Saturday, April 27, 2013

Edible indigenous plants within forests of Baringo

Early each day, deep inside Baringo, herds boys, medicine men, adventurers, the religious and tourists venture into the cool, refreshing, relaxing, healing, food-rich and quenching forests, for various useful activities...

...these forests are satisfying and addictive that whoever ventures is caught by the dusk unawares. For food, nature provides to satiety. Fruits are plenty and water is reachable and free! 

Safari ya Baringo takes note of some of the edible forest fruits inside forests of Baringo, occuring within Tarambas, Chemasusu, Kipng'ochoch, Katemok, Lembus, Mochongoi and Kinyo forests; and within other forested community lands, East and West of the Tugen Hills, from Cheploch to Arabal, from Bartabwa to Cheberen.

Botanic name: Uvaria scheffleri Diels
Family: Annonaceae
Local name: Taminget
Distribution: Mid to low altitudes of the county (700-900 meters asl). It is a liana (woody climber) which grows well in association with other shrubs. It barely exceeds a height of 3.5 meters.
The fruits of this plant is pulpy and uniquely sweet and a boy wouldn't mind a boring herding day in exchange of it.

Uvaria scheffleri
Uvaria scheffleri

Botanic name: Dovyalis macrocalyx (Oliv.) Warb.
Family: Flacourtiaceae
Local name: Tabirbiryek/ Kapchapeniek
Distribution: High altitude montane or dryland forests. It is a shrub to a tree with spines/ thorns. Fruit is sweet when ripe and sour when raw. It takes a lesser effort to swallow the fruit pulp alongside the seed. This tree normally fruits twice annually after the long rains.

Fruits of Dovyalis macrocalyx

Botanic name: Carissa edulis (Forssk.) Vahl
Family: Apocynaceae
Local name: Likitityek/ Likititwo
Distribution: Mainly at high altitude parts of the county but also distributed to the mid altitude areas. This is the famous Loliondo plant! Fruit and leaf parts of this plant has milky latex, which is medicinal and poisonous in equal measures. Ripe fruits are glossy black while unripe ones are green-to-reddish.

Carissa edulis

Botanic name: Acokanthera schimperi (A.DC.) Schweinf.
Family: Apocynaceae
Local name: Kelwek/ Kelwonde
Distribution: Mainly at high altitude parts of the county but also distributed to the mid altitude areas. Its fruit is poisonous if eaten in large amounts. It is also only edible when fully ripe. It is speculated as an active ingredient in the arrow poison but considering the conservative nature of the Tugen blacksmiths, I may not give a reliable assurance. Indeed, the common names for this plant include Common poison bush and arrow-poison tree (english)

Acokanthera schimperi

Botanic name: Flacourtia indica (Burm.f) Merr.
Family: Flacourtiaceae
Local name: Tangururyek/ Tangururwo
Distribution: Mid altitudes of the county. The fruit is sweet when ripe, but sour when raw. The fruits are well guarded by the long, sharp thorns the plant possesses. It leaves you desperately thirsty after a real eating.

Flacourtia indica- unripe fruits
Flacourtia indica- ripe fruits

Botanic name: Toddalia asiatica (L.) Lam.
Family: Rutaceae
Local name: Ketemek/ Ketemwe
Distribution. Occur in a bit disturbed or open parts of high altitude forests. Fruits are irritatingly coarse when eaten in large amounts. It is mainly eaten because it is medicinal and therefore only consumed by those with such a perspective. The plant is a creeping liana with curved hooks and is not fancied by many.

Toddalia asiatica

Botanic name: Physalis peruviana L.
Family: Solanaceae
Local name: Tolyok
Distribution: It can be found in disturbed localities with much humus. It belongs to same family with tomatoes, Solanum sp. and Managu (Sochik). It is a favourite to many as it has minute seeds and a mouthful of juice per fruit.

Physalis peruviana

Botanic name: Rhus natalensis Krauss
Family: Anacardiaceae
Local name: Siryek/ Sirwe
Distribution: Plant is shrub to a tree liana growing rarely in an upright orientation. It is distributed along edges or areas with open canopies throughout mid altitude forests within the county. It is also widespread elsewhere. Fruits can be munched or soaked to produce juice.

Rhus natalensis

Botanic name: Vangueria madagascariensis J.F.Gmel.
Family: Rubiaceae
Local name: Komolik/ Komolwo
Distribution: It is of same family with coffee. It is a tree found in varying habitats throughout mid and high altitude forests in the county. In an undisturbed forest, it is capable of growing above 12 meters. Its ripe fruit has a thick, sweet pulp which can be eaten as such or fermented to make juice.

Vangueria madagascariensis

Botanic name: Ziziphus mucronata Willd.
Family: Rhamnaceae
Local name: ?
Distribution: Found in low altitude arid localities of the county. Has a unique sweet taste however becomes hard and less juicy when ripe and ones struggles with its large seeds.

Ziziphus mucronata

Botanic name: Tamarindus indica L. 
Family: Caesalpinaceae
Local name: Aryek
Distribution: It is widely distributed in lowlands and mainly along river beds. It is a legume tree, which can easily be confused for an acacia. Its ripe fruits are sour-sweet and produces world class juice. In fact at Kenyan coast towns, tamarind juice is a common feature in menus at restaurants.

Tamarindus indica

Botanic name: Rubus pinnatus Willd.
Family: Rosaceae
Local name: ?
Distribution: This is a fruit berry plant from same family with rose flower. There is a widespread of this plant in high altitude, moist forests. A variety of plants of this genus are also found in our Baringo forests, for instance, Rubus niveus, Rubus keniensis, Rubus friesiorum. Elsewhere, culivar varieties of this plant is commercialized and you are unlikely to miss its packed berries in grocery sections of supermarkets. Its highly palatable and nutritious; I cannot wait longer for my next visit to the forest!

Rubus pinnatus

Botanic name: Piliostigma thonningii (Schumach.) Milne-Redh.
Family: Caesalpinaceae
Local name: Mindililwo?
Distribution: This is leguminous plant distributed in mid altitudes of Baringo county. This plant differ a bit with the rest from its edible parts. While fruits of a majority are the edible parts, the terminal ,soft and fresh leaves of this plant is chewed for its sour sap. It is nutritional as well. It is liked mainly by children herding in graze lands.

Piliostigma thonningii

Botanic nameLantana trifolia L.
Family: Verbanaceae
Local name: Sekechew/ Sekechewo
Distribution: It is a shrub occurring in disturbed areas, open canopies or grasslands of high altitude forests. Its fruits are clustered but easily pip off with little pressure. Fruits are pink colored when ripe.

A fruiting Lantana trifolia
Lantana trifolia in flower

Botanic nameSyzygium guineense (Willd.) DC.
Family: Myrtaceae
Local name: Lamaek
Distribution: Describing indigenous fruits is always incomplete without a mention of this plant. It is an enormous tree growing majorly on river valleys. It is often used as indicator of a shallow water table. Ripe fruits are pink to black. It takes an effort of a careful experienced climber or a sharp shooting catapulter to reach the fruits. It is a motivator for anyone willing to take up the chore of herding the livestock to the river for watering. Other species of same genus, for instance Syzigium cuminii is commercialized and are on sale in famous fruit markets like Nairobi's Ngara.

Syzygium guineense in flower

A fruiting Syzygium guineense


  1. This is great stuff

  2. Heh, This is the best website I have seen so far, reminds me of our childhood on season wildfruits gathering expeditions. Kudos for good work.