Fried Egg Tree or Snuff Box Tree
One shrubby plant growing on the hillside garden that I often get questioned about is Oncoba spinosa, a slightly rambling, bushy plant that always has fruit on it. These fruit create comment as they look as if they should be edible but people pick them up and find they are very hard. About the size and weight and feel of a cricket ball, the skin is yellow when the fruit is ripe. When the fruit is broken open orange, sweetish flesh similar to pumpkin is exposed under a hard, gourd-like skin. I have found that the numerous small seeds are slightly bitter when chewed on. In the plants native habitat of Africa the fruits are eaten by the local populations during drought times and the roots and leaves are used medicinally.
The flowers which are most abundant in the spring are about 5cm across and are white with yellow stamens looking much like a camellia. They are scented at night.
Oncoba have sharp, straight, 5cm spines over many of the branches. They are planted around corrals to protect the animals inside.
Very drought tolerant, Oncoba can stand light frost and do appreciate free draining soils and full sun.
The Snuff Box name comes from the gourd-like shell of the dried fruit which is cleaned out and used as a snuff box. Another use for the shell is to take out the flesh, put a few stones inside then seal the hole with a peg to make a rattle for music and tied to the ankle for dancing. An African shop that was in Newmarket had them for sale with the sign saying “We don’t know what these are for but they are $3” The rattles had been ornamented with poker work and were quite attractive. Maybe a new industry for Northland as the plant grows well here!!!!!
On www.fengshuiserver.com it lists Oncoba flowers as “Fragrant white cup-shaped flower with multiple stamens, yellow colour at the centre represents mental chastity”