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Allophylus natalensis

Allophylus natalensis

  • Dune False-currant

  • Dune Bastard-currant

  • Dune Allophylus

  • Dune False Crowberry

  • Duinebastertaaibos (A)

  • Duinevalstaaibos (A)

  • Umgqalagquzu (x)

  • isiHlohlela (Z)

Description

  • Allophylus is one of the most extensive genera’s in the Sapindaceae family, with a very cosmopolitan distribution and about 5 tree sized species in southern Africa. This species has a predominantly coastal distribution, is quite uncommon elsewhere and also struggles to bear fruits outside its natural range. The Dune Allophylus is nearly always a shrubby, densely compacted small tree, with numerous slender branches that support attractive, lustrous elliptical leaves with well-defined veins and neatly serrated edges. In the early stages of winter, the tree produces bountiful clusters of delicate, very small, creamy flowers that are carried on rather large, elongated flower spikes and are succeeded by compact clusters of very brightly coloured scarlet berries that are often produced in such numbers that the slender branches are significantly weighed down.

SA Tree

  • 426

Family

  • Sapindaceae– The Litchi or Soap berry family.

  • A large family of flowering plants, belonging to the major order Sapindales, occurring in the moist tropical and subtropical regions of the world and especially abundant in tropical America and Asia.

  • This family contains about 135 accepted genera and somewhat 1800 species of trees, shrubs, lianas and herbaceous plants or vines.

  • Well-known members include the Litchi, Maple and Horse Chestnut.

  • Representatives of this family typically have compound leaves that are arranged in a spirally fashion on side twigs or sometimes oppositely.

  • The leafstalks are generally swollen at their basses and the stipules are absent.

  • The flowers are most often quite small and unisexual, but some members may be dioecious or monoecious.

  • The flowers are also clustered together in cymes or panicles and have 4-5 petals and sepals, as well as 4-10 stamens with hairy filaments.

  • The fruits are fleshy or dry and come in many forms.

  • This family contains many members that are of high economic importance, while others are prized for their timber, ornamental properties and extracts which are used as additives in detergent and cosmetics.

Habitat

  • A mostly coastal species, preferring to grow in coastal dune bush and forest habitats.

  • They can be found mostly along the eastern seaboard of our country, from Natal to Transkei and parts of the Eastern Cape.

  • It is uncommon in other dissimilar habitats.

Bark

  • The main stem is frequently single and quite sturdy, but can be multi-stemmed, with a diameter of 180-270 mm.

  • The bark is grey-brown, with a smooth or slightly creased appearance, and the branchlets are very finely hairy or glabrous and whitish-grey in colour.

Foliage

  • Evergreen.

  • The leaves are trifoliate, with narrowly elliptic, subequal leaflets (30-85x 10-25 mm), and a slightly longer terminal, unpaired leaflet.

  • The terminal leaflet is frequently about 3 times as long as it is wide.

  • The leaflets are held on minute, slender stalks (3-5 mm).

  • Young leaves are very finely and softly downy, soon becoming almost completely hairless.

  • The leaves have a rather stiff and finely leathery texture, are a glossy medium green above, paler below, with 5-8 pairs of lateral veins and a pale, yellowish midrib on the lower surface.

  • Below, the leaves can often be seen with minuscule gland dots, tiny holes or stud-like spots.

  • The margin is neatly and shallowly serrated, the apex is broadly tapered to almost rounded and the base is wedge shaped.

  • The leafstalk is 15-30 mm long and can be finely hairy or almost hairless.

Flowers

  • Numerous, usually multi-branched, narrow racemes appear from in between the lustrous foliage.

  • These massed flower clusters/spikes grow from within the leaf axils.

  • The individual flowers are pedicellate, very small, irregular, polygamo-dioecious, greenish-yellow, whitish-green to cream in colour, with 4 sepals and petals.

  • They are arranged in clusters along the branched racemes (70-90 mm).

  • They have a faint sweet fragrance.

  • March – May.

Fruit

  • The flowers give way to small (6-8 mm diameter), semi-spherical, green to bright red fruits.

