Terminalia sericea

By JP Felu

Family:  Combretaceae.

Common names: Silver terminalia, silver cluster-leaf; Umangwe (Nd) , Mususu (Sh).

The Combretaceae family is well represented in Zimbabwe with over 30 species. Terminalia sericea grows in grassland and open woodland with a preference for sandy soils at lower altitudes, often growing at the edge of wetlands where the soils become slightly drier. It is deciduous and grows to some 12m in height, sometimes more but often less. The crown in mature trees is round to oval.

Terminalia sericea bark

The bark is dark and fissured longitudinally. The twigs take on a blackish hue and the bark peels off showing the light-brown under-bark; twigs are often deformed by elongated galls.The leaves are spirally arranged toward the end of the branchlets, hence the scientific name “terminalia”. The obovate leaves are silvery-grey and silky – sericea refers to the silvery appearance of the leaves.The flowers are greenish-white, small and inconspicuous, but the fruits are two winged, red to purple-brown and very showy.  


Leaves of the Terminalia sericea

Terminalia sericea is important in traditional medicine. When the leaves and roots are boiled in water, the resulting infusion can be taken orally for the treatment of bilharzia, pneumonia, coughs, diarrhoea and stomach aches. The leaves can be used as an antibiotic for wounds. In the case of bleeding, a paste can be made by cooking the leaves in water and placing them on the wounds. The bark is also used to fight against diabetes.

This species produces a good timber, dense and hard but difficult to work. The wood is also used as a source of energy for cooking and is a preferred species for constructing huts and for fencing material because it is borer and termite resistant. The leaves provide food for caterpillars during the rainy season.


Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to Trees of  Southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.

South African Biodiversity Institute  (SANBI) n.d. Terminalia sericea. http://pza.sanbi.org/terminalia-sericea.