Apple-leaf (Lonchocarpus capassa)
Swahili name: Mvale
Afrikaans naam: Appelblaar
Lonchocarpus capassa is a semi-evergreen tree, usually 4-10 meters high, with a rounded open crown. The bark is grey and smooth when young, but becomes rough, flaking and fissured with age. The tree has compound leaves with 1-3 pairs of grey-green leaflets together with a larger central leaflet. The flowers are sweet scented, small and pea shaped, growing in sprays up to 30 cm long, with colour ranging from pink to violet or blue. The tree flowers from September to December and produces fruit from January to August. The fruit is a flat cream-grey pod that is wing like and up to 15 cm long. The pods rot on the ground and set free 1-5 kidney shaped seeds.
Lonchocarpus capassa is found in wooded grassland and deciduous woodland, from 150 to 1650 m above sea level, usually along water courses. It grows in Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In Tanzania it is most common in the regions of Dodoma, Iringa, Kondoa, Morogoro and Tabora.
It is believed that this tree was used by witches for casting evil spells. It was also said to cause discord within the family if used as fuelwood. For these reasons the tree was never cut down or used as fuelwood.
In Botswana the belief version of L. capassa differs from the Zimbabwean one in that the tree is associated with the production of rain. This belief stems from the fact that this tree species is usually invaded in early summer (before the rains break) by an insect, a frog hopper, which feeds on the sap of the tree. Since the sap is very dilute in nutrients, the hoppers have to consume large quantities of it, passing out drops of water which then fall from the tree branches. Where the insects are very profuse on a tree, they release numerous drops of fluid, with the resulting effect looking like rain from the tree. When someone stands below that tree, they may get wet, hence the name 'rain tree'. It was believed that if anyone cut down this tree then no rain would fall on their fields. The whole area around Makarikari in Botswana is denuded of trees - except for the rain tree.
No. of seeds per kg: approximately 5000. Seed germination is good and fast.
Firewood, timber, utensils, tool handles, food (seeds, used as food only in times of famine), medicine (roots), bee forage, fodder (leaves).
Not generally eaten by cattle during the rainy season, but fairly extensively browsed toward the end of the dry season.
Impala, giraffe, kudu, Nyala and impala all eat the leaves.
The larva of the large blue charaxases butterfly feed on the leaves of this tree.
The wood is used for making tool handles, carving and in grain mortars.
Inhaling the smoke from burning the roots is said to help with colds, and bark of root ground into powder is used to treat snakebite.
Note for the Dutch people:
The family Fabaceae is the Vlinderbloemenfamilie.
: 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