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the web of life in southern Africa

Dorstenia psilurus

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid I > Order: Rosales > Family: Moraceae

Dorstenia psilurus
Dorstenia psilurus Dorstenia psilurus

Dorstenia psilurus, Chirinda Forest, Zimbabwe. [photos Bart Wursten , Flora of Zimbabwe]


  • A shrub or small tree, growing to a height of 8m, with spine-tipped branchlets.
  • Leaves are simple, elliptic, from 3 to 9 cm long by 1 to 4 cm wide.
  • The white, sweet-smelling flowers are in dense, spherical heads that are about 1.5 cm in diameter. Flowers are unisexual with sexes on different trees.
  • The "fruit" is similar to mulberries in that it originates from a number of different flowers where each flower has become thick and fleshy. Different from mulberries in that it is more spherical with the dried remains of the stigmas of the individual flowers radiating outwards.

Distribution and habitat

Native to SE Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa (northeastern KwaZulu-Natal), and Madagascar.


  • Flowers from March to May.
  • Fruits from August to October.

Ecological interactions

No records.


  • A yellow dye is extracted from the heartwood.
  • The leaves and roots are evidently used for medicinal purposes.



  • Palgrave, K.C. and Palgrave, M.C. 2002. Trees of Southern Africa. 3rd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  • van Wyk, B. and van Wyk, P. 1997. Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

Text by Hamish Robertson