Maerua crassifolia blooms at the bank of the Tsauchab river
This photograph was made at the following geo coordinates: 24°38'42.6"S 15°39'06.9"E.
Maerua crassifolia is a small evergreen tree, 3-10 m high, with a rounded flattish crown. Branches are twisted and often densely leaved. Leaves are oblong and ovate, variable in shape and size, usually 5-15 mm long and 2-8 mm broad, somewhat fleshy, glabrous and almost sessile. Flowers are white, sweet-scented and without petals. Fruits are pubescent, irregular cylindrical pods, 3-6 cm long, 0.6-1 cm broad, markedly constricted into 1-6 sections.
Maerua crassifolia is a multi-purpose tree used in fodder banks and agroforestry systems. The wood is used to make tools and weapons. Leaves and fruits are edible for humans. Crushed leaves and leaf decoctions are used in ethno-medicine to treat fever, stomach disorders and skin affections. Due to their high nutritional value, the leaves of Maerua crassifolia can be used in human diets during times of food scarcity, but only after boiling to increase palatability and remove factors such as saponins that cause diarrhea.
Like other Capparidaceae, Maerua crassifolia is a good browse species, particularly in tropical Africa. It is hardy and tolerant to grazing but remains stunted under heavy grazing conditions. In very arid lands (Arabian Peninsula), trees are left half-dead after grazing.
It grows in deciduous bush land, thickets and semi-desert scrub near rivers, from sea level up to an altitude of 1620 m in East Africa. Optimal growth conditions are 300-700 mm annual rainfall on poor sandy soils or clay soils. It can tolerate much drier conditions, from 75 mm to 300 mm annual rainfall. It is often found in association with Balanites aegyptiacus, another evergreen tree.