The pulp of these small fruits is very sweet. This is one that is quite tasty even when not completely ripe—it seems remarkably tannin-free for a persimmon. The 4-6 dark brown seeds are oblong, flattish, minutely warty, and hairy.

As for known environmental requirements, they can be summarized as:

Rainfall The tree is generally found in areas receiving from 500-1,270 mm in four out of five years, but grows also in areas with around 300 mm (Chad and Namibia, for instance).

Altitude It grows naturally up to 1,250 m (in Tanzania, for instance).

Temperature In areas with mean annual minimum temperature of 16°C. Seems to grow best in areas with mean annual maximum temperature of 27°C.

Soil The species appears to favor heavy soils, but is not unhappy in sands, loams, volcanic soils, or rocky sands with clay or alluvium.


Yet more ebonies bearing heavy crops of pleasant fruits include the following from southern Africa (often called “blue bushes” in the region):

Diospyros lycioides Desf. This small shrub of central and southern Africa bears reddish or yellow fruit the size of small plums. The pulp is translucent and faintly sweet.6 This is the species that grows fast. In Zimbabwe it produces fruit after 4 years, while still in the nursery.7 Moreover, its wood is high in quality. Twigs from this species are commonly used as a toothbrush and have been found to contain effective antibacterial compounds.8

Diospyros kirkii Hiern In spring this small tree of the tropical lowveld of southern Africa bears sweet mealy fruit (2.5-4 cm in diameter). The fruits are good enough eating and the trees are resilient and productive enough that one writer, after surveying hundreds of wild food plants, considered this species as “perhaps being worth domesticating.”


“This is a nice fruit,” wrote our contributor Harry van den Burg. “It has three subspecies [here] in Swaziland, and lots of genetic variability that is worth exploring.”


Information from Ray Perry.


Cai L., G.X. Wei, P. van der Bijl, and C.D. Wu. 2000. Namibian chewing stick, Diospyros lycioides, contains antibacterial compounds against oral pathogens. J. Agric Food Chem. 48(3):909-914.

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