home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Myrianthus holstii

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


  • A medium-sized tree, growing to a height of about 10 m.
  • The most distinctive feature are the huge digitate leaves. Each leaf is made up of 5-7 leaflets and individual leaflets can measure up to 36 cm long by 12.5 cm wide! The petiolules of the leaflets are short and stubby but the petiole of the whole leaf ranges from 7-35 cm long. The margins of the leaflets have fine serrations. Leaflets are smooth and dark green above and pale greyish-green below with a dense velvety pubescence and distinctive veins.
  • The bark is grey to brown, smooth.
  • Flowers are unisexual, on separate plants.
  • Fruit are bright yellow when ripe, about 4 cm in diameter, with a pinapple-like surface.

Distribution and habitat

Native distribution includes Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Eastern DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and eastern Zimbabwe. Generally occurs in the understorey of evergreen forests.

Ecological interactions

KD Ocama in Uganda recorded elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, L'Hoest's Monkey (Cercopithecus lhoesti), baboons and squirrels as eating the fruit (information from the Institute of Forest Conservation website).


  • The fruit is regarded as good eating.
  • A protein called Myrianthus holstii lectin has been extracted from the roots and shown to be a potent HIV-1 inhibitor (Charan et al. 2000).



  • Charan RD, Munro MH, O'Keefe BR, Sowder RCII, McKee TC, Currens MJ, Pannell LK, Boyd MR. 2000. Isolation and characterization of Myrianthus holstii lectin, a potent HIV-1 inhibitory protein from the plant Myrianthus holstii. J Nat Prod. 63(8): 1170-4.
  • 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