Margaritaria discoidea

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Margaritaria discoidea
Margaritaria discoidea Ilanda.JPG
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malpighiales
Family: Phyllanthaceae
Tribe: Phyllantheae
Subtribe: Flueggeinae
Genus: Margaritaria
Species: M. discoidea
Binomial name
Margaritaria discoidea
(Baill.) G.L.Webster
  • Phyllanthus discoideus (Baill.) Müll.Arg.
  • Cicca discoidea Baill.
  • Flueggea nitida Pax
  • Phyllanthus flacourtioides Hutch.
  • Flueggea bailloniana (Müll.Arg.)
  • Securinega bailloniana Müll.Arg.
  • Fluggea obovata Baill.
  • Margaritaria obovata (Baill.) G.L.Webster
  • Flueggea fagifolia Pax
  • Phyllanthus amapondensis Sim[1]

Margaritaria discoidea is a tree in the Phyllanthaceae family, commonly known as the pheasant-berry, egossa red pear or bushveld peacock-berry. These trees are native to the warmer, higher rainfall areas of Africa.


This species has a complex taxonomic history with many synonyms (see taxobox); partially because of its morphological variability. These trees were formerly placed in the genus Phyllanthus and in the Euphorbiaceae family. 4 varieties are now recognized (1981), these having in the past been treated variously as distinct species, subspecies or synonymous with typical M. discoidea.[2] In KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, there are 3 varieties:[3]

  • M. discoidea var. discoidea
  • M. discoidea var. fagifolia
  • M. discoidea var. nitida


This species is distributed from the coastal areas of the Eastern Cape,[3] South Africa, to tropical Africa,[3][4] as far as Senegal in West Africa.[4]


A medium to tall tree in forest and riverine situations,[3] where it can grow up to 30 m tall,[5] or a shrub or small tree in dryer and more open situations.[3] The stem is usually straight with rough, flaking bark which is grayish-brown on top and reddish beneath.[3][6][7] The branches of young trees grow horizontally from the stem.[3] The leaves are alternate and produced on one plane. Male and female flowers are produced on separate trees, with both types of flowers being small, greenish-yellow in colour,[3] and fragrant.[8] The fruit is a three-lobed capsule about 10 mm in diameter and golden-brown when ripe.[3] The inner part of the fruit is dark metallic blue-green;[6] giving rise to the name bushveld peacock-berry.

Medicinal use[edit]

Scientific investigation[edit]

M. discoidea leaves

These trees contain many alkaloids including phyllochrysine (a central nervous system stimulant) and securinine.[4][9][10] Oral administration of an aqueous extract at various concentrations showed no acute toxicity in rats and no adverse change in behavior; suggesting that it may be safe for pharmacological uses.[5] The aqueous extract of M. discoidea stem bark was investigated for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities in animal models (rats): The extract reduced significantly the formation of oedema induced by carrageenan and histamine, and had a good analgesic effect, with the results comparable to those of indomethacin, the reference drug used in the study.[5]

In traditional medicine[edit]

Stem of Margaritaria discoidea at Ilanda Wilds, South Africa, showing old scar from bark removal for traditional medicinal use

These trees are used in traditional medicine across Africa: A leaf-decoction is taken in Ivory Coast for blennorrhoea and for poisoning,[11] while in Ubangi a decoction of roots and leafy twigs is also used for blennorrhoea[12] A wash of the decoction is a stimulant in case of general fatigue.[11] The bark is used as a purgative in West Africa and anthelmintic in Central Africa.[9][13] The Fula people use the bark for toothache, in the Central African Republic a decoction is used for post-partum pains, and in the Republic of the Congo for stomach and kidney complaints and to facilitate parturition.[5] In Malawi the powdered bark extract is applied to swellings and inflammation for quick relief.[14]

Other uses[edit]

As fodder[edit]

The dried leaves can be used as a food supplement for sheep.[15]

Forestry and timber[edit]

