Scientific name
Vitex doniana1(Sweet)

Family name

Local name(s)
Plem (Amargna), Silanri (Ari), Black Plum (English)

General description
A deciduous tree, usually 4-8m high, occasionally up to 15m, with a dense rounded crown. Its bark is light grey with numerous vertical fissures. Branchlets not hairy. Leaves are long stalked with 5-7 leaflets. Leaflets are usually widest towards the tip, more or less hairless. Flowers are numerous, white, tinged purple, usually borne in short, stout axillary cymes on a long stalk. Calyx and pedicels densely hairy. The fruits are ellipsoid to oblong, up to 2.5cm long, clasped by a calyx cup, green turning black on ripening .

Edible part(s), preparation methods and palatability
Fruits are edible. The ripe black fruit pulp is eaten raw. It has a sweet taste. Mostly children collect and consume the fruit but adults may also come in as consumers during food shortage periods. In certain areas the fruits are cooked before consumption but this process is only undertaken during food shortage periods.

The species is found in coastal woodlands and savannah, at low altitude in wetter areas and in upland grassland, and is also riverine. It is found in dry, moist and wet lowlands (0 - 1,800m).

Propagation method(s)
Seedlings, wildlings, direct sowing. Seeds need to be treated, i.e. the fleshy part has to be removed. Germination takes a long time even when sown fresh.

Sample location (s)
In the vicinity of Jinka Town (South Omo)


The species regenerates naturally by seed and root suckers. Monkeys may disperse the seeds. Forest fires may help break the seed coat before germination. The tree produces a teak-like, termite resistant timber that is used as poles and other purposes in house building. The species is further used as a source for firewood, livestock fodder (leaves & fruits), as bee forage, for shading. The bark can be used as a dye. Bark, leaves, roots and fruits have medicinal value.

1Parts of the following description have been taken from Bekele-Tesemma et al., 1993: p. 444/445 & Maundu et al., (1999): p. 241

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Mature V. doniana tree near Jinka town, South Omo (SNNPR)

V. doniana branch with leaves, ripe (black) and unripe fruits (green)