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Tree Medicines of the Garden Route: White Stinkwood

Scientific name: Celtis africana.
Family: Cannabaceae.
Common names: White stinkwood; Witstinkhout (Afr.); umVumvu (Xhosa); uSinga lwesalukazi (Zulu); Modutu (Sotho & Tswane); Mpopano (Venda).

Celtis africana is common and widespread across South Africa and well recognised for the beautiful umbrella effect of its branches as it grows and matures.  This is a deciduous tree and occurs in a wide range of habitats – growing in dense forest, on rocky outcrops, in bushveld, in open grassland, on mountain slopes, on coastal dunes, along river banks and in kloofs. Its  scientific name “ Celtis” is derived from the ancient Greek name for those plants regarded as the lotus of the ancients).

Separate male and female flowers are produced on the same tree and the flowers are usually pollinated by bees.

This species is not related to the True Stinkwood (Ocotea bullata) nor do they look similar but this genus (Celtis Africana) is commonly known as white stinkwood because of the pale, bordering on white colour of the wood and the odour emitted when the wood is freshly cut.


a. Bear in mind when harvesting any indigenous tree to do so sustainably. Different trees and different parts of a tree have their own harvesting methods and periods throughout the year. The South African National Biodiversity Institute has informative harvesting tips on their website (SANBI link below).

b. As with any medication, when using plants for their medicinal values it is recommended that you seek professional guidance from a natural health practitioner and undertake appropriate research before use.

For additional information on germination, propagation, ecology, maintenance, etc. of indigenous SA trees, go to:

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