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Apodytes dimidiata – White Pear

BOTANICAL: Apodytes dimitiata
COMMON NAME: White Pear / Bird’s Eye tree / Large White pear
OTHER NAMES: Witpeer /Witpeer hout (Afr); Sephopha-madi (Northern Sotho); umDakane (zulu / Xhosa); amaDakame (Tshonga)

SA TREE NO: 422

FAMILY: Icacinaceae (White Pear family)

Belonging to the Angiosperms, a group of flowering plants found mainly in tropical or subtropical regions of the world, this family includes trees, shrubs and lianas. One of the most diverse groups of land plants, with more than 400 families, approximately 13,164 known genera and 295,383 species. Somewhat 3 genera occur in SA. Members usually have alternate leaves, much-branched inflorescence, and drupaceous fruit that contain the seeds. Commercially. It is one of the most valuable plant groups known to humans.

BASIC OVERVIEW

Apodytes dimitiata is one of the most elegant and appealing of our indigenous trees, with masses of snow-white, dainty, aromatic flowers and bright, delightfully colourful berries that add life and beauty to its surroundings. Older trees have a magnificent appearance, as their pale bark is often covered in multi-coloured blotches of different lichens, contrasting superbly with the dark, glossy and luxuriant foliage. The tree usually grows in a shrub-like manner, with a short, stout trunk and a dense, somewhat cylindrical or rounded crown. Due to over-exploitation in the past, this tree is now a protected species in SA.

  • HABITAT: Forests, both inland and coastal, bushveld, evergreen woodland, on rocky outcrops and grassy mountain slopes, where it grows in amongst the rocks and grasses. Grows throughout Natal, In the Transkei area, from the southern edges of the Eastern Cape, to Zimbabwe, and further north into Ethiopia.

  • DECIDUOUS/EVERGREEN: Evergreen

  • BARK: Usually smooth and pale-grey in colour. On older trees the bark is often rougher, with irregular grooves and distinct white patches. Specimens growing closer to the coast can often be observed with conspicuous, thin white bands that encircle the trunk. The tree’s form can be quite variable; in forested, shady environments it is usually taller, and more furrowed, with a trunk diameter of about 2.2m, while specimens growing in exposed, open areas are generally shorter and less robust, with a small, compact crown.

  • FOLIAGE: The dark, glossy green leaves are simple and alternately arranged. Oval to elliptic in form, usually measuring 50-80- x 25-40 mm, they have a thin, delicately leather-like texture, and are paler on the under surfaces, with a distinct, yellow midrib that is often tinged with a light pink flush, extending from the leafstalk. The margins are entire and often wavy. At higher altitudes, the leaves appear to be more hairy, while in warmer, coastal zones they can be hairless. The fresh twigs are a delightful purplish-pink colour.

  • FLOWERS: Th small, bright-white flowers are often produces in abundance, from September to April. They are star-shaped, heavily scented, and carried in loose, many flowered, hanging panicles generally measuring 110 x 80 mm.

  • FRUIT: Picturesque, oval, berry-like capsules, typically 6 x 3mm in diameter with a somewhat flattened appearance. A bright red or orange, fleshy appendage accompanies each seed, and gives them an almost kidney-like shape. This will eventually dry up and turn a dark grey or black. The seeds are not edible and are a bright green when fresh, turning black. (December to May)

LANDSCAPING DETAILS

  • HEIGHT: Variable. The tree normally grows in a short, bushy style, reaching between 4 and 6 m in the garden, but it has been observed reaching 15 – 20 m in forests.

  • SPREAD: 2 – 4m

  • TOLERANCE: Once sufficiently established, the tree is remarkably resistant to drought and strong winds, but should be protected from frost in its early stages, where after it will still be only tolerant to mild frost.

  • GROWTH RATE: Slow to moderate growth rate. Young trees seem to grow slower, but as they mature, and in ideal conditions, the percentage increases, and a growth rate of just below a metre per year can be expected.

  • LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS: Full sun or semi-shade will be accepted.

  • SOIL AND WATER REQUIREMENTS: Well-drained, sandy or loamy soils. The tree will flourish with added compost, as it usually grows best in lush, forest habitats, and has moderate water requirements. Prefers winter-rainfall areas.

  • ADVANTAGES: Not only will the masses of fragrant flowers and decorative berries lure a vast amount of animal life to your garden, but this charming tree will also bring lovely, deep shade all year round. Truly a wonderfully ornate, yet very neat addition, suited for small gardens, rockeries and patios, as it does grow too big or fast. The root system is not aggressive, so it can be planted close to pools, paving’s and walls, and although it produces copious amounts of fruits, these are not fleshy so will not create a mess. Due to its dense growth habit, it makes for a perfect hedge and screening plant.

  • WILDLIFE: The bright seeds are irresistible to many seed-eating birds, and a variety of Bulbuls, Mouse-birds, Louries, starlings, Barbets, Pigeons and weavers will flock to it in summer. The abundance of flowers also lures honeybees, wasps, beetles and butterfliers. The leaves and bark are also a favourite snack of the Black Rhino.

  • PROPAGATION: Advisably, sow the seeds in late winter or early stags of spring, as the germination process is usually very slow for this species (6-8 months) Plant in a rich, but well-drained mixture of river sand and compost (2:1), and keep moist. Treat the seeds with a pre-emergence fungicide as they are prone to damp-off. Keep the plants in a bright, warm area, but do not place in direct sunlight. Once the saplings have developed at least 3 true leaves, carefully transplant into prepared individual containers with a similar growing medium.

  • MEDICINAL: Medicinal uses are somewhat limited, but the roots and bark are said to help ward off and destroy intestinal parasites, while the leaves are concocted and made into good eardrops, that are said to relieve inflammation.

  • PRACTICAL: The pale brown or light pink wood is very hard and strong, finely textured and slightly elastic. It was highly prized amongst the Voortrekkers for the durable wood it provided for their wagons and furniture. Today, the wood is still popular for furniture, ornaments, carving, various tool handles, agricultural implements and amongst local people for hut building.

  • ADDITIONAL FACTS: The leaves of this tree are often boiled and mixed with food, especially porridge, and when the crushed leaves are infused with water, they have strong snail-killing properties, and provide a natural alternative to chemical pesticides.

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