This shrub found almost in every part of Tanzania, usually next to roads and overgrazed areas, is labelled as an invasive species. Sodom apple is the common name and its scientific name is Solanum incanum. This shrub belongs to the Solanaceae family which has up to 2000 different species, of which a 100 can be found in tropical Africa.
Never heard of this family of plants? You have. It has three species that we all know very well; potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants all belong to the Solanum family.
The shrub can grow to 2 meters high and has thorny branches and stems. The leaves are very soft to the touch, which is why some of the native tribes use it as toilet paper. When blossoming, the shrub produces purple flowers that grow into light green fruit. When ripe the fruit is bright yellow.
Plants plays a very important role in indigenous communities, not only do they provide food, building material and food for livestock but most importantly, traditional medicine. Tanzanian tribes such as the Maasai have incredible plant knowledge, unfortunately this knowledge is not being passed down to the younger generations anymore. Elderly members are no longer around and modern medicine is easily accessible.
Sodom apple has many medicinal properties amongst many tribes in Tanzania. It is believed that the flowers are lucky charms. When travelling for example you can take some flowers with you for the journey. Some also place these flowers in front of their shops in the hope that it will bring luck to the business.
The fruit is used to stop bleeding or is pressed into wounds and the juice of the fruit can be used to help with toothaches. The stems are made into toothbrushes, which some tribes believe has an anti-bacterial effect.
The roots of the shrub are boiled and drunk to relieve stomach pains.
And the leaves, well, these can come in handy when you are out on safari…