Scientific Name
Mondia whitei (Hook.f.) Skeels
Higher Classification
Chlorocodon whitei Hook.f., Periploca latifolia K.Schum., Tacazzea amplifolia S.Moore, Tacazzea viridis A.Chev. ex Hutch. & Dalziel
Common Names
Mundi (z), Umondi (z)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Endangered A2ad
Assessment Date
V.L. Williams, D. Raimondo, N.R. Crouch, A.B. Cunningham, C.R. Scott-Shaw, M. Lötter & A.M. Ngwenya
There are 21 recorded locations from herbarium records, the literature and personal observations. Extinctions are believed to have occurred as a result of harvesting for medicinal use, wood extraction, agriculture and drainage of wetlands in at least seven (33%) of the locations south of the Tugela River. Furthermore, extinctions are also suspected to have occurred in a further six sites (29%) in Zululand between the Tugela River and Maputaland, as well as in Limpopo Province. It is suspected to be rare in the remaining sites because it is very infrequently seen, if at all. Therefore we suspect an over 50% decline in the last three generations (60 years) due to over-harvesting. This national assessment is not down listed because the closest subpopulations in Zimbabwe and Mozambique are disjunct, being more than 500 km away.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo
From Guinea-Bissau through tropical Africa to KwaZulu-Natal.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Northern Coastal Forest, Scarp Forest, Northern Mistbelt Forest, Swamp Forest, Lowveld Riverine Forest
Mainly swamp forest in South Africa and occasionally in riverine and coastal forest, further north it is found in Afromontane forest. It is currently restricted to lower elevations, although historically it was recorded in higher altitude midlands forest.
The main threats to Mondia whitei are harvesting for traditional medicine and habitat loss. Mondia whitei has a large, aromatic, tuberous rootstock that smells of vanilla and is commonly used throughout its African range for traditional medicine. It is so popular in the Congo, that one researcher never managed to obtain a whole free-growing plant after 2 years of study (Neuwinger 1996). The roots have been extensively collected and sold for traditional medicine in South Africa, and reports of subpopulation scarcities date to the late 1800s. It would seem that by the time of its discovery and subsequent description by taxonomists, the over exploitation of Mondia by the Zulu was clearly evident (McCartan and Crouch 1998). In 1867, a resident in the Fundisweni district in the Eastern Cape (3029DC) reported that it had become rare and it had been difficult to "procure the roots" (original citation in Hooker 1871, but cited in Ross 1979). Wood (1899) described Mondia's great reputation as a tonic and said that it had been fairly plentiful in the coastal districts at one time, but it had been nearly exterminated by collectors in the Durban area in the harvesters eagerness to obtain the roots - which apparently sold well in the stores. Wood also described how he had found it difficult to obtain a sufficient supply of the roots for a beer-making experiment. It's popularity as a Zulu medicine was chronicled by Bryant in 1909 (cited in McCartan and Crouch 1998): ". every native fortunate to procure some habitually carries about with him a supply. of the root and chews the same whenever the digestion may seek relief". By 1915, Medley-Wood already considered it to be one of the first medicinal taxa to become locally extinct (cited in McCartan and Crouch 1998). In recent times, Cunningham (1988) classed Mondia's vulnerability to over-exploitation in the traditional medicine trade as 'declining' - i.e. a species that was recently widespread but was likely to become vulnerable and continue to decline if destruction of wild populations continued. The demand was estimated to be 9 bags (50kg-size) per annum between 54 herb-traders in the Durban markets. Cunningham further reported that he used to see it reasonably often in the muthi markets in the 1980s, but only ever in small quantities, and that it is now rare in the muthi markets (pers. comm., 2008). Neil Crouch (pers. comm., 2008) reported only ever seeing it twice in muthi markets and that it was a very rare species. Williams (2007) records 16% of muthi shops selling 'umondi'. However, not all of this would have been Mondia whitei. The species is being substituted with Cinnamomum zeylanicum, and this was confirmed by the comments of 1 trader in Johannesburg in 1994 who said there were 2 types of uMondi: one that smelled liked vanilla and was from the coast from the Durban markets, and another one smelled like cinnamon and was imported (Williams, pers. obs., 2008). Traders are therefore compensating for Mondia scarcities by substituting it with an exotic species. However, whenever people come across it in the forests they will always try to harvest it (R. Scott-Shaw, pers. comm., 2008). Mondia whitei is a sought after medicinal plant that has been critically over-exploited over much of its distribution range (Scott-Shaw 1999). Furthermore, the swamp forest habitat of the species is being degraded and lost because of wood cutting, the expansion of crop farming (e.g. banana plantations) and the draining of wetland (Scott-Shaw 1999). In KwaZulu-Natal, Mondia was once known widely from the coast and midlands forest; it is now currently considered extinct in the wild to the south of the Tugela River, and in Zululand/Maputaland it is largely restricted to protected coastal swamp forest (McCartan and Crouch 1998). There is bad management of reserves in some areas it occurs in, further threatening its persistence (N.R. Crouch, pers. comm., 2008). There is apparently severe pressure on Mondia elsewhere in its range, e.g. Kenya (A.B. Cunningham, pers. comm., 2008).
Population trend
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Mondia whitei (Hook.f.) SkeelsEN A2adRaimondo et al. (2009)
Mondia whitei (Hook.f.) SkeelsVU A1dD2Victor (2002)
Mondia whitei (Hook.f.) SkeelsLower Risk - Conservation Dependent Scott-Shaw (1999)
Mondia whitei (Hook.f.) SkeelsNot Threatened Hilton-Taylor (1996)
Mondia whitei (Hook.f.) SkeelsUncertain Hall et al. (1980)

Hall, A.V., De Winter, M., De Winter, B. and Van Oosterhout, S.A.M. 1980. Threatened plants of southern Africa. South African National Scienctific Programmes Report 45. CSIR, Pretoria.

Hilton-Taylor, C. 1996. Red data list of southern African plants. Strelitzia 4. South African National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Scott-Shaw, C.R. 1999. Rare and threatened plants of KwaZulu-Natal and neighbouring regions. KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service, Pietermaritzburg.

Victor, J.E. 2002. South Africa. In: J.S. Golding (ed), Southern African plant Red Data Lists. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report 14 (pp. 93-120), SABONET, Pretoria.

Williams, V.L., Raimondo, D., Crouch, N.R., Cunningham, A.B., Scott-Shaw, C.R., Lötter, M. & Ngwenya, A.M. 2008. Mondia whitei (Hook.f.) Skeels. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2021/12/02

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Distribution map

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