Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Important Plant Families in South Africa - Anacardiaceae

Anacardiaceae is the fourth largest tree family in southern Africa comprising approximately 80 indigenous tree species and is widespread throughout the warmer regions of the world.

Although this large family can be quite challenging to identify, amongst the ten genera most commonly found in South Africa are the many varieties, but easily recognisable Searsia (formerly Rhus), Harpephyllum caffrum (Wild plum) and the Sclerocarya birrea (Marula).

Most of the members of this large and somewhat diverse family have trifoliate or imparipinnate leaves that are alternate, opposite or whorled. Some genera have leaves that give off a watery latex and a strong, resinous aroma while the bark of many have tanning properties.

The flowers are usually dioecious and borne in panicles, while the fruit usually takes the form of a drupe which in some cases appear to be hard and dry.

Amongst the most economically important members of this family are the Sclerocarya birrea (Marula) the fruit of which is used to manufacture a popular local alcoholic drink which is gaining popularity worldwide, the Mangifera indica (Mango), the Pistacia vera (Pistachio nut) and the Anacardium occidentale (Cashew nut).

Some local members of this large family include Heeria argentea (Rockwood), Laurophyllus capensis (Iron Martin), Ozoroa engleri (White resin tree), Searsia pendulina (White karee), Harpephyllum caffrum (Wild plum).

Classification Anacardiaceae or Mango family

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