Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Umdhlebi Tree of Zululand

Abstract

There are two species, in both the leaf is lanceolate, dark green, glossy, hard, and brittle, and from both a thick milky juice exudes, while the fruit is like a long black pod, red at the end. One species is a tree with large leaves, and peculiar looking stem, the bark hanging down in large flakes, showing a fresh growth of bark underneath: in the words of my informant, “What a villainous-looking tree! nasty, rough, ugly!” The other species is a shrub, with smaller leaves, and the bark not peeling off the stem. Both species are said to possess the power of poisoning any living creature which approaches it; the symptoms of poisoning by it being severe headache, blood-shot eyes, and delirium, ending in death. The person affected dies either in delirium, or instantaneously without any delirium. A superstition is connected with this plant. Only a few persons in Zululand are supposed to be able to collect the fruits of the Umdhlebi, and these dare nut approach the tree except from the windward side. They also sacrifice a goat or a sheep to the demon of the tree, tying the animal to, or near the tree. The fruit is collected for the purpose of being used as the antidote to the poisonous effects of the tree from which they fall—for only the fallen fruit may be collected. As regards habitat, these trees grow on all kinds of soil, not specially on that which exudes carbonic acid gas, but the tree-like species prefers barren and rocky ground. In consequence of this superstition, the country around one of these trees is always uninhabited, althongh often fertile.

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

PARKER, G. Umdhlebi Tree of Zululand. Nature 27, 7 (1882). https://doi.org/10.1038/027007b0

Download citation

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing