Tamboti (Spirostachys africanus)
Synonyms: Excoecaria africana (Muell. Arg.), Sapium africanum (Kuntze)
The generic name, Spirostachys refers to the spiral arrangement of the flowers on the spike, and africana means from Africa.
Common names: African mahogany tree, African sandalwood, cape sandalwood, jumping bean seed, sandaleen wood, tamboti
Northern Sotho: Modiba
tshiVenda: Muonze(Photo by Craigsa)Distribution
Spirostachys africana occurs naturally from KwaZulu-Natal in the South to Tanzania in the North. It is common in the Lowveld and occurs in all soil types. It is most often seen in groups of a few big trees along the rivers or streambanks, but may also grow in large groups of small trees. This tree can also be found growing in all southern African countries except Lesotho.Appearance
The tree is fairly drought and frost resistant, but grows very slowly. They can grow upto 18m tall.
Its characteristic bark is dark brown to black, thick, rough and neatly cracked into regular rectangular blocks that are arranged in longitudinal rows. Leaves are alternate, simple and are up to 70 x 35 mm and the margins are finely toothed. The young, red leaves are often visible among the older, green leaves in spring. The flowerheads are 15-30 mm long, bearing mostly male and a few female flowers. The female flowers are attached at the base of each spike. Flowering takes place in August to September before the new leaves appear. The flowering spikes of this plant are unusual in appearance as the male flowers appear gold-coloured because of the pollen whereas female flowers are blood red. The fruit is a capsule that is three-lobed and opens with an exploding sound that can be heard on hot summer days when ripe (from October to February). The tamboti is one of the 'jumping bean' trees because the seeds become infested with the larvae of a small grey moth, which then causes the seed to jump centimetres into the air.Warning
The branchlets when broken produce thick white latex, which is poisonous, but not always present. The sap is quite poisonous - in fact you can fish by throwing a Tambotie branch into the water and waiting for the fish to float to the surface. The sap may also cause blindness or blisters on the skin if contact is made. The sawdust is very dangerous, irritating the eyes of sawyers, and may even cause blindness.
Although the latex is very toxic to humans it does have traditional medicinal uses, for example, a drop of the fresh latex is applied to a painful tooth as painkiller. The bark is used to treat stomach pains but large dosages will cause damage to the internal organs.
Meat cooked over a fire made from the wood of this tree causes severe diarrhoea, death may occur. Feeding
Francolins, guineafowl and doves eat the fruits. Kudu, nyala, impala and vervet monkeys, elephants, bushbuck, giraffe and eland feed on fresh leaves of this tree and the black rhino eat the young branches. Duiker, impala and nyala also feed on the dry fallen leaves of this tree.Uses
The wood has a wonderful scent, which is even stronger when burned, but the smoke can be toxic and would poison any food cooked over it. The natives used to use it to kill an exposed tooth nerve - permanently.
The wood is extremely handsome and makes attractive furniture. It is exported from East Africa as a substitute for sandalwood. The wood is unsuitable for ox-yokes since it produces a "burning" effect on the animals necks. The wood is so strong that you can also make gun-stocks or arrows from it and is still used traditionally for fencing, hut rafters, walking sticks and necklaces.
The wood is also used to keep insects away. Status
The tamboti is a protected tree in South Africa by the The Flora Protection Act of 31st October, 1952.
: The photos from our trip! Overhere! Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c