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Family: Myrsinaceae

Scientific names: Rapanea melanophloeos

Authority: (L.) Mez

Synonym: Myrsine melanophloeos (L.) R.Br. ex Sweet 

Zulu names: ikhubalwane, inhluthe, ishashakazane, isicalabi, isijojokazane, isiqalaba-sehlathi, maphipha, umaphipha, umaphipha khubalo, umhluthi-wentaba, uvukwabafile, uvuka kwabafileyo khubalo

Other names: Cape beech, Rapanea (English) boekenhout, Kaapse boekenhout, rooiboekenhout, swartbas (Afrikaans)

Description: R. melanophloeos is a large tree that grows in forests, along forest margins and in bush clumps. It has a straight greyish brown trunk, leaves that are dark green above and light green below and are clustered towards the ends of the branches, many small creamy coloured flowers, and small round fruits that turn purple when ripe.


  • The plant is used to lighten the skin.
  • The plant is used as intelezi to protect the homestead from unclean spirits.  
  • The plant is used as intelezi, which is sprinkled as a charm against lightning in and around the homestead.
  • The bark decoction is taken as a body wash for removing bad luck and isichitho or isidina
  • The bark is mixed with Pterocelastrus echinatus (ugobandlovu) used to make an infusion to treat general body pains. 
  • The bark is used to treat muscular pain and fever. 
  • The bark is used to strengthen the heart and to treat heart palpitations. 
  • The bark is used to make a mixture that is used as a blood purifier.  
  • The bark decoction to treat stomach complaints and against acidity.
  • The bark is dried and powdered to relieve sore throats and treat wounds. 
  • The fresh piece of bark is chewed to relieve sore throats and treat wounds. 
  • The bark is used to make a decoction that is used as an emetic, enema, expectorant, and steam agent. 
  • The bark decoction to treat haematemesis.

Reference and further reading:

  • Amusan, O.O.G., Dlamini, P.S., Msonthi, J.D. and Makhubu, L.P. 2002. Some herbal remedies from Manzini region of Swaziland. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 79: pp.109–112.
  • Gerstner, J. 1939. A preliminary checklist of Zulu names of plants with short notes. Bantu Studies 13. 
  • Gerstner, J. 1941. A preliminary checklist of Zulu names of plants with short notes. Bantu Studies 15.
  • Hutchings, A., Scott, A.H., Lewis, G. and Cunningham, A. 1996. Zulu medicinal plants. Natal University Press, Pietermaritzburg.
  • La Cock, G.D. and Briers, J.H. 1992. Bark collecting at Tootabie Nature Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa. South African Journal of Botany 58: pp.505–509.
  • Mbanjwa, S.G., 2020. A quantitative ethnobotanical survey of the Ixopo area of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. University of Johannesburg (South Africa).
  • McGaw, L.J., Lall, N., Meyer, J.J.M., and Eloff, J.N., 2008. The potential of South African plants against Mycobacterium infections. J. Ethnopharmacol. 119, pp. 482–500. 
  • Pujol, J., 1990. Natur Africa: The Herbalist handbook. Lean Pujol Natural Healers Foundation, Durban.
  • van Staden, A.B. and Lall, N., 2020. Rapanea melanophloeos. In Underexplored Medicinal Plants from Sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 241-246). Academic Press. 
  • Venter, F. and Venter, J.A. 1996. Making the Most of Indigenous Trees. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. ISBN 1–875093–05–2.
  • Watt, J.M. and Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G. 1962. Medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa, second edition. Livingstone, London.
  • Zukulu, S., Dold, T. and Abbott, T., 2012. Medicinal and charm plants of Pondoland. South African National Biodiversity Institute.

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