Mimusops caffra

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Coastal red milkwood
Mimusops caffra large.JPG
Branches and foliage of a large Mimusops caffra.
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Sapotaceae
Genus: Mimusops
M. caffra
Binomial name
Mimusops caffra
E.Mey. ex A.DC.

Mimusops caffra (coastal red milkwood, Afrikaans: Kusrooimelkhout, Xhosa: Umthunzi, Sepedi: Mmupudu, Zulu: Umkhakhayi)[1] is a species of tree in family Sapotaceae. This tree is found in coastal dune vegetation in Southern Africa from the Eastern Cape, through KwaZulu-Natal to southern Mozambique.


Mimusops caffra is a small to medium-sized tree. The stem is up to 50 cm (20 in) in diameter, often gnarled or twisted with dark grey bark which is wrinkled longitudinally.[2] These trees may reach 15–25 m (49–82 ft)[3][4] in height, but are shorter on the seaward side of the dunes [5] where they rarely exceed 5m tall and where the foliage suffers under salt spray and sea winds.[2] It may be dominant in sheltered dune forest behind the littoral zone, where it can reach 20 m (66 ft) in height[2] with some protection from the salt wind where forests develop with canopies as tall as 30 m (98 ft).[5]

The leaves are alternate, hard and leathery with rounded or blunt tips. Older leaves are blue-green above and paler on the underside. Young leaves are light green.

The creamy-white star-like flowers are 10–20 mm (0.39–0.79 in) in diameter and found in small bunches in the leaf axils.[6][4]

The fruits are about 15–20 mm (0.59–0.79 in) long and are fat, roundish to oval, red or orange-red when ripe, with a sweet starchy pulp and containing a single oval, shiny brown or blackish seed.[7]

Ecological significance[edit]

The fruit are eaten by people, vervet monkeys, bushpigs, Cape parrots, black-bellied glossy starlings and yellow-streaked bulbuls.[7] These trees serve to lift the vegetative canopy in coastal dune vegetation, thereby allowing space and protection for more delicate plant species such as Isoglossa woodii (which is fed on by blue duiker) and the large-leaved dragon tree (Dracaena aletriformis). The robust structure of these trees also allows support for climbing plants such as Rhoicissus rhomboidea. Monkeys and birds spread the seeds of Mimusops caffra, which are also buoyant and often wash up along the shore.[7]

Conservation status[edit]

Mimusops caffra is protected (in South Africa) in terms of the National Forest Act of 1998. Protected tree species may not be cut, disturbed, damaged or destroyed, and their products may not be possessed, collected, removed, transported, exported, donated, purchased or sold, except under licence granted by the Department of Forestry or a delegated authority.[8]


  1. ^ "Protected Trees" (PDF). Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Republic of South Africa. 3 May 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 July 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (2005).
  3. ^ South African National Biodiversity Institute
  4. ^ a b Pooley, E. (1993). The Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal, Zululand and Transkei. ISBN 0-620-17697-0
  5. ^ a b World Wildlife Fund Staff. (2008). WWF Full Report: Maputaland coastal forest mosaic (AT0119).
  6. ^ Weaver, R.E. and P.J. Anderson.(2004).
  7. ^ a b c Palmer, E. and N. Pitman. (1972).
  8. ^ South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Webpage: PlantZAfrica. Accessed 2008. http://www.plantzafrica.com/