General Info

The Tree is usually up to 6m high. Twigs are 4 angled. The simple, hairless Leaves occur in opposite pairs. Minute glabrous Flowers in cymes. Wrinkled Fruit is a drupe changes to purple or black.



Canthium inerme, Canthium swynnertonii, Canthium ventosum, Lycium inerme, Plectronia swynnertonii.

RSA Tree No. 708.

Common names: Bokdrolbessie, Bokdrolletjie, Cape Date, Doringels, Skaapdrolletjie, Turkey Berry, Unarmed Turkey-berry, Wildelemoentjie, Wolwedoring.

Family: Rubiaceae. (Coffee family). This family of dicotyledonous plants has in excess of 600 genera and about 13 000 species and members include trees, shrubs and herbs. Local genera with trees include Afrocanthium, Canthium, Coddia, Gardenia, Pavetta, Rothmannia and Vangueria. Leaves are simple, opposite or whorled and have interpetiolar stipules. Flowers are bisexual or unisexual. They are gamosepalous (a calyx whose sepals at least partly united) and Gamopetalous (united joined petals – at least at the base). Stamens usually as many as and alternating with corolla lobes. The Ovary is inferior. Fruit is a drupe, berry or capsule.

Name derivation:   Canthium – from the Malabar name canti for a species of this genus. inerme – obovate (upside down egg) possibly referring to the leaf shape.

Conservation Status: L C. (Least concern).

This Tree may reach 15m in the forest but is usually up to 6m high. The Stem is round or fluted and the colour varies from whitish, silver-white or pale grey. Young stems branch at right angles. The Bark on young trees is smooth and ages to become rough. Horizontal Spines in opposite pairs may be present in forest trees. Each spine in the equal pair is at right angles to the other spine and each are up to 8cm long. Twigs (1-year-old current branch segments) are thickish, 4-angled and covered with raised Lenticels (usually raised corky oval or elongated areas on the plant that allow the uncontrolled interchange of gases).


The simple (have a single blade, which may have incisions that are not deep enough to divide the leaf into leaflets), slightly leathery, asymmetric Leaves occur in opposite pairs. They occur at branch ends. Leaves are ovate to oblong or lance-shaped, up to 10 x 4cm and usually develop with new growth at branch ends. The Apex either tapers or is rounded. The Base is rounded or tapers. The hairless Blade is light green and glossy above and much lighter below. Margins are entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented), wavy and rolled under. The Petiole (leaf stalk) is smooth and less than 1,5cm long. The triangular Stipules are shortly sheathing and up to 4mm long.


The very small, slightly sweet scented, greenish-yellow Flowers are borne on leaf axils in dense clusters. Flowers are contained within a Cyme (a broad, more or less flat-topped, determinate flower cluster, with central flowers opening first) that has 2 secondary axes. Flowers often arise with the new leaves. The Calyx is saucer or basin shaped. The Corolla has reflexed lobes. The corolla tube is broadly cylindrical. The Stamens arise at the corolla mouth. The Filaments are usually shorter than the Anthers. The inferior 2-locular Ovary has a single pendulous Ovule in each locule. The hairless Style is slender and slightly longer than the corolla tube. (Aug-Dec).


The Fruit is a Drupe (or stone fruit is a fleshy, indehiscent fruit with the seed enclosed in a stony endocarp. Beyond this is a fleshy mesocarp surrounded by the skin or exocarp. Example a peach). The drupe is initially shiny green, 2-seeded and usually up to 1,5 x 1cm. It ripens to become purple or black, wrinkled and has a round scar at the apex. Fallen fruits resemble goat or sheep droppings – hence 3 of the common names. (Nov-Apr). Fruit may remain on the tree for some time.

Distribution & Ecology

This tree is located in the following provinces: Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, North West and Limpopo. This tree also occurs in Swaziland, Mozambique and Eastern Zimbabwe. These trees are usually scattered and occur from sea sands, kloofs (steep-sided, wooded ravines or valleys), subtropical bushveld, scrub to high altitude (up to 2 100m) grasslands, among rocks and near to streams. It may also be a creeper. Domatia (tiny chambers produced by plants that house arthropods. To the naked eye the domatia appear as small bumps) may be present. These domatia are not hairy. The many birds including the Rameron Pigeon are attracted to the Fruit. Turkeys relish the fallen fruit. These tree Leaves and those of Volkameria glabra are hosts for the larvae of the Natal bar Butterfly (Cigaritis natalensis).


The Fruit is edible. The extremely hard Wood is dense, close-grained and tough. It is yellow or light brown and has a marbled grain. Uses include fence poles, implement handles and fuel. The tree is grown to shelter stock. Traditional medicine makes use of the Leaves.


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.

Ginn P.J. Mcilleron W.G. and Milstein P. le S, 1989. The Complete Book of Southern African Birds. Struik, Cape Town.

Lawrence, G. H. M, 1951. Taxonomy of Vascular Plants, The Macmillan Company, New York. Tenth Printing 1965.

Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa, Balkema, Amsterdam, Cape Town.

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

van Wyk, B. & van Wyk, P. 1997 Field guide to Trees of Southern Africa, Struik, Cape Town.