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Jackalberry Tree – Jakkalsbessie

Jackalberry Tree Jakkalsbessie

The Jackalberry Tree – Jakkalsbessie (Afrikaans) is found throughout Africa, from Senegal, and Sudan to Namibia and the Limpopo Province. It is most commonly found on savannas or savanna woodlands where it can be found growing on termite mounds.

Diospyros mespiliformis

African Ebony – alternate name

Jakkalsbessie – Afrikaans

Member of the Ebenaceae family

Description of The Jackalberry Tree – Jakkalsbessie

The Jackalberry tree is found mostly in the savannas of AfricaJackals are fond of the fruit, hence the common name. It is a member of the family Ebenaceae and is related to the true ebony (D. ebenum) and edible persimmon (D. kaki).

The foliage is dense and dark green with elliptical leaves, which are often eaten by grazing animals such as elephants and buffalo. The tree flowers in the rainy season; the flowers are imperfect, with genders on separate trees, and are cream-colored. The female tree bears fruit in the dry season and these are eaten by many wild animals; they are oval-shaped, yellow, or purple when ripe and about 20–30 mm in diameter. The fruit remains embedded in the persistent calyx lobes.


Jakalberry Tree

The fruit of the Jackalberry tree is a favorite of many animals. The fleshy fruit is oval, almost round in shape, about 1 inch in diameter, and yellow or yellow-green in color. Five sepals of the calyx of the flower remain on the bottom of the fruit, their tips curling backward.

When the Jackalberry fruit is fully ripe, it turns purple, but one hardly ever sees it this color since it is eaten by various animals long before it can get that ripe. Animals such as nyalas, impalas, warthogs, baboons, and hornbills to name a few, love to eat the fruit of the Jackalberry.

It got its name because the Jackalberry seeds are also found in the dung of jackals. Elephants, rhinos, giraffes, buffaloes, and kudus eat the leaves. The larvae of the bushveld emperor butterfly also eat the leaves of this tree.


Jackalberry trees often grow on termite mounds, because of the deep alluvial soils, but are not uncommon on sandy soils in the savanna. Therefore it increases in mutualism with termites, which aerate the soil around its roots but do not eat the living wood; in turn, the tree protects the termites. The Jackalberry Tree is the largest member of its genus in the southern subtropics and is northwards present to the Sahara. Consequently, it occurs in high densities from subtropical to tropical regions.


The leaves, bark, and roots of the tree contain tannin, which can be used as a styptic to staunch bleeding. As a result, the roots are consumed to purge parasites and are thought to be a remedy for leprosy.


The heartwood is fine-grained and good for floors, high-quality furniture, and pestles. The trunks are used to make canoes. Tannin is contained in the leaves, bark, and roots, and acts as an astringent that helps stop bleeding. The tree is also supposed to have antibiotic substances that help heal wounds.

A mixture made from the roots is used to eliminate parasites like ringworm, dysentery, and fever. It is also considered a remedy for leprosy. Seeds are eaten as nuts. Fruits are often used to brew beer or fermented wine. Fruit and plant parts contain tannin.


Jackalberry Bark

The wood of the Jackalberry tree is almost impervious to termite damage. The heartwood is fine-grained and strong and because of this, it is often used for making wood floors and furniture. Trunks of the tree are used for canoes. The wood ranges in color from light reddish-brown to a very dark brown.

For more information on the Jackalberry tree click here

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