General Info

Tree is usually up to 9m high with a dense crown. Simple Leaves lack stipules. Flowers are actinomorphic, monoecious and unisexual. Fruit: brown, hard capsule, which splits into 2 parts – revealing a Seed with a red arilode.


Pappea capensis, Sapindus capensis, Sapindus pappae, Pappea radlkoferi, Pappea ugandensis, Pappea fulva.

RSA Tree No. 433.

Common names: Jacket-plum, Wild Plumb, Bushveld Cherry, Oliepit, Wildepruim, Doppruim, Judgement Tree, Indaba tree.

Family: Sapindaceae. (Soapberry family). This family has 135 genera and about 1 800 species. The alternate, usually compound Leaves often lack stipules (leaf stalk) and have a swollen base. The small, usually unisexual, Flowers may be regular or irregular. The Calyx has 4-5 lobes and, when present, the Corolla has 3-5 petals. There are between 5 and 24 Stamens, which have free Filaments and the Anthers have 2 pollen sacs. The superior Ovary may have up to 3 styles each ending in a simple stigma. There are 27 species in 14 genera in southern Africa. Local genera with trees include Allophylus, Atalaya, Dodonaea, Erythrophysa, Filicium, Hippobromus, Pappea, Smelophyllum and Stadmannia.

Name derivation: Pappea named after Carl W L Pappe (1803-1862). He was a physician and the first colonial botanist and Prof of botany in what is now called the University of Cape Town. capensis – of the Cape. Pappea capensis is the only species in southern Africa.

Conservation Status: L C. (Least Concern). 2009 (Raimondo et al.).


With its much-branched dense Crown, this Tree is up usually up to 9m but may reach 13m high.  It tends to be smaller in dry areas.  Bark is pale grey to brownish and rather smooth. The spreading Branches are thickish, light grey and knobbly. These branches are initially covered with light brown to brownish-orange hairs.  They soon display lenticels (a usually raised corky oval or elongated area on the plant that allows the uncontrolled interchange of gases with the environment – photo 93).


This usually evergreen tree has Leaves that are simple, alternatively or spirally arranged.   They tend to be crowded near the ends of branches.  The stiff, rough, leathery, and hairy leaves are oblong, elliptic and obovate to almost circular.  They are variable in size up to 17 x 6cm. Young leaves are pink (photo 114). Bigger leaves tend to be located in moister areas. The Blade may be yellow to green and is dull above and paler below. Lateral veins are raised below, and clearly visible on both sides. Secondary veins are visible when viewing the leaf against the sun – with the aid of a hand lens (photo 655). The initially parallel veins, usually branch one or more times before reaching the margin. This branching starts after more than half the distance to the margin. The veins may be hairy and this is more visible on the lower side. The Apex is rounded. The Base is rounded or cordate (heart shaped) and may be asymmetric. The wavy Margins have vigorous teeth that are close together on the young pink leaves as well as on coppice (In this case, when stems are cut or burned it causes regrowth from the stump or roots) shoots. Mature leaves are often entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented but may be hairy). The Petiole (leaf stalk) is stout, up to 1,7cm long and may be pink. Stipules (basal appendages of the petiole) are absent.


The very small individual Flowers are best viewed with the aid of a hand lens. They are actinomorphic (regular, symmetrical. Perianth, the calyx and corolla, are divisible into 2 or more identical sectors). The plant is monoecious (having both male and female reproductive organs on the same plant). Separate male and female flowers, on the same or different inflorescences, are located in leaf axils and at the ends of branches. The individual flowers are in long racemes (a simple elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers) or panicles (indeterminate, branched inflorescence with stalked flowers). Inflorescences are shorter in arid environments. A small Disc (a more or less fleshy or elevated development of the receptacle) is present. The cup-shaped Calyx usually contains 5 Sepals that are joined at the base. The Corolla is small, inconspicuous and usually has 5 Petals which are as long as the sepals. The Male flowers usually appear first. In individual male flowers, there are 8-10 white Stamens – each is about 4mm long with white hairy Filaments that arise within the disc. The Anthers that have 2 pollen sacs, change from greenish yellow to brown. No ovary is present. In the later developing Female flowers, the Staminodes (sterile stamens) are small. There is a single Pistil (a unit of the Gynoecium, the female element of the flower, composed of the Ovary, Style and Stigma) with a 3-chambered superior Ovary. The short and thick Style ends in a simple Sigma. (Dec-May – variable).


The almost spherical or oval Fruit is edible and enclosed in a hairy, initially green, Capsule (a dry fruit resulting from the maturing of a compound ovary that usually opens at maturity by one or more lines of dehiscence).  After pollination the Stamens and Style are still visible (photo 540) for a while.  As it matures, it becomes brown, hard and brittle.  This capsule is up to 1,5cm in diameter.  Each capsule splits into 2, revealing a bright red, inner flesh (photo 383) which surrounds a single, shiny brown to black Seed. This red, fleshy jelly-like part is an Arillode (a structure in certain seeds that resembles an aril but develops from the micropyle of the ovule). The Micropyle is a small opening in the surface of an ovule, through which the pollen tube penetrates, often visible as a small pore in the ripe Seed.  During germination, the seedling’s radicle – embryonic root – emerges through the micropyle. On the other hand, the Aril is 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.  (Feb-Jul). The seeds appear to be in a jacket hence the name – jacket-plum.

Distribution & Ecology

This tough Tree is neither frost nor heat sensitive. It can be seen in wooded grasslands, in the bushveld, associated with termite mounds and in riverine thickets. It is less common in forests.  Provincially it occurs in the Western, Northern and Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo and North West. Beyond our borders, it occurs in Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe (Tree in State House Bulawayo), Zambia, Namibia and into Tropical Africa. The scent of the Flowers attracts bees, wasps and flies. Many birds, including black-collard barbets, green pigeons, bulbuls, starlings and mousebirds consume the Fruit. The sweet to sour fruit is eaten monkeys, baboons, bushbuck and elephants. Larvae of the common hairtail butterfly Anthene definite, the Brown playboy butterfly (Virachola antalus), the Pearl-spotted charaxes (Charaxes jahlusa) and the Gold-banded forester (Euphaedra neophron) feed on the Leaves.


Ethnobotany: The white, hard and dense Wood may be tinged with brown and has a twisted grain. Uses include making furniture, sticks, poles and spoons. It does not become sufficiently wide to be of more use. People and domestic stock eat the Fruit. Good vinegar and jelly are made from the fruit. Oil extracted from the fruit is used to make soap and even for oiling guns. The tree is easily Grown from seeds and will enhance bird life wherever it is planted. It is slowish growing. No part of the plant is poisonous.


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