Flowering Plant Sandlewood Order

The Sandlewood Order (Santalales) consists of plants most of which are partly or entirely parasitic, including Mistletoe. Most are hemiparasites, which means they have chlorophyll and produce some of their own energy, but tap water and minerals from other plants. Some of the mistletoe members, and a few others of the order, are entirely parasitic.   Photo of Sandlewood Flowers by J.M.Garg distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

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Sandlewood Family   -   [Santalaceae]
For the famous incense sandlewood (Santalum album) I have no mention of food value, but several closely related species do. All sandlewoods are hemiparisites, producing sugars by photosynthesis but stealing water and nitrogen from host plants, most often acacia species. For cultivation both the sandlewood and the host have to be planted and maintained together.

Desert Quandong   -   [Native Peach; Santalum acuminatum]
Singel Red Fruit

This small tree, or more commonly shrub, is found in scattered populations in all of southern mainland Australia, from the center of the country on south. The red or sometimes yellow fruit is spherical and about 1-1/2 inches diamter with tart flesh described as tasting like peach, apricot or rhubarb. The flesh is thin, only a little more than 1/10th inch thick, covering a hard nut shell with a convoluted brain-like surface. Within the shell is a nut so high in oil it will burn like a candlenut.

Both the fruit flesh and the nut are edible, and both were used by the native people of Australia, though more commonly the nut. Fruit was harvested from the tree and could be dried, but nuts could be more easily gathered from emu droppings, passing through the birds with no damage. The fruit of this tree is now being exploited commercially, with most of it exported from Australia into the exotic food market (if it's rare and expensive it must be a "superfood" right?). Pilot projects to farm this tree are under way.   Photo by John Moss contributed to the Public Domain .

Desert Mistletoe   -   [Mesquite Mistletoe; Phoradendron californicum]
Berries on Shrub

This mistletoe is native to California, Nevada and Arizona in the U.S. and Sonora, Sinaloa and Baja California in Mexico. Desert Mistletoe, like all Mistletoes, is a shrub that roots to branches of trees. Like others, it is a hemiparisite, having enough chlorophyll to produce much of its own energy, but sucking water, minerals and other nutrients from the host tree. Like other mistletoes, the plant is very toxic, but unlike the others, the fruits are edible - if the plant is growing on mesquite, ironwood or catclaw acacia.

American Indians gathered the berries when they became translucent, between November and April. Some ate them raw, others mashed them and cooked them to a paste or pudding consistency. The foliage is reputed to be halucinogenic, but the dosage is impossible to judge, so persons trying it are as likely to end up dead as tripping.   Photo by Stan Shebs distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported, Attribution Required.

Cape Sumach   -   [Pruimbos (Plum Bush in Afrikaans); Osyris compressa]
Berries on Shrub

Native to South Africa, this shrub or small tree is rated as "facultatively hemiparasitic", which means it prefers to suck some of its nutrients from other plants, but it can actually survive on its own if need be. The fruits, up to nearly 1 inch long and over 1/2 inch diameter are edible. they have been used by the Khoikhoi people both fresh and as dried pulp. The taste has been described as "plumlike", but also as "sour and tingly". An extract boiled from the bark has been used to flavor tea.   Photo by Abu Shawka contributed to the Public Domain .

Native Cherry   -   [Broad Leaved Ballart, Scrub Sandal-wood, Scrub Cherry, Oringorin, Broad Leaved Cherry; Exocarpos latifolius   |   Native Cherry, Cherry Ballart; Exocarpos cupressiformis]
Berries on Shrub

Native to Northern Australia, Indonesia and New Guinea, these shrubs or small trees are rated as a hemiparasite, sucking some of their nutrients and water from nearby plants. The Fruit is a bit strange. The real fruit is a nut at the end of a stem, but during the ripening the stem swells to almost 1/4 inch diamtere and takes color, orange or red. The nut itself is not edible, but the swolen stem is. It is ripe when about to fall off the tree, and may be eaten raw or cooked.   Photo of E. latifolius fruit by Melburnian distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Sourplum Family   -   [Olacaceae]
Some trees in this family can be hemi-parasites, getting some of their nutrients and water from the roots of nearby plants, but they are not as dependent on paracitism as the related sandlewood family.

Large Sourplum   -   [Suurpruim, Mtundakula, Mpingi, UmThunduluka-obomvu, Amatu nduluka; Ximenia caffra]
Fruits on Branch

These spiny shrubs, growing to 20 feet, are native to Sub-Saharan Africa. They produce fruits about 1.4 inches long and an inch in diameter, which range from orange to red when ripe. The juicy flesh is the same color. They contain a hard nut containing a seed that is valuable for oil, though not cooking oil. The fruit is sour, but edible raw, and best when just a bit over-ripe. It is also used to make jams for storage, and used in deserts.   Photo of by Paul Venter distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Tallow Plum   -   [Sea Lemon, Tallow Wood, Yellow Plum, Blue Sourplum; Iholotshane, Mutengeninyatwa, Mutsanzavabere, Umswanja (Africa); Ximenia americana]
Fruits on Branch

This sprawling shrub or small tree is native to tropical woodlands in Florida and the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. It can be parasitic on the roots of nearby trees. The yellow or orange fruits, about 1 inch long, can be quite sour, a bit bitter with an almond flavor (cyanide), or pleasant and plum-like in flavor. They can be eaten raw of made into jams and jellies or used in refreshing beverages. In Asia, young leaves are cooked as a vegetable, but need to be cooked well to drive off the cyanide they contain. Oil from the single seed kernel can be used for cooking. The plant is also used medicinallly, particularly for constipation.   Photo of by J.M.Garg distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Gabon Nut   -   [African Walnut, Congowood, Tigerwood; Ximenia americana]
Plant Drawing

This fairly large tree (to 120 feet) is native to western Africa from Sierra Leone south to Angola and East into Zimbabwe (DR Congo). The fruit is about 1-1/2 inches long with red or green flesh about 0.15 inch thick. The nuts have a very hard shell and a kernal that is 50% fat, mostly Oleic Acid (monounsaturated). I have seen no mention that the flesh is edible, but the nut kernels are said to have a taste between hazlenuts and chestnuts. They can be eaten raw, roasted or boiled before consumption and are often used mixed with meats in recipes. The oil can be used for cooking.   Drawing (1906) in Public Domain, U.S. copyright expired .

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