches and pains.
  • The roots are used to make a decoction to treat gastro-intestinal issues and epilepsy.
  • The bark is made into a tonic to treat coughs, asthma, and fevers.
  • The leaves are crushed and applied directly on a wound. 
  • The leaves are crushed and soaked in water. After a few hours the mixture is strained, and the liquid used as eyedrops to treat ophthalmia.  
  • The leaves are dried and ground to powdered. The powder is then mixed with food as a supplement.  

In some ethnic groups umndoni wamanzi is a symbol of dark beauty and in other groups it is a symbol of peace and power. 

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