Simotwet: Kipsigis' rare tree

Simotwet: Kipsigis' rare tree

The fig tree is a revered tree among the Kipsigis community.

Locals refer to it as Simotwet which means twin or twins. It is so called because it is very rare to find the tree growing as a single trunk but it normally branches some feet or metres above the ground.

Presence of the fruit bearing Simotwet tree was and is still considered a sign of blessings and affluence. It therefore must never be defaced, cut or burned.

Long time ago, old women and barren couples were allowed to use the tree as firewood. However, couples still bearing children were not allowed to use it as firewood because it was believed the tree would make them bear twin babies. It was considered a bad omen to have twins.

Even now, the tree cannot be used as firewood unless mixed with wood from other trees.

Its milky sap is traditionally used as medicine to relieve pain and swelling in dislocations, strains and sprains of various body parts such as ankles and arms. Several incisions are made on the skin in the affected area by using a sharp knife, razor blade or scalpel and the sap is gently rubbed into the incision.

The tree has edible fruits consisting of mature cynonium containing numerous one seeded fruits (druplets.) The fruits were used by the Kipsigis to de-worm children before introduction of modern medicine.

“Nearly all Simotwet trees harbour Geckos and giant lizards because they protect them from being struck by lightning during raining seasons. These two reptiles do not see eye to eye with lightning and the tree therefore, neutralises its impact during thunderstorms,” says 70-year-old Samuel Tilit.

In some parts of Kipsigis, the tree is used as wosek. This is charcoal formed from flaming embers of branches from Simotwet to coat the inside of the gourd or calabash when preparing mursik - a thick curdled milk which is a popular Kalenjin treat. The charcoal adds special flavour to the milk.

There is a legend to the effect that the Kipsigis used Simotwet tree to prevent cattle rustlers from raiding them. It is said the tree would “speak to and pursue the rustlers”.