A tree of wild medler
Common names: wilde mispel, Mpfilwa, Mmilo,
muzwilu, mavelo, umViyo, umTulwa, umVilo, umbizo, umViyo,
is one of South Africa's most popular wild fruits, and can be enjoyed
while walking. This lovely little tree is considered to possess evil
powers and not even the wood should be used for making fire. It is
believed that it could cause cattle to bear only male offspring. Despite
this, the plant is used extensively.
The leaves are light green in colour,
covered with soft, velvety short hairs and even more so when young. The
margin of the leaf is entire. The shape of the leaf is elliptic to ovate
with the net veining conspicuous below. When older, the leaves often
appear twisted and are rough to the touch.
Flowers of wild medler
Soft, velvety, acorn-shaped buds appear either before or simultaneously with the new leaves around September to October. These open into small flowers, greenish white to yellowish in colour. They occur in clusters along the short lateral branches.
The fruit is almost round, glossy dark green when young
and changing to a light brown when ripe. The ripe fruit is soft and
fleshy with a leathery skin that encloses 3-5 seeds embedded in soft
Young developing fruits of wild medler
The fruit is edible and has a pleasant sweet-sour, mealy taste. It tastes like an apple. It can be found on the plants from January to April. The remains of the old flower base can be seen on the tip of the fruit.
Uses and economic value
This plant has medicinal value as well. An infusion of the roots and leaves has been used to treat malaria, chest ailments like pneumonia, as a purgative and to treat ringworms. An infusion of the leaves is used for the relief of toothache. For the treatment of swelling of the limbs the affected parts are bathed in a decoction of the pounded leaves and small twigs, especially in children.
The wild medlar is a hardy and drought resistant plant that can withstand moderate cold. It is rarely cultivated in the trade. It can be propagated from fresh seed or cuttings. To make sure that it germinates readily, remove the outer skin and the pulp. Sow in well-drained, sandy seedling mix.
This plant is slow growing, but would make an attractive garden plant if trimmed from the start to form a specimen plant.