  • These are packed into small clusters that are arranged tightly along the slender branches.

  • The fruits are often produced in such abundance that they can weigh down the branches.

  • Indehiscent.

  • June – August.

Height

  • 3 – 8 m

Spread

  • 2 – 4

Medicinal

  • The Allophylus genus has a great ethnopharmcological background and worldwide it has a diverse history of use in traditional folk medicine.

  • Most, if not all, of the species of Allophylus contain medicinally significant phytochemicals and many studies are currently underway with the aim of evaluating the use of different extracts in traditional medicine, phytochemical constituents and biomedical research.

  • Traditional information together with current and future research on this promising plant will be beneficial in the development of new medicines for the treatment of many health problems like diabetes, osteoporosis, ulcers, wounds, bone fractures, cardiovascular disorders and bacterial infections, among others.

  • In South Africa, there is very little record of its medicinal uses, but in other countries, especially the America’s and Asia, it is a popular healing plant.


Practical

  • Many species of Allophylus yield a fairly good quality timber which is moderately hard and durable.

  • The wood has been used for various purposes such as building and roof construction, bows, arrow shafts, fishing equipment, charcoal and firewood.

  • A. natalensis does not have a great many recorded uses, perhaps because the pieces obtainable are frequently too small to be of much use.

Wildlife

  • The flowers attract numerous pollinators such as bees, butterflies, wasps, beetles and more.

  • The multitude of insect life enticed by the sweet flowers will then lure insectivorous bird species.

  • The berry-like fruits are eaten by many types of bird, monkeys and humans.

  • Birds also help disperse the seeds far and wide.

  • Young, fresh leaves are sometimes browsed by bushbuck.

  • These small trees are also a valuable larval food and breeding plant to a variety of butterfly species, including the commodores, Charaxes, nymphs, blues and coppers (Lycaenidae).

Advantages

  • This dainty little tree is especially useful in coastal gardens as it can resist strong, salt-laden sea breezes.

  • In time, it can be trained into a relatively sturdy screen, hedge or windbreak.

  • It makes a good addition to a mixed foliage background or mixed shrub border.

  • When in fruit and flower, it is highly decorative, and it makes a fine solo specimen plant.

  • Very useful for attracting birds and other wildlife to the garden, but there are reports of it struggling to produce bountiful fruits outside its natural, coastal range.

Tolerance

  • Tolerates aerosol salt spray and sandy soils. A. natalensis prefers rather warm and moist habitats with a moderate to high annual rainfall, but it can tolerate and survive occasional hot, dry spells and winter drought once properly established.

  • Young plants are tender to cold, but once well established, they can withstand mild frosts.

  • Keep young trees in a sheltered position for at least their first 4 seasons in colder areas.

Growth Rate

  • Moderate. Under ideal conditions, a growth rate of 300-500 mm per year can be expected.

  • First flowering will occur at 2-3 years of age.

Lighting

  • Full sun or light, partial shade will both be accepted.

Soil & Water

  • They are not too fussy with regards to soil type and can thrive even in very sandy soils.

  • If planting into a sandy medium, these plants will benefit from added bone-meal, compost or liquid fertiliser every spring.

  • The ideal soil would be a rich, well-drained peat or loam, with a neutral to somewhat acidic ph.

  • The Dune Allophylus prefers rather moist environments and benefits from a regular supply of fresh water, especially in summer and during very hot days.

  • In winter less, water can be given.

  • Young and recently transplanted specimens need to be given a steady supply of water to help them become established.

Propagation

  • Mostly grown from seed sown in spring.

  • After removal of the fleshy outer layer, place the seeds 2-3 cm deep in a good growing medium of equal parts river and compost, the cover with an additional thin layer of soil.

  • The seeds can be treated with a fungicide prior to sowing to prevent damping off.

  • Place the seedling trays or containers in a well-lit and ventilated, warm, temperate area and mist the soil often but take care to not let it become too wet.

  • Germination typically occurs within 4-6 weeks.

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kerryn@cjmgrowers.co.za

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