Environment, Nature

A Little About Mgambo Trees (Majidea zanguebarica)

Since I decided to plant my Mgambo tree here in Trinidad, I have been looking for information about it all over the internet.
There isn’t very much out there but this is what I have learned.

Botanical Name: Majidea zanguebarica or Majidea zangueberica (It appears both ways online.)

The word Mgambo is Swahili for “announcement” or “proclamation”.

The African Mgambo is native to East Africa. It is a small tree growing to about 5 metres tall. It has compound, pinnate leaves with up to 10 pairs leaflets. The leaves are shiny so it makes an attractive ornamental tree.
Flowers are small green-red or orange and fragrant. They occur inn dense clusters or panicles. I read too that the flowers are fragrant and the attract butterflies. Definitely a plus!

The fruit is three sided, green and turns brown on the outside when dry. When the fruit splits open, you can see the bright red interior, with 3 pairs of velvety blue-black seeds. This is where the tree gets its common name Black Pearl Tree. It is part of the soapberry family (Sapindaceae) which includes Soapberry, Akee,  Rambutan and Lychee.

Mgambo seeds in the pod
Mgambo seeds in the pod

Other names include:

  • Velvet Seed Tree
  • Mgambo Tree
  • Black Pearl Tree
  • Velvet Seedpod Tree

Mgambo is used to treat fever, wound infections and intestinal disorders in traditional medicine as the pods and leaves have antibacterial properties.

Mgambo plant (right) growing in a plant pot by a man made pond.
Mgambo plant (right) growing in a plant pot by a man made pond.

8 thoughts on “A Little About Mgambo Trees (Majidea zanguebarica)”

    1. There isn’t much information about this species out there and in all my searching I haven’t found exactly how it is used for fevers. My guess is that the leaves or bark are used. Maybe rushed or boiled.
      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. If I come across anything I’ll let you know.


  1. I recently bought a necklace,earrings,& bracelet set that is hand made from a velvet seed from a tree in Africa. These seeds are dark green not black. Are these the same seeds from your tree?? Or is there another type of tree with green velvet seeds?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think as the seeds age they lighten in colour. I’ve made some jewellery with them and I prep them by soaking in a mixture of oil (coconut, clove, peppermint etc.) They started off black but the necklace I wore alot faded a bit. Looks brownish instead of black.
      Maybe it’s the same with your seeds?


    1. Hey. I’m not sure about cold weather as I am growing it in the Caribbean. You may need to bring it in when it is young to prevent damage to the leaves etc. The tree is native to Africa so it favours warmer temperatures.



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