|Photo by Wayne Matchett, SpaceCoastWildflowers.com|
|Division:||Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants|
|Class:||Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons|
|Natural range of Ximenia americana from USDA NRCS Plants Database.|
Common names: Tallow wood, Yellow plum, Hog plum
Ximenia americana is a perennial, deciduous, shrub growing up to 10-25 feet in height, is salt tolerant, and thrives in a variety of soil types, including sand, loam, and lime rock.
Ximenia americana is a semi-scandent shrub or small tree, 2-7 m high. The trunk is dark brown to pale grey in color, and is smooth to scaly. The branchlets are purple to red in color, with thorns. The leaves are alternate, lanceolate to elliptic, growing 3-8 to 1.5-4 cm, obtuse to emarginate, 3-7 pairs. Its veins are inconspicuous. The petioles are short, slender, and can grow as long as 6 mm long. The leaves are grey to green in color and are hairless with a leathery or thin flesh. When the young leaves are crushed, they smell of bitter almonds. The flowers blossom into white, to yellow-green, to pink flowers borne on the pedunculate axillary racemes or umbels. The pedicels grow up to 3-7 cm long. The peduncles and pedicels are both glabrous. The fruits are globose to ellipsoidal drupes, growing to about 3 cm long to 2.5 cm thick and glabrous. They turn yellowish when ripe, containing just one seed. The seed is woody, light yellow in color, 1.5 cm long to 1.2 cm thick with a fatty kernel and a brittle shell. Also, the plant can sometimes be semi-parasitic with haustoria on the roots.
In the United States, X. americana occurs in Florida, as well as the U.S. territories, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It is also found throughout the tropical and subtropical countries including Central and South America, Africa, India, and Asia. The entire distribution is mentioned because this plant is used widely for its medicinal and cosmetic uses and has yet to become a threatened species.
In the Coastal Plain in Florida, X. americana has occurred in coastal scrubs, palmetto-oak hammocks, longleaf pine-hickory-oak woods, sand pine scrubs, limestone in palm-cedar hammocks, live oak hammocks, longleaf pine-wiregrass communities, and coastal marine hammocks.
Associated species include Liatris laevigata, L. ohlingerae, Tillandsia utriculata, Pinus palustris, Serenoa repens, Quercus geminata, Q. myritfolia, Q. chapmanii, Stillingia, Aristida, Certiola, Carya floridana, and Pinus clausa (FSU Herbarium). In the scrub, xeric hammocks, and swamp habitats, the soil type in which this species thrives incldues sand, loam, lime rock, and organic material.
Ximenia americana is one of the most common woody shrub, resprouting species and is included in the top 5 of the fastest growing species post-fire in the Florida scrub habitat in Highlands County, Florida.
Various Hymenoptera species were observed visiting flowers of Ximenia americana at the Archbold Biological Station.
Bees from the family Apidae: Apis mellifera, Mellisodes communis
Sweat bees from the family Halictidae: Agapostemon splendens, Augochloropsis sumptuosa, Lasioglossum placidensis
Leafcutting bees from the family Megachilidae: Coelioxys germana, Megachile mendica
Thread-waisted wasps from the family Sphecidae: Bicyrtes quadrifasciata, Eremnophila aureonotata, Isodontia exornata
Wasps from the family Vespidae: Mischocyttarus cubensis, Pachodynerus erynnis, Parancistrocerus perennis anacardivora, Zethus spinipes
Conservation, cultivation, and restoration
X. americana is a medicinal plant known for its antioxidant properties. Traditional medicinal practice for X. americana was used to treat malaria, fever, leprotic ulcers, and skin infections. In northern Nigeria, X. americana has been used to treat fever, stiffness, onchocerciasis, sore throat, asthma, and bad headaches. The roots are used to treat abdominal pains, dysentery, inflamed joints, and mouth ulcers. The leaves of X. americana contain cyanogenic glycosides, flavonoids and tannins, which are also common in many other plants.
A study conducted by Kibuge (2015) considered X. americana as a biofuel and concluded that X. americana ultimately qualifies as a potential biofuel. Also X. americana’s seed oils were mixed with kerosene (a fossil fuel) to see if it reduced the cost of biofuel. Overall, the study found out that kerosene is still the best fuel to burn for energy and for the use inside a home. The study recommends to further research the X. americana seed oil to determine the burning rate, flame height, and smoke gases for the fuel to be used indoors for lighting and cooking.
Some claim that parts of this plant are edible however, it is advised that you do your own research before consuming any part of this plant. The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves can be consumed as well when well-boiled and eaten in small amounts. Also, the oil from the seeds can be used for cooking. According to Urso, harvesting Ximenia americana fruits do not seem to threatened the species (in the near future) since it is widespread in the area. (study area is Namibe).
References and notes
- []. FNPS. Accessed: March 22, 2016.
- []. World Agroforestry, Orwa et al 2009. Accessed: March 22, 2016.
- Urso, Valeria, Maria Adele Signorini, and Piero Bruschhi (2013). “Survey of the ethnobotanical uses of Ximenia americana L. (mumpeke) among rural communities in South Angola”. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 7 (1): 7-18.
- Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: http://herbarium.bio.fsu.edu. Last accessed: November 2015. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, Jane Brockmann, Robert K. Godfrey, Robert Kral, O. Lakela, Robert J. Lemiare, S.W. Leonard, Sidney McDaniel, T. Myint, Mary E. Nolan, Jackie Patman, James D. Ray Jr., Cecil R. Slaughter, Earl Smith Jr., R. Smith, D.B. Ward. States and Counties: Florida: Brevard, Collier, Flagler, Highlands, Indian River, Levy, Monroe, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Sarasota. Compiled by Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.
- Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. www.gilnelson.com/PanFlora/ Accessed: 19 MAY 2021
- Maguire, A.J., E.S. Menges (2011). "Post-fire growth strategies of resprouting Florida scrub vegetation". Fire Ecology 7(3):12-25
- Deyrup, M.A. and N.D. 2015. Database of observations of Hymenoptera visitations to flowers of plants on Archbold Biological Station, Florida, USA.
- Maikai, V.A., Kobo, P.I., and Maikai, B.V.O. (2010). “Antioxidant properties of Ximenia americana.” African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 9(45): 7744-7746.
- Kibuge, R.M., S.T. Kariuki, and M.R. Njue (2015). “Influence of fuel properties on the burning characterisitcs of sour plum (Ximenia americana L.) seed oil compared with Jatropha curcas L. seed oil.” Renewable Energy 78: 128-131.
- []. Eat the Weeds. Accessed: March 17, 2016.