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Celtis africana – White Stinkwood

BOTANICAL: CELTIS AFRICANA
COMMON NAME: White Stinkwood / CAMDEBOO STINKWOOD
OTHER NAMES: HACKBERRIES/ NETTLE TREES, WITSTINKHOUT (AFR) UMVUMVU (XHOSA) INDWANDWAZANE (ZULU) MODUTU (SOTHO & TSWANE)

SA TREE NO: 39

FAMILY: Cannabaceae (formerly part of Ulmaceae (Elm family)

A genus of flowering plants mainly from the Northern hemisphere, containing 11 genera with somewhat 170 species. Member include trees, Celtis (hackberries), Cannabis (hemp) and Humulus (hops), and are classified as either trees, erect or twining herbaceous plants. In SA, 3 genera of trees fitting into this family occur. All members of this genera have simple, alternate or palmately compound leaves and unremarkable, small and petal less greenish flowers. Although the male and female flowers differ in appearance, they are most often found on the same tree.

BASIC OVERVIEW

ONE OF OUR MOST POPULAR AND REWARDING INDIGENOUS TREES, IT IS A PROTECTED SPECIES IN SA AND IS NOT RELATED TO THE TRUE STINKWOOD, (OCOTEA BULLATA) THE NAME REFERS TO THE UNPLEASANT ODOUR RELEASED FROM FRESHLY CUT WOOD AND PALE BARK. THEY GROW TO BE MAGNIFICIENT TREES WITH A FINE FORM THAT PROVIDE LOVELY, DEEP SHADE. A WONDERFULLY PICTURESQUE TREE, WITH PALE, MATT-GREY BARK AND PERFECTLY SHAPED, ALMOST FLAWLESS, FRESH BRIGHT-GREEN NEW LEAVES THAT CONTRAST BEAUTIFULLY WITH THE PASTEL-HUED MAIN STEM.

  • HABITAT: OCCURS IN A WIDE VARIETY OF HABITATS, FROM COASTAL BUSH, FOREST AND SAVANNAH, TO EVERGREEN FORESTS, BUT IT IS USUALLY ASSOCIATED WITH HIGHER RAINFALL AREAS. FROM THE COAST IN THE EASTERN CAPE, UP THROUGH THE HUIGHVELD, EXTENDING NORTH INTO ETHIOPIA.

  • DECIDUOUS/EVERGREEN: DECIDUOUS IN DRIER, COLDER AREAS, SEMI-DECIDUOUS TOWARDS THE COAST, LEAVES TURNING ATTRACTIVE YELLOW IN AUTUMN.

  • BARK: SMOOTH, PALE GREY, WITH OCCASIONALY HORIZONTAL RIDGES. ON OLDER SPECIMENS, THE BARK CAN OFTEN BE SEEN LOOSELY PEEELING IN LARGE STRIPS. YOUNG TWIGS AND STEMS ARE COVERED WITH FINE, WHITE HAIRS, AND HAVE A VELVETY APPEARANCE.

  • FOLIAGE: NEW LEAVES BRIGHT GREEN AND HAIRY, FORMING LOVELY CONTRAST TO PALE BARK, DARKENING IN COLOUR AS THEY MATURE. LEAVES SIMPLE, ALTERNATE AND TRIANGULAR IN SHAPE, BROADER AT THE BASE, TAPERING TO THE APEX, WITH THREE PROMINENT VEINS RUNNING FROM BASE. MARGINS TOOTHED TO FINELY SERRATED. THE LEAVES USUALLY MEASURE 1.5-10 X 1-5 CM.

  • FLOWERS: AUG-OCT. INCONSPICOUS, SMALL STAR SHAPED YELLOW-GREEN FLOWERS. SEXES SEPERATE BUT OCCURING ON THE SAME TREE. MALE FLOWERS GROW IN DENSE CLUSTERS AT THE ENDS OF BRANCHLETS, WHILE FEMALE FLOWERS ARE FOUND IN SMALL GROUPS OF 2-3, EVEN SOLITARY, IN LEAF AXILS.

