Combretum bracteosum

  • Hiccup Nut (E)
  • Hiccough creeper (E)
  • Hikklimop (A)
  • uQotho (X)


  • A medium to large shrub or multi-stemmed, small tree, with a naturally scrambling and creeping nature. Numerous, winding, branchless stems typically shoot out from the dense crown and grapple onto surrounding vegetation, often engulfing it. This perennial bears fruits and flowers that are distinctly different from other species in the genus. It is a most worthwhile garden ornamental, especially in difficult seaside gardens. It has lush, pale green, sometimes slightly russet hued foliage and a dazzling floral display in spring, when masses of bright, orange-red flowers cover the tree, and form a striking contrast to the pastel green foliage.

SA Tree

  • 532.2


  • Combretaceae (The Bushwillow or White Mangrove family)
  • A family of flowering plants belonging to the order Myrtales, comprising of trees, shrubs and lianas, with somewhat 600 species and 20 genera, occurring mostly in tropical and subtropical parts of the world.
  • Only three species are known to frequent mangrove-like, muddy habitats or estuaries.
  • Members can be characterised by leaves that are simple, alternately or oppositely arranged, often with prominent venation, and stipules that are absent or reduced.
  • The flowers are mostly bisexual, less often unisexual, and radially symmetric.
  • Fruits are generally a flattened, ribbed or winged drupe, with a single seed, although there are exceptions.


  • These trees thrive in warm, coastal environments, and occur naturally along the eastern seaboard of South Africa, from Natal to Transkei and the Eastern Cape.
  • They can frequently be found in or along the margins of evergreen or sandy, dune forests, also in riverine shrub, and are seldom found very far from the sea, preferring lower altitudes and a high annual rainfall.


  • Pale brown and smooth on young trees, becoming faintly grooved and flaking on older stems.

  • The main trunk has a diameter of 100-150 mm, and new, slender branches typically clamber and twine onto the surrounding vegetation with the help of long (1-1.5 cm), “grappling hooks” created by the remains of the leaf stalks.


  • Deciduous.

  • Simple, broad, oval leaves, frequently with sharply pointed tips (35-100 x 17 -50 mm), arranged oppositely, alternately or in whorls, dependant on their position.
  • The leaves are hairless, pale green, faintly darker above, with raised midribs and 7-8 pairs of indented, side veins that do not reach the entire, slightly rolled under margin but loop into the side vein in front of them.
  • In the axils of the veins tiny tufts of hair that house bacteria can often be seen (hair-tuft domatia).
  • The leaves turn a lovely russet-purple in autumn.
  • The willowy, scanty leafstalks eventually grow into curved, woody spines 10-15 mm long.


  • Rich orange or scarlet, 5 petalled flowers, growing in compact, rounded clusters from the ends of stems.
  • Each flower is carried on a distinct stalk (4-6 mm), and has two prominent, leaf-like bracts at the base.
  • The anthers jut out conspicuously from the centres, giving the flowers a prickly appearance.
  • New buds are downy, with a hazel sheen.
  • September – December.


  • A semi-rounded, hard, wingless nut (unlike most other Combretum species), green when young, ripening to a rich chestnut colour.
  • It contains a single seed and has 4-5 vertical grooves, with a diameter of 15-20 mm.
  • Once the nut has cracked open, it can be roasted and eaten.
  • (December – April)


  • 2-8 m


  • 3-5 m


  • The leaves contain antifungal, as well as cytotoxic compounds, and are used in traditional medicine to treat abdominal complaints, mental aberrations and skin disorders such as leprosy, snakebite, scorpion stings and brings relief from conjunctivitis.
  • The roots, either pulverized or boiled, are taken to treat gonorrhoea, diarrhoea and infertility in women.


  • Although parts of the plants are used medicinally, care should be taken as traces of toxic substances (e.g. saponin), have been found.


  • The pollen rich flowers are a firm favourite of Carpenter and honey bees, as well as butterfliers, moths, beetles and more.
  • It is the host food plant for the stunning Striped Policeman Butterfly (Coeliades forestan). Insectivorous birds will in turn be lured, and many species love to build their nests in amongst the dense foliage.
  • Lizards, especially chameleons and geckos, love to stalk their prey from behind the concealing branches.


  • It is a very adaptable plant, and, as it can grow in sandy soils and tolerates salt-laden winds, it will do well in medium to large coastal gardens.
  • As it is inclined to creep and scramble over surrounding objects, it can be used to cover open banks and walls and makes a wonderful hedge or screen plant. It can be grown up a strongly constructed gazebo or along a fence.
  • In a mixed border, pruned as a large shrub, the trees will dazzle when in flower, and can also be trimmed into a densely foliated tree by pruning out the lower branches.


  • The trees, once established, can endure extended periods of mild drought, but are not naturally inclined to be drought tolerant.
  • In frosty areas, the trees should be planted in a sheltered, warm position, and given adequate protection for at least the first 4 years, whereafter they can survive moderate frosts.

Growth Rate

  • In warm climates, and with adequate water, they are generally fast-growing plants, and can grow between 500 and 800 mm per year.
  • C. bracteosum has a habit of growing in and over surrounding plants, often flowering above them.


  • Semi shade tolerant, but a minimum of 6 hours direct sunlight is need every day.

Soil & Water

  • The plants naturally thrive in sandy, well-drained soils, but will accept loamy or peaty soils, provided there is adequate drainage.
  • They require regular watering, especially during the hot summer months, preferably every 3-5 days.


  • Easily grown from fresh seeds or rooted stems.
  • The outer shells need to be broken and the seeds removed, whereafter the seeds need to be soaked for up to 12 hours to induce germination.
  • The swollen seeds can then be sown in a seedling mix with added sand to assist drainage and covered with another thin layer of sand.
  • Place the trays in a well-ventilated, warm and bright area, and misted regularly.
  • Germination usually takes place within 2-4 weeks.
  • Cuttings with a heel can also be used, as well as lifted, rooted suckers from an established plant.