Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Cape sumach - Colpoon compressum

Just to throw everyone into confusion, here is an early Cape Town summer (one year ago, exactly).

This appealing fruit belongs to Colpoon compressum. I found it above Kirstenbosch, and fell in love.

While edible, the shrub is little known, now, and little used, though I am sure my local foraging friends will change that, once they find it.

It has suffered a couple of botanical name changes - one previous classification is Osyris compressa, by which much literature still knows it (Tony Rebelo set me straight, on iSpot). Common names include Cape sumach, and wild plum. It is less sumac-y in the sour sense than plumlike: the flavour is sweet and dark, and the seeds large. I ate as I walked.

Colpoon is one of those largely ignored or unknown shrubs that ought to be used more in Cape Town's gardens; it is drought- and wind-tolerant, both excellent attributes for a plant hanging on in the wind-whipped summer Cape Flats and mountain edges.

If I had enough fruit for a large haul I'd ferment it for a wild soda pop, and keep it a little longer for an alcoholic and effervescent buzz. Or puree and strain it for fresh fruit sauces and jams.

And that was the brief summer intermission.

Back to a Northern winter, soon. If it ever arrives.


  1. Yet another cool plant I had never heard of before... :)

  2. Yet another reason to explore the Cape Flats and mountain edges! Thank you, Leslie


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