Euclea divinorum Hiern
Common names: magic guarri (English); towerghwarrie (Afrikaans); mohlakola (Northern Sotho); umhlangula, ubophanyamazane, umncafuzana (Zulu); umdlelanyamatane (Swati); nhlangula (Tsonga); mutangule (Venda)
SA Tree No: 595
The magic guarri is a useful medicinal plant. Although not very tasty to humans, its fruit is enjoyed by birds. The tree is also said to have supernatural powers - it can bring luck to your home.
Euclea divinorum is an evergreen shrub or small tree, up to 9 m high, with male and female flowers on separate plants. It is single or multi-stemmed, with a rounded crown. Young stems are smooth and pale grey with rusty granules. The bark is grey-brown to black, rough, and cracked longitudinally.
The leaves are opposite or sub-opposite, alternate, broadest at or below the middle, 35-90 × 10-40 mm, tapering to the bases and apices, hard, leathery, hairless, shiny, grey- to olive-green, with the midribs raised below and margins conspicuously wavy. Leaf stalks are about 6 mm long.
Flowers are small, white to creamy-yellow, scented, and borne on short, dense branched sprays to 15 mm wide from axils of leaves. Stalks are covered in reddish-brown granules. Euclea divinorum flowers from August to December. It can be confused with E. undulata, but the magic guarri has larger leaves and fruits, with a denser inflorescence. Euclea crispa has leaves that are broad in the middle, hairy branchlets and one inflorescence per leaf axil.
The fruit is round, purplish black, about 5-7 mm in diameter, single-seeded and fleshy.
According to Raimondo et al. (2009), Euclea divinorum is Red Listed as Least Concern (LC), as evaluated against the five IUCN criteria.
Distribution and habitat
Euclea divinorum is widely distributed in the northeastern parts of South Africa, through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and northern Namibia into tropical Africa. It occurs naturally in bushveld, thicket, thorn scrub, on hillsides, along riverbanks and in woodland. The magic guarri is often found growing in large numbers on brackish floodplains.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus name Euclea is from the Greek word 'eukleia', meaning 'of good report' or 'famous', referring to the fine ebony-like wood of some species. The specific name divinorum is in reference to the plant's use by medicine diviners or sangomas in parts of Africa.
The flowers are visited by beetles and wasps.
The frayed ends of twigs are used as toothbrushes, and branches are good for putting out veld fires. The fruit is edible (not very tasty), loved by birds, and is also used to make purple ink. It is used in the brewing of beer. The roots are used medicinally for the treatment of toothache, headache, convulsions, diarrhoea, infertility, bilharzia and as a purgative. Roots are also used in the production of brown dye for basketware. The wood is fairy heavy and hard, and is occasionally used to make small items of furniture. The wood is alleged to have supernatural powers, and is therefore avoided as fuel. Small branches are often hung at the doorsteps of houses as a good luck charm. Due to its tolerance of soils containing high levels of heavy metals, it has also been considered an indicator of gold deposits.
Growing Euclea divinorum
In its natural habitat, Euclea divinorum is a fairly fast grower and hardy. There is little evidence of this species beng cultivated in gardens. It can also be invasive, especially in disturbed areas, due to its ablity to produce suckers from its roots. Users of this plant usually harvest it from the wild.
- Boon, R. 2010. Pooley's Trees of eastern South Africa . Flora & Fauna Publication Trust, Durban.
- Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of southern Africa , edn 3. Struik, Cape Town.
- Neuwinger, H.D. 2000. African Traditional Medicine: A dictionary of plant use and applications . MedPharm Scientific Publishers. Stuttgart.
- Raimondo, D., Von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. & Manyama, P.A. (eds). 2009. Red List of South African plants 2009. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
- Schmidt, E., Lötter, M. & McCleland, W. 2002. Trees and shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park. Jacana, Johannesburg.
- Van Wyk, A.E. (Braam) & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to trees of southern Africa . Struik, Cape Town.
- Van Wyk, B.-E. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's plants: A guide to useful plants of southern Africa . Briza, Pretoria.
National Herbarium, Pretoria
Plant Type: Shrub, Tree
SA Distribution: KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga
Soil type: Brack/saline, Metal-rich
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer
Flower colour: White
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Challenging