General Info

This Tree is up to 1m wide and 2m high. The Stem is tuber-like.  Branches end in climbing tendrils.  Leaves are 3-5 foliate.  The dioecious, unisexual Flowers are greenish white.  Fruit is an orange or red capsule with 3-6 Seeds.


Adenia fruticosa

RSA Tree No. 512.5.

Common names: Green stem, Bobbejaangif, baboon poison.

Family: Passifloraceae. (Named after the passionflower in the largest genus Passiflora).  Passifloraceae contains about 20 genera and 700+ species.  This family includes passion fruit and granadilla.  Local genera with trees include Adenia.  This tropical family includes members that have tendril-climbing vines or are erect herbs.  Flowers are actinomorphic, in 3-5 parts and bisexual or unisexual.  The throat of the calyx often has a fringed corona (any appendage or extrusion that stands between the corolla and the stamens, or on the corolla, or is an outgrowth of the staminal part or circle).  The superior ovary is usually sessile.  Fruit is a capsule or a berry.  Most Seeds have a fleshy or membranous aril.

Name derivation: Adenia: Gland.  Conspicuous leaf glands occur in most species.  fruticosa – shrubby or bushy.  The genus Adenia has about 100 species worldwide and there are 10 species in RSA.

Conservation Status:  Near Threatened.  2009 (Raimondo et al.).  In Zimbabwe it is considered Vulnerable.


This Tree has an amazing main tuber-like stem – much of which is underground and up to 1m in diameter.  (A Tuber is swollen underground stem, which is a storage and regenerative organ which help survival during winter months).  The soft woody base and may reach 2m high.  The Bark is green or yellowish.  The base of the trunk tapers quickly into long, slim, whip-like branches, which may be distinctively ribbed and are up to 5m long.  This is a perennial climber and the branches end in climbing Tendrils that are up to 12cm long. These tendrils occur opposite the leaves (photo 419 – under Flowers).


The blue-green or grey-green Leaves have 3-5 leaflets.  The alternate leaves are ovate to almost round and up to 8 x 8cm.  Leaflets are round, ovate to obovate and up to 6 x 4cm.  The Margin is entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented but may be hairy).  The Petiole (leaf stalk) is up to 1,5cm long and there is a gland at the top of the petiole.  Petiolules (stalks of leaflets) are very short or absent.  Tendrils are up to 12cm long and may break off leaving a spine.  The hairless leaflets tend to droop and are pale green above and slightly lighter below.  The Stipules (basal appendages of the petiole) are small and acicular (slender – needle-like: photo 156).


The unisexual Flowers are usually dioecious (having male and female parts on separate plants) and actinomorphic (Regular, symmetrical.  The Perianth – the calyx and corolla are divisible into 3 or more identical sectors or mirror images).  They are solitary or arise in groups of 2-5 in Cymes (broad, more or less flat-topped, determinate flower cluster, with central flowers opening first) that emerge from the leaf axils.  Each bell-shaped flower is greenish white and up to 1cm long.  The free Sepals are large and overlapping.  There are 5 small, thin Petals which arise in the calyx tube and alternate with the sepals.  A ring of hair-like processes forms a Corona (crown, coronet; any appendage or extrusion that stands between the corolla and the stamens, or on the corolla, or is an outgrowth of the staminal part or circle).  The 2-5 Male flowers are up to 15 x 5mm.  Anthers are 2-thecus (with 2 pollen sacs).  They open lengthwise to release pollen.  There are up to 3 smaller Female flowers which have a funnel-shaped receptacle with stamens reduced to Staminodes (sterile stamens) which are connate at the base.  There is a single, stalked Pistil (a unit of the Gynoecium, the female element of the flower, composed of the Ovary, Style and Stigma) with a superior unilocular (with one compartment) Ovary with several ovules.  The Style is short or absent and the Stigmas are papillate (small, rounded, nipplelike protuberance).  (Aug-Dec).


The smooth, almost spherical, orange to red Fruit is a 3-valved Capsule (a dry fruit resulting from the maturing of an ovary which usually opens at maturity by one or more lines of dehiscence) which is up to 2 x 2cm – usually less.  The capsule is initially green, pitted and a spherical shape turning orange when ripe.  It is leathery with pale veins and stipitate (supported by a short stipe or a short stalk).  The 3-6 circular or disc-shaped Seeds are surrounded by a red fleshy Aril (an appendage or outer covering of a seed and may appear as a pulpy covering. It develops from a stalk, the funiculus, connecting an ovule or a seed with the placenta) – (photo 923).  (Sep-Mar).

Distribution & Ecology

This Unusual Plant is found in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo (North of the Soutpansberg Mountains), Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.  They grow best in well-drained sandy soils and in rocky areas from 800 to 1 400m.  Plants are also located on slopes and sandy flats as well as on dolomite, granite and quartzite rocky areas.


The sap contains cyanogenic compounds, which may release cyanide.


Boon, R. 2010. Pooley’s Trees of eastern South Africa. Flora and Fauna Publications Trust, Durban.

Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa, edn 3. Struik, Cape Town.

Schmidt, S. Lotter, M. & McCleland, W. 2002. Trees and Shrubs of Mpumalanga and the Kruger National Park.