The wood is hard and durable and the trees are fast growing from seed,[3] suggesting that this species may be suitable for agroforestry. The sap-wood is yellowish, and the heartwood is pinkish-white to brownish-red, hard, heavy, of medium texture, not difficult to work and is suitable for cabinetry; finishing smoothly and taking a fine polish.[8] The wood can be sawn into planks and used for ordinary building purposes.[8] These trees have been planted in mixed plantations, with a suggestion that they may have a rotation time of 40 to 60 years.[16]

As an acaricide[edit]

Extracts from this plant can be used to kill ticks, including Rhipicephalus appendiculatus and Amblyomma variegatum, and an application of a 50% concentrated oil extract on rabbit ears caused a complete inhibition of attachment by adult R. appendiculatus and A. variegatum for at least 4 days.[17] When applied on ticks on cattle in the field, the 50% oil extract induced 100% and 50% mortalities in adult R. appendiculatus and A. variegatum, respectively, by 2 days post-application.[17]

Ecological significance[edit]

The leaves are eaten by the larvae of the scarce forest emperor butterfly (Charaxes etesipe tavetensis).[6] The flowers are much visited by bees and other insects. The seeds are a relished food of guineafowl and francolin. Seed in Kenya have attracted bushbuck.[18] M. discoidea is also eaten by red duiker.[19]


  1. ^ Synonyms reference:
  2. ^ Radcliffe-Smith, A (1981). "Notes on African Euphorbiaceae_ XI_ Margaritaria discoidea_ A Re-Appraisal". Kew Bulletin. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 36 (2): 219–221. doi:10.2307/4113603. JSTOR 4113603. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Pooley, E. (1993). The Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal, Zululand and Transkei''. ISBN 0-620-17697-0. 
  4. ^ a b c Burkill, H.M. (1994). The useful plants of west Tropical Africa. London, UK: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. ISBN 0-947643-56-7. 
  5. ^ a b c d Adedapo AA, Sofidiya MO, Afolayan AJ (December 2009). "Anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities of the aqueous extracts of Margaritaria discoidea (Euphorbiaceae) stem bark in experimental animal models". Revista De Biología Tropical. 57 (4): 1193–200. PMID 20073344. 
  6. ^ a b c Van Wyk, B.; Van Wyk, P. (1997). Field guide to trees of Southern Africa (2 ed.). ISBN 1-86825-922-6. 
  7. ^ Woodhall, Steve (2005). Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa. Cape Town, South Africa: Struik. ISBN 978-1-86872-724-7. 
  8. ^ a b c "Entry for Margaritaria discoidea (Baill.) Webster [family EUPHORBIACEAE]". 
  9. ^ a b Kerharo, J.; Adam, J.G. (1974). La Pharmacopie Senegalese traditionelle. Plants medicinales et Toxiques. Paris, France: Vigot Freres. 
  10. ^ Weenen et al, 1990
  11. ^ a b Adjanohoun & Aké Assi, 1972
  12. ^ Portères, s.d.
  13. ^ Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962
  14. ^ Irvine, F.R. (1961). Woody plants of Ghana. London, UK: Oxford University. 
  15. ^ Osakwe, I.I.; Steingass, H. (2004). "Quantitative Protein And Fat Metabolism In West African Dwarf Sheep Fed Margaritaria Discoidea As Supplement". Animal Research International. 1 (1). 
  16. ^ Louppe, D.; Oteng-Amoako, A.A.; Brink, M. (2008). Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 7(1): Timbers 1. p. 333. ISBN 3-8236-1541-6. 
  17. ^ a b Kaaya, Godwin; Mwangi, Esther; Malonza, Mutua (1995). "Acaricidal activity of Margaritaria discoidea (Euphorbiaceae) plant extracts against the ticks Rhipicephalus appendiculatus and Amblyomma variegatum (Ixodidae)". International Journal of Acarology. 21 (2): 123–129. doi:10.1080/01647959508684052. 
  18. ^ Eggeling, W.J.; Dale, I. R. (1952). The indigenous trees of the Uganda Protectorate. Entebbe: Government Printer. p. 491. 
  19. ^ Van Eeden, D.G. 2006.

External links[edit]