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Lucas, J - Warburgia salutari

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 5 months ago


Warburgia salutari

Common Names: Pepper-bark tree (Eng.); peperbasboom (Afr.); Isibaha(Zulu);Manaka;(Venda); Shibaha

The main reason I picked this plant was because of it's profound medical properties. The Pepper Bark Tree is hailed as one of the best natural medicines of Africa. The pepper like stems, roots, and bark can be used to cure many illnesses. The species is regarded for the treatment of malaria, coughs, diarrhea, colds, chest pain, stomach aches, and body pains. The bark of the tree in powdered and then taken orally, smoked, or made into an ointment and applied to the skin. Insert close up picture of plant.


Picture of the Pepper bark trees leaves up close


(Mbambezeli, Giles. "Warburgia salutari." Plantz Africa. 18 feb. 2008. <http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantwxyz/warburg.htm>.)


Warburgia salutaris (Bertol. f.) chiov. is an evergreen, slender tree, it grows from 5 to 10 meters tall. Its leaves are a glossy dark green.

The tree grows white to greenish flowers; these are produced during the rainy season. These flowers then develop into oval berries.

When mature the berries turn a dark purple. The berries can be made into a jam or used to make and alcohol.

The rainy season in southern Africa typically lasts from October to April; it reaches maximum strength from December through March.

This plant is now considered rare, it has been made near extinct due to over harvesting of wild plants. The plant is threatened because of the high demand for its bark. Now there are very few wild growing plants. This plant rarely makes it to maturity due to the destruction of its bark. Due to the over harvesting the pepper bank tree has now become a garden plant in Southern Africa.


This evergreen is distributed in lower rainforests, drier highland forests, and in secondary bush lands and grasslands. The tree is found throughout the province of KwaZulu-Natal in Mozambique, into the Mpumalanga and Northern Provinces of South Africa, it is also known to grow in Zimbabwe.



Map of distribution of the pepper bark tree

Human Connections:

This plant can live many years if undamaged, making it a perennial.

Besides its medical use the pepper tree has other uses. Land improvement being one, it is nitrogen fixing and can be used as a mulch. The leaves, pods and seeds can be use as animal feed. In many places the leaves are used as a flavoring in soups and curries. The heartwood of this tree is very oily and can b used as a polish.

W. salutaris is a slow growing plant and will grow only a few inches a year.

Name derivation and History

The genus Warburgia is named after Dr. Otto Warburg. He taught Botany at the University of Berlin, Germany. Salutaris is Latin for healthful, due to it medical properties. The bark from this tree is a common item for sale in markets. Many people still use it today for its medical uses. It is called the pepper tree because of the way the inner bark smells.

This plant is not invasive; it is almost extinct in the wild.

The pepper tree is grown from ether seeds or cuttings. They can grow as single trees or along boundaries.



Picture of a full grown treehttp://picasaweb.google.com/LarryWorldCruise/Day27CapeTownDay3/photo#5027968051173150306

Interesting Facts:

Scientist from the University of South Africa have isolated and characterized salutarisolide a drimane sesquiterpenoid lactone. This is the chemical in the plant which has medical properties. The isolation of the polygodial first started using a powdered form of the plants roots.

Many medicinal African plants are becoming rarer each year. More than 20,000 tons of plant material from 770 medical species is harvested from wild plants each year in Africa. Only 50 tons of medical plants is cultivated each year. This employs more that 66,000 harvesters and traders, but it is destroying medical plant populations of Africa. If there is not a change soon it could bring many species to extinction and damage the environment.



Part II


The Pepper bark tree or Warburgia salutari is know as one of the best natural medicines. For this reason it is becoming more rare is due to over harvesting of the plant its natural habitat.  The pepper bark tree is native to Southern Africa, mainly residing in South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Its Habitat is tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands.


The pepper bark tree is a very slow growing plant and takes onwards of twenty years to become mature, most do not make it to maturity in the wild. Thousands of medical plants are being harvested each year from the African wild. The pepper bark tree being one of them, the trees bark is harvested to be used for medical purposes, this leaves the tree susceptible to infection. It seems that the reason this plant will go extinct is because of it being so useful to humans. More than 20,000 tons of plant materials from 770 medical species are harvested from wild plants each year in Africa. Only 50 tons of medical plants is cultivated each year. This employs more that 66,000 harvesters and traders, but  it is destroying medical plant populations of Africa. If there is not a change soon it could bring many species to extinction and damage the environment. The only way to change the almost certain extinction of the pepper bark tree an other medical species is to stop harvesting them from the wild. The pepper bark and other rare species should have strict restrictions on harvesting them and they should only be sold if grown in captivity. This is a hard thing to control though, look at the ivory trade in Africa now, there are strict restrictions on killing elephants, yet it happens and there is no end in sight. The employers of the harvesters need to take control and restrict the harvesters from picking endangered plants. In addition to not harvesting the pepper bark tree I feel that a planting effort should be put into place. If we start the trees in captivity and then plant them in a protected area this species might make it to help future generations. Since this tree has been harvested to near extinction, it is obviously very useful; therefor there is all the more reason to preserve this valuable plant. The Warburgia is cultivated from seeds or cuttings so it would easy to start; it's just keeping them alive long enough to make fruits in the wild is the challenge.

    The pepper bark tree is native to a tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands habitat. It was once known to span most of southern Africa. Now most trees are grown in gardens, but it can also be found in the wild of South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.





SA Health Info [Internet]. [updated 2004]. "Traditional Medicines."; [cited 18 Feb. 2008.] Available from:  www.sahealthinfo.org/traditionalmeds/monographs/warburgia.htm.

Kahn, Tamar. [Internet]. "South Africa: Traditional Medicines Face Threat”. “All Africa”. [Citesd18 Feb. 2008]. Available from:


Mbambezeli, Giles. [Internet]. "Warburgia salutari." Plantz Africa”. [Cited] 18 feb. 2008. Available from; http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantwxyz/warburg.htm.

[Internet]. "Indigenous multipurpose trees of Tanzania" FAO Corporate Document Repository. [Cited 18 Feb. 2008]. Available from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/X5327e/x5327e1u.htm#TopOfPage.

Mashimbye,Mahlori J., Munaka C. Maumela, and Siegfried E. Drewes."A drimane sesquiterpenoid lactone from Warburgia salutaris." Phytochemistry  51.3 435-438. (1999).


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