Acokanthera lamarckii G.Don
Acokanthera longiflora Stapf
Acokanthera rhodesica Merxm.
Acokanthera venenata (Burm.f.) G.Don
Carissa acokanthera Pichon
Carissa longiflora (Stapf) G.H.M.Lawr.
Carissa oppositifolia (Lam.) Pichon
Cestrum oppositifolium Lam.
Cestrum venenatum Burm.f.
Pleiocarpa hockii De Wild.
Toxicophlaea cestroides A.DC.
Toxicophlaea thunbergii Harv.
Acokanthera oppositifolia is an attractive, evergreen, small tree or multi-stemmed shrub, occasionally long and climbing, growing from 2 - 7 metres tall. All parts of the plant produce a white latex when cut[
Although most parts of the plant (other than the fruit) are poisonous, it is often harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine. The plant is commonly left standing in pasture fields and farm land in order to provide shade, fruit, a source of poisons and medicines[
]. It has beautiful flowers and is often grown as an ornamental It is sometimes marketed as a container plant in South Africa and in subtropical and temperate regions[
All parts of the plant, except the fully ripe fruit, are poisonous[
A thick extract, obtained from the cooked roots, bark and leaves of the plant, is used as an arrow poison, which must be handled with care[
The only treatment against the poison is immediate excision of the flesh around the wound[
]. Fatal accidents have been caused by eating meat grilled over a fire of sticks from this tree[
Contact with the plant can cause smarting of the eyes and skin, and throat irritation[
East tropical Africa - Kenya, eastern Zaire, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, S. Africa.
Found in a variety of habitats: rocky hillsides, coastal bush, open woodland, termite mounds, dry forest and forest margins, riverine forest or woodland, at elevations from 1,500 - 2,100 metres[
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Semi-cultivated, Wild
A plant of moderate to higher elevations in the drier tropics, where it can be found at elevations from 1,000 - 2,400 metres. It grows best in areas with a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 1,000mm[
]. Older plants can resist at least some frost[
Often found in open, sunny positions, the plant is also shade tolerant[
]. It thrives in rocky, red clay and clay-loam soils, often being found on termite mounds in the wild[
]. Established plants are drought tolerant[
A moderately fast-growing tree[
The tree responds well to pruning, coppicing and pollarding[
The pulp of ripe fruit is sweet and edible[
]. A sweetish, bitter taste[
]. It has been used in making jams and preserves[
]. The fruit is a purple, ellipsoid berry 15 - 40mm long, with a green to deep red pulp containing 1 - 2 seeds[
The unripe fruit, leaves, bark and roots are all highly poisonous, and accidental poisoning of children has been recorded[
Children use the latex of the fruit as chewing gum[
]. Given the information about the plant's toxicity, this use seems rather dangerous[
Although very poisonous, the plant has been used medicinally in Africa, particularly to combat poisoning and parasites.
All parts of the plant, except for the pulp of the ripe fruit, contain large amounts of cardiac glycosides (cardenolides), of which about 15 have been identified. These glycosides are responsible for the plant's activity as an arrow poison, but they also act as cardiac stimulants. The main compounds are acovenoside A, acovenosigenin, acolongifloroside K and ouabagenin[
To treat snakebites and spider bites, a small amount of the leaves is eaten, a leaf or root decoction is drunk and the leaf or root pulp is rubbed into the wound[
]. Alternatively, the root powder is sniffed and a dressing made of the roots or leaves is put on the swollen part[
An infusion of the roots is taken to expel tapeworm; to treat excessive and irregular menstruation; as a treatment for syphilis[
The powdered root is sniffed as a cure for headaches[
A leaf infusion is taken to treat abdominal pain, colds, measles and blood poisoning[
The powdered leaf is sniffed, or an infusion of the leaves is used as a nasal spray, in order to combat headaches[
Small pieces of the stem are chewed to relieve toothache[
Seed - it requires no pre-treatment, but has a very limited viability and so should be sown as soon as it is ripe[
Cuttings of half-ripe wood[