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Title: Southern Africa Commiphora / Suider Afrika Commiphora
Author: Marthinus Steyn
Genre: Plant Guide
Arcadia, South Africa 2003
ISBN 0620264659 / ISBN 0-620-26465-9
ISBN 9780620264655 / ISBN 978-0-620-26465-5
Softcover, 15 x 21 cm, 92 pages, countless colour photos and illustrations, text English and Afrikaans
About: Southern Africa Commiphora / Suider Afrika Commiphora
To make Southern Africa Commiphora / Suider Afrika Commiphora more user-friendly common instead of scientific terms are used. The genus name Commiphora originates from the Greek words kommi meaning ‘gum’ and phero meaning ‘to bear’. Most Commiphora species exude a gum-like substance, especially when the bark is cut or dislodged. The fact that some Commiphora species exude a resin with a pleasant odour and in some cases healing properties was known since ancient times. Best known are Commiphora myrrha and Commiphora gileadensis. The former produces myrrh, the latter relates to the ‘Balm of Gilead’, a Biblical term. Both balm and myrrh were imported from Gilead and other places in Biblical times. Balm was known for its fragrance as well as healing properties. Of the more than 200 Commiphora species occurring in Africa, Arabia, islands in the Indian Ocean and India, about 40 species occur in southern Africa.
Diversity within the genus makes it difficult to single out definite identification features as there will invariably be exceptions in each case. In many cases the bark structure is very characteristic. Early seasonal yellowing and shedding of leaves is fairly typical. In most cases a combination of characters will be required for effective identification. The presence of the fruit with its typical structure will greatly enhance identification. Features of Commiphora species are very divergent. Leaves can be simple or compound. Some are trees, others are shrubs. Only some have spinescent branches. Flowers are unisexual or bisexual, depending on the species. Most flowers have eight stamens, but two species have only four. Most grow under hot, dry, even semi desert conditions while a few grow in dense forests. Flowers are uni- or bisexual but unisexual female flowers always have semi-developed, non-functioning stamens.
The outer fleshy shell of the ripe berry-type fruit splits into two halves, revealing an interesting structure, the pseudo-aril which is absent in some species. The pseudo-aril is fleshy, brightly coloured and its shape differs from species to species, covering the stone or pip partly or almost totally. The stone or pip is often asymmetrical. Flowering and fruiting time cannot be easily predicted as it usually depends on the seasonal rain or even out-of-season showers. The common name for Commiphora species is ‘corkwood’, indicating that the wood is soft although very suitable for carving household utensils and ornaments. The Afrikaans name kanniedood (cannot die) refers to the fact that cut branches or cuttings grow very easily when planted. A host of other uses, including medicinal, cultural and religious, can be found under the various species in this book. Readers are advised not to experiment with medicinal uses as many have not been properly tested.
Content: Southern Africa Commiphora / Suider Afrika Commiphora
Guide and key to species
Codes and Map
Pictures of uses
Commiphora sp. nov.
Commiphora kaokoensis W. Swanepoel ined
Species that can be confused with Commiphoras