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(Olax or Sourplum family)


According to Mabberley (2017), this is a family of usually evergreen root parasites, trees, lianes, and shrubs comprising 160 species in 23 genera found in tropical regions. Nickrent et al. (2010), who carried out a molecular phylogenetic investigation, have proposed a revised classification that splits off many of the species into a number of smaller families, namely Aptandraceae, Coulaceae, Erythropalaceae, Octoknemaceae, Strombosiaceae, and Ximeniaceae, thereby separating families of parasitic species from non-parasitic species.

Ochanostachys amentacea Mast. (Corner 1952), Olax subscorpioidea Oliv. (Irvine 1961) and Scorodocarpus borneensis (Baill.) Becc. (Burkill 1935, Corner 1952) have an odour of garlic (Allium sativum L., fam. Alliaceae).

[Summary yet to be added]

Coula edulis Baill.
African Walnut, Gaboon Nut

The wood is thought to have produced occupational dermatitis and respiratory tract disease in a carpentry mill (Dantin-Gallego et al. 1952).

Ongokea gore (Hua) Pierre
[syns Aptandra gore Hua, Ongokea klaineana Pierre]
Boleko Nut

In tropical West Africa, the sap has traditionally been used as a styptic and the oil of the kernels, known as isano oil (Mabberley 2017), has been used to anoint the body (Irvine 1961).

The genus Ongokea Pierre is monotypic and occurs in tropical West Africa (Mabberley 2017).

Scorodocarpus borneensis (Baill.) Becc.
[syn. Ximenia borneensis Baill.]
Bawang Hutan

Menninger (1967) notes that bawang hutan means "forest onion" and refers to the onion-scented timber (see Allium cepa L., fam. Alliaceae). Corner, in correspondence to Menninger, stated that the tree stinks of bad garlic and that the stale smell was noticeable in Bornean forests where the tree is abundant.

The genus Scorodocarpus Becc. is monotypic and occurs in Malaysia (Mabberley 2017).

Ximenia Plum. ex L.

Ten species are found in tropical regions (Mabberley 2017). They are shrubs or small trees that are root parasites on other plants, and which possess axillary spines and/or ramal thorns (Corner 1952, Nickrent et al. (2010)).

Ximenia americana L.
[syns Amyris arborescens P.Browne, Ximenia aculeata Crantz, Ximenia spinosa (Aubl.) Lam. ex Forsyth f.]
Blue Sour Plum, False Sandalwood, Hog Plum, Small Sour Plum, Tallow Wood, Wild Lime, Wild Olive, Citron de Mer, Bedara Laut

The oil of the kernels of this valuable timber tree smells of garlic (Allium sativum L., fam. Alliaceae) and in tropical West Africa is used to anoint the body and hair. Other traditional uses recorded by Irvine (1961) include the use of a root decoction for bathing sores; the use of the powdered root rubbed on the gums for inflammation and toothache; the use of pulverised / powdered bark applied to sores, ulcers, craw-craw, ringworm, etc.; and the use of freshly crushed leaves and roots applied locally to febrile headache. The use of the crushed bark applied to sores on domestic animals was also recorded.

Ximenia americana var. microphylla Welw.
[syn. Ximenia rogersii Burtt Davy]
Blue Sourplum

Codd (1951) described this taxon as a much-branched shrub with spine-tipped branchlets.

Ximenia caffra Sond.
Large Sour Plum, Monkey Plum

This shrub bears short, spine-tipped branchlets (Codd 1951). The wood dust is irritating to the nose and throat and may produce violent sneezing (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Ximenia caffra var. natalensis Sond.
[syn. Ximenia madagascariensis Cavaco & Keraudren]
Natal Sourplum

Codd (1951) described this taxon as a shrub with short, spine-tipped branchlets.


  • Burkill IH (1935) A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, Vols 1 & 2. London: Crown Agents [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Codd LEW (1951) Trees and Shrubs of the Kruger National Park. Union of South Africa, Department of Agriculture, Division of Botany and Plant Pathology. Botanical Survey Memoir No. 26. Pretoria: Government Printer [WorldCat]
  • Corner EJH (1952) Wayside Trees of Malaya, 2nd edn, Vol. 1. Singapore: V.C.G. Gatrell, Government Printer [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Dantin-Gallego J, Armayor AF, Riesco J (1952) Some new toxic woods: some new manifestations of toxicity. Industrial Medicine and Surgery 21(2): 41-46 [pmid]
  • Irvine FR (1961) Woody Plants of Ghana. With special reference to their uses. London: Oxford University Press [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Mabberley DJ (2017) Mabberley's Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses, 4th edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat] [doi] [url]
  • Menninger EA (1967) Fantastic Trees. New York: Viking Press [WorldCat] [url]
  • Nickrent DL, Mal├ęcot V, Vidal-Russell R, Der JP (2010) A revised classification of Santalales. Taxon 59(2): 538-558 [doi] [doi-2] [url] [url-2]
  • Watt JM, Breyer-Brandwijk MG (1962) The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa. Being an account of their medicinal and other uses, chemical composition, pharmacological effects and toxicology in man and animal, 2nd edn. Edinburgh: E & S Livingstone [doi] [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]

Richard J. Schmidt

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