Combretum kraussii

  • Forest Bushwillow (E)
  • Bosvaderlandswilg (A)
  • uhwabhu (Z)
  • ulandile (X)
  • modlubu (NS)
  • muvuvhu-wa-thavhani (V)



  • A shrub, small or medium to tall tree, with single or multi-stemmed trunk of flaking, grey bark, often branching low down, and a curved crown of sleek, dark green foliage that transformed into dazzling shades of red, maroon and purple during the autumn months.
  • The trees are also arresting in late spring, when the sweetly scented, white, puffball flowers are surrounded by almost pure white leaves, which is said to serve pollination needs.
  • The eccentric, winged fruits are a beautiful, colourful yellow-red before they mature.
  • The Forest Bushwillow is truly an exceptional choice for beautifying the garden in all seasons and was chosen as Tree of the Year in 2015.

SA Tree

  • 540



  • 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.


  • Occurring in or near evergreen forests and associated woodland, typically as a canopy constituent, from the coast to medium high altitudes of about 1200 m; also, in open and wooded grasslands, on rocky outcrops and in riverine thicket.
  • The trees can be found throughout Natal, Transkei, parts of Gauteng, Swaziland and Mozambique.


  • Grey to dark grey, becoming heavily grooved and flaking locally in large strips as the tree matures.
  • Young branches are more or less smooth and greenish-brown.
  • The main stem is generally single stemmed, retaining branches close to the ground, or multi-stemmed, with a diameter of between 600 and 800 mm.


  • Partially deciduous

  • Simple, ovoid to elliptic-ovoid leaves, (45-120 x 20-50 mm), arranged oppositely on the short side stems, but may be alternate on coppice shoots, or even whorled, all on the same tree.
  • The margins are entire, wavy and rolled under, and taper to a slightly curved or pointed tip.
  • Hairless, with 4-12 pairs of oblique veins; the midrib and venation are raised beneath, and the leafstalk is 2-7 mm long.
  • In spring, there is a flush of new, white leaves that have lost some of their chlorophyll content; they usually subtend the flowers, and are either shed after flowering, or turn a dark, shiny green, with somewhat paler undersides.
  • The leaves turn bright reddish-purple and tend to fall from the tree shortly before flowering commences.


  • Dense clusters of up to 50 small, ivory, puffball-like flowers, each up to 85 mm in diameter, typically carried above the new leaves. (August-November).


  • Distinctly 4-winged capsule-like fruit (20x 20mm), carried on a stalk of about 4 mm in length.
  • The fruits mature to a lovely yellowish-brown or dark russet pink-red colour. (February -June).


  • 4-12 m


  • 3-7 m


  • Infusions of the pulverized roots are taken internally as tonics, to stimulate the appetite, as an analgesic, as enemas to treat urinary tract infections, and concoctions are applied to wounds.
  • The roots have also been used to treat diarrhoea, and in the preparation of antiseptics.
  • To relieve bodily pains, ground roots are added to bathwater.


  • The pale-yellow wood is hard, tough, with a straight grain and relatively fine texture, but is not very durable.
  • The timber is easy to work with, takes a good finish, but is mainly used on a small scale.
  • It makes a good firewood, and is suitable for use in turnery, ship and hut building, as well as for flooring, joinery, furniture, handles, ladders, sporting goods, agricultural implements and certain novelties.
  • The flexible immature stems are used in weaving and basket making.
  • Combretastatin B-1, a type of stilbenoid, can be found in C. kraussii. (these compounds have been suggested by studies to be responsible for resistance to some tree diseases)


  • The sawdust of freshly cut timber is said to be an extreme skin irritant and has been known to cause blisters.


  • The flowers are frequented by various insects, including bees, butterflies and moths.
  • It is also a host food plant for many butterfly species, and the larvae will lure insectivorous birds.
  • Certain insectivorous birds will visit the trees to forage for insects, and seed-eating species will sometimes eat the seeds from the fruit. Birds also love to roost and build their nests high up amongst the concealing branches.


  • The trees have a non-aggressive root system, so it is safe to plant them near paving, walls, pools or any other permanent structures, and they look magnificent in parks, along avenues, or in schools.
  • This feature also makes them suited for large container planting in a semi-shay area.
  • Its assortment of seasonal features makes this an excellent choice for a garden ornamental that will provide year-round visual delight – in spring it bears white flowers and an unusual flush of nearly white leaves, towards late summer the scarlet fruits are impressive, and in winter its leaves turn striking russet-gold before falling.
  • It has a naturally neat form and is relatively low-maintenance.
  • A truly beautiful specimen/focal tree, and also provides lovely shade.
  • Planted in groups, the trees can easily be trimmed to from a good screen or hedge and adds a dash of colour to background foliage.


  • It prefers a warm, temperate climate, but once established, can survive light to moderate frosts.
  • Immature plants should always be sheltered against extreme temperate fluctuations.
  • Established plants are able to endure reasonable amounts of seasonal drought.

Growth Rate

  • A fast grower.
  • If given enough water during the first few years and good, rich soil, it will grow between 600-800 mm per annum.


  • Full sun or semi-shade.

Soil & Water

  • The trees prefer well-drained, compost rich, loamy or peat soils, with a neutral ph., but will tolerate somewhat sandy soils.
  • They have moderate water needs, and require regular, deep drenching’s, especially during the hot summer months if there is not adequate rainfall.
  • They frequent habitats where there is high rainfall or ground water.


  • Easily propagated from seed.
  • Fruits should be freshly harvested and checked for parasites (small holes or a gummy excrescence are indicators of them).
  • If storing for later use, keep in a cool, dry place.
  • To speed up the germination process, seeds should be removed from the fruits and pre-soaked in water for a few hours.
  • Sow the seeds in a well-drained mixture of compost and fine river sand (1:2), at a depth of about 5mm.
  • Place in a bright, warm, sheltered area, and mist often – but don’t let the soil become waterlogged.
  • Germination should occur within 2 to 4 weeks.
  • When they have reached the two-leaf stage, they can be transplanted into bigger bags, but they should remain in a protected environment for at least the first year.