Current name: Spathodea campanulata
Other names: Ugandan flame tree, Nandi flame tree, African tulip tree, fire tree, flame of the forest
I remember collecting the empty pods of this tree when I was a child. They have a perfect boat shape and are guaranteed to give any marginally inventive child hours of fun.
Over the years the S. campanulata virtually disappeared from Kampala. The towering tree was the victim of our quest for, dare I say, modernity. Now, you will only find S. campanulata trees in older housing settlements like Kololo, Mengo, Rubaga and around Nsambya hill.
Fortunately, the-one-women-kill (I’m sure that’s not the translation) still thrives outside the city, where its medicinal value is greatly treasured. (more…)
The musambya tree (markhamia lutea, Nile Tulip, Bell Bean Tree) is a common native tree in Uganda.
Let me qualify that. It was a common native tree. Nowadays it’s easier for Kampala gardeners to get foreign species than seeds of this beautiful tree. I bought mine in Luweero!
The roadside plant vendor in Luweero was the first to tell me that musambya grows easily from seeds. I’d have stolen a couple from my neighborhood if I’d known better.
Like many native Ugandan trees, it does well with a biannual rainy season and good soils. Once established it the ground, it grows fast.
My musambya was planted in December last year. Now it stands about three meters high. It hasn’t yet started flowering (the picture here was taken at my parents’ home), so I’m excited to see what will happen towards the end of the year.
It’s a drought resistant tree. Take care not to over-water it, as water logging causes root rot in musambya.
Musambya is quickly disappearing from Ugandan forests and fields because it is a major source of firewood and charcoal. In northwestern Uganda it is also used to cure tobacco. (more…)
(Inspiration for this post comes from The Lovely Plants, a brilliant gardening blog from Pakistan.)
Gen-X kids in Uganda reading this blog will not understand the joys of eating wild fruit.
The long hours walking home from school, combing strangers’ compounds for ensali (pictured), mpafu, jambula, mangoes, tamarind and butunda … Getting home late and being caned for stupidity (You could have been kidnapped! We thought you were dead!) … Exchanging the fruit for a small piece of chocolate the next day with classmates from rich families … Bliss.
Garcinia buchananii (ensali) is also known by its English names, Granite garcinia and Granite mangosteen.
It is a small evergreen tree with oblong, leathery leaves. Like the mango, it flowers just before it fruits. The fruits are fruits fleshy and round. They taste like guava/cape gooseberry/paw paw, but with a particular sharpness.
The ensali tree is indigenous through eastern African and in parts of Angola and Zimbabwe.
An online presentation by Francis Ogwal of the National Environment Management Authority says the tree species is not common in Uganda, although it is widely distributed. It exists in the wild in Bukaleba Forest (Iganga), Kagombe Forest (Kibaale) Labwor Hills Forest (Kotido) and Morungole (Kotido … or is it Kaabong?).
The ensali tree is not only used for food. Its bark and roots are harvested for the treatment of gonorrhea.
It is very easy to propagate the ensali tree. I got ripe fruit from my parents’ garden, buried the seeds in a jua kali planter and about three weeks later, I had seedlings.