Cordia sinensis

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Flowers and leaves
© Bart Wursten
Fruits and leaves
© Bart Wursten

Local names:
English (grey-leaved saucer berry,grey-leaved cordia), Somali (marer,mareer), Swahili (mnya mate,mkamasi)

Cordia sinensis is a low leafy shrub or bush, multi-stemmed tree 3-12 m high and often with slender branches tending to droop. The bark is brown to pale creamy-brown, finely fissured longitudinally, or smooth, dark grey on branches.

Leaves opposite, (sub)opposite or alternate, ovate to obovate or broadly, 2-12 x 1-4.5 cm, glabrous or slightly pubescent and often somewhat sandpapery; petiole about 10 mm longwith long pale hairs.

Flowers white or cream, in terminal cymes 6-7 cm long, rather urn-shaped, corolla 8-9 cm long and calyx lobes are covered with yellowish-brown short soft hairs, browning when over.

Fruits conical, bright red or orange when ripe, 7-20 mm long, with conspicuous long tip and hang in conspicuous clusters.

Seed 1-4, hard, rough, yellowish cream.

The generic name honours a 16th century German botanist, Valerius Cordus. The specific epithet 'sinensis' refers to its Chinese origin.


The species is common in dry riverine vegetation, usually with Salvadora persica, or in open bushland in low altitude arid and semi-arid areas on termite mounds and in littoral scrub.

Native range
Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Yemen, Republic of, Zimbabwe

Tree management

The species is fairly fast growing and tolerates lopping, pollarding, and coppicing.

Collect the fruits when they turn  bright orange for maximum viability; germination rates of up to 80% can be achieved. Seed storage behaviour is orthodox. There are 6500 seeds per kg.

The species is common in dry riverine vegetation, usually with Salvadora persica, or in open bushland in low altitude arid and semi-arid areas on termite mounds and in littoral scrub.

C. sinensis is usually propagated by seeds where the survival is best when sown directly on site. Wildings have also been used in the propagation of this species

 The sweet and sticky tasty pulp of the fruit is eaten fresh and often put in porridge as a sugar substitute. The fruit pulp is sometimes used to make juice or brew local beer and sometimes mixed with tamarind (Tamarindus indica) juice and fermented.

Fodder: A very important source of fodder for goats, sheep, cattle and camels in dry areas.

Timber: The wood is used in the construction, furniture and for agricultural implements (such as tool handles, walking sticks, clubs, wooden spoons, stirrers and stools).

Medicine: The roots and bark are used for stomach disorders in both children and adults. A decoction of boiled roots is used to treat malaria but can cause an abortion. Bark and roots are mixed to treat conjunctivitis in cattle.

Gum: The clear gum from the tree is edible.