  • FRUIT: MASSES OF SMALL YELLOW-BROWN TO BLACK OVOID BERRIES (6MM) THAT HANG IN THIN STALKS (1-2 CM) FROM TREE. OCT-FEB

LANDSCAPING DETAILS

  • HEIGHT: 1012M IN CULTIVATION, 25M IN FOREST HABITAT

  • SPREAD: 3-12 M

  • TOLERANCE: ONCE ESTABLISHED, IT CAN WITSTAND FAIRLY LONG PERIODS OF DROUIGHT. CAN WITSTAND SHORT PERIODS OF SHARP, BUT NOT SEVER, FROST.

  • GROWTH RATE: YOUNG TREES CAN GROW BETWEEN 1 & 2 M PER YEAR. FAST GROWER.

  • LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS: PREFERS FULL SUN BUT WILL TOLERATE SEMI-SHADE.

  • SOIL AND WATER REQUIREMENTS: PREFERS DEEP. MOIST SOILS, BUT WILL GROW IN SANDY, DRIER AREARS. UNDER THESE CONDITIUONS IT MIGHT ONLY GROW TO SCHRUB HEIGHT. IDEAL FOR AREAS WITH HIGH SUMMER RAINFALL.

  • ADVANTAGES: ADAPTABLE, EASY TO GROW, FAST GROWER. PROVIDES EXCELLENT SHADE IN SUMMER. GOOD BONSAI SUBJECT. PERFECT FOR PARKS, LARGE GARDENS, STREET AVENUES.RESPONDS WELL TO PRUNING, WILL DO WELL IN BIG TUB. REQUIRES LITTLE MAINTENANCE.

  • WARNINGS: HAS FAIRLY AGGRESSIVE ROOT SYSTEM, SO SHOULD BE PLANTED WELL AWAY FROM BUILDINGS, POOLS AND WALLS. NOT SUITABLE FOR SMALL GARDENS, ALSO DUE TO ITS WIDE SPREAD.

  • WILDLIFE: THE LEAVES ARE BROWSED BY KUDU, BUSHBUCK, IMPALA, DUIKER AND LIVESTOCK, ALSO A FOOD PLANT FOR LARVAE OF LONG-NOSED BUTTERFLY (LIBYTHEA LABDACA). THE FRUIT & SEED IS ENJOYED BY BIRDS SUCH AS THE PURPLE CRESTED LOERIE, KAROO THRUSH, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT, TAMBOURINE DOVES, RAMERON PIGEONS, WARBLERS, BLACK-EYED BULBUL, CRESTED BARBETS, VERVET MONKEYS AND THE ENDANGERED CAPE PARROT, WHICH ALL HELP TO DISPERSE THE SEEDS.

  • PROPAGATION: EASILY PROPAGATED FROM SEED, BUT IT IS BEST TO COLLECT THEM RIPE FROM THE TREE AS SEEDS THAT HAVE FALLEN TO THE GROUND ARE MOST OFTEN DAMAGED BY INSECTS. ADVISABLE TO SEPARATE THE SEED FROM THE FRUIT AS THE PULP INHIBITS GERMINATION (USUALLY REMOVED BY DIGESTIVE PROCESS OF BIRDS). SEEDS SHOULD BE PLANTED IN RIVER SAND AND COMPOST MIXTURE (1:5) KEEP MOIST. THEY SHOULD GERMINATE WITHIN 15-30 DAYS. PLACE IN WARM AREA.

  • MEDICINAL: POUNDED BARK IS USED TO TREAT FEVERS AND HEADACHE. DECOCTIONS OF THE LEAVES ARE USED FOR SORE EYES. BOILED ROOTS ARE SAID TO EASE SHAKING, AND ARE USED TO TREAT DYSENTRY, TOOTH AND EARACHE, DIARRHOEA AND AGAINST THE CESTODES OF TAPEWORM.

  • PRACTICAL: THE WOOD IS WHITISH-YELLOW IN COLOUR. IT IS DIFFICULT TO WORK AND IS OF LITTLE COMMERCIAL VALUE, BUT IS TOUGH, STRONG, HEAVY AND MAKES AGOOD GENERAL TIMBER. THE AFRICAN PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS USED IT FOR MAKING VARIOUS HOUSEHOLD ITEMS AND THE FIBROUS BARK IS USED TO MAKE ROPES AND CLOTH.

  • ADDITIONAL FACTS: THE TREE WILL ONLY BEAR FRUIT AFTER 4 YEARS.

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