Indigenous Flowering Trees


Trees, hedges and borders

Indigenous Flowering Trees

Trees are an important part of our environment, providing shade and improving air quality, as well as providing attractive foliage and beautiful flowers.

Celebrate Arbor Week (September 1-7) this year by planting a tree. South Africa has over 1000 indigenous trees and each year the Department of Environmental Affairs recommends the planting of particular ‘trees of the year’ to promote their popularity.

This year, there are two trees ideally suited to gardens:

  • For large gardens: The fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea) grows 12-15m tall with a 8-10m wide spread so is perfect for gardens with lots of room for the tree to grow.  The smooth bark is a bright yellow green, birds love nesting in its branches and butterflies are attracted to the yellow fluffy blossoms that appear in spring and early summer.
  • For smaller gardens: The wild gardenia (Rothmannia capensis) grows to 6m high and has a spread of 4m. The beautiful creamy-white, bell-shaped flowers with maroon markings in the centre are borne in summer from December to February, and are highly fragrant. Fruits appear later, and attract birds.

Value of trees

Why should you be planting trees in your garden? Trees provide privacy, reduce noise and hide undesirable views; they catch the slightest breeze, creating air movement and help filter polluted air. In cities, trees are sometimes the only splash of colour in a manmade mortar and brick landscape. Their beauty may come from their form, their foliage, flowers or fruits.

In small and townhouse gardens, the right size tree can be a great asset, providing shade and privacy, and additional value if they flower. Because of limited space, it is important to select a tree that is suitable in eventual size, spread and shape, and has a non-invasive root system.

Landscape by colour

Top landscapers take a range of ideas into consideration when planting trees, one of them being the colour of the flowers. Here is a colour coded approach to choosing a tree for your garden this weekend:

Moonlit white

White flowers are like lanterns in the summer garden at dusk. Look out for the spring-flowering September bells (Rothmannia globosa), a semi-evergreen tree with dark green leaves and sweetly scented, creamy-white bell-shaped clusters of flowers.

The bladdernut or swartbas (Diospyros whyteana) has a neat growth habit, glossy dark green leaves and small, white, bell-shaped flowers in spring, followed by fruit enclosed in papery cases that attract birds. It grows in semi-shade or full sun and is an excellent tree for a small garden. It can also be grown as a shrub, and makes an attractive bonsai.

The starry gardenia (Gardenia thunbergia) has pale grey bark and heavily perfumed, creamy-white flowers from October to March, followed by egg-shaped grey-green fruit. It can be grown as a shrub or tree (2-5m).

The wild pear (Dombeya rotundifolia) grows 4-6m but can grow taller. The leaves turn yellow then brown, before falling in autumn. White flowers resembling blossom appear in spring on the leafless branches, followed by deep green leaves.

In the pink

There are a host of pink, mauve and purple spring flowering trees that will add a touch of pastel beauty to your garden. One of the prettiest of spring-flowering trees is the tree wisteria (Bolusanthus speciosus) with a height of 5m, brownish-black bark and mauve pea-shaped flower trusses resembling a wisteria.

If you have a large garden then the Cape chestnut (Calodendrum capense), growing 10m or more, will provide a canopy of welcome shade in summer. Large pink flowers with narrow curved petals cover the tree in midsummer. It is deciduous in areas with cold winters.

If you want to attract butterflies and other nectar-seeking insects to your garden, the sagewood (Buddleja salviifolia) is a shrub that is often trained as a small tree with panicles of nectar-rich lilac flowers in spring. The leaves are dark green and silver-white underneath.

The deciduous pom-pom tree (Dais cotinifolia) is a good choice for small gardens as it has a slender growth habit and is quick growing to 7m. Pretty pink pom-pom flowers appear in midsummer.

Sunset shades

Yellow, orange and red flowers will add a warm African atmosphere to your garden. The wild laburnum (Calpurnia aurea) is an attractive, quick growing shrub or small 3-4m tree with trusses of yellow, pea-shaped flowers in midsummer and sometimes through the year.

An attractive shade tree, the boerbean (Schotia brachypetala) sheds leaves in late winter before the dainty, cup-shaped red flowers appear in spring to provide a feast for nectar-feeding birds. In gardens, the boerbean usually reaches a height and spread of about 7m.

The tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida) makes an attractive feature tree in the garden with a height and spread of 5m. Orange-red flowers grow on the older wood of the main trunk and larger branches and attract sunbirds and bees.