Cordia caffra

  • Septee / Septee tree
  • Septee saucer-berry
  • Septeeboom
  • umKhanyakude (Z)
  • umLovulovu (X)
  • mududa (V)


  • A small to medium sized tree or large shrub to small, prostate bush on exposed coastal dunes, with a slender stem and a compact, erratic or well-shaped crown of delightful, bright green, sleek leaves that have a distinctive drooping habit and are carried on thinly elongated stalks which allows them to sway gracefully in even the slightest of breezes. The bark is very beautiful, striking and unusual. It is coloured in shades of tan, pink, white and grey and flakes attractively in large patches to give the tree a very charming, adroitly mottled appearance. The fruits are dainty and picturesque, with a shimmering amber or deep orange colour and are held in dainty cup-like appendages. Against a dark green backdrop, these trees are very conspicuous with their pastel hued, flecked bark and vivid fruits.

SA Tree

  • 652


  • Boraginaceae, The borage- or forget-me-not family.
  • A diverse family with a range of variations with regards to growth habits and appearance.
  • The family conists of about 140 genera and more than 2000 species distributed across the globe.
  • Recent groupings have broken this family up into several families: Boraginaceae sensu stricto, Cordiaceae, Ehretiaceae, Heliotropiaceae, Lennoaceae, and Hydrophyllaceae.
  • According to the APG II system, Hydrophyllaceae is included in this family as they are somewhat paraphyletic.
  • Representative are mostly herbs or multi-stemmed shrubs and trees.
  • Members have leaves that are mainly simple, alternately arranged and covered with a layer of hairs, which may sometimes cause adverse skin reactions.
  • The leaf blades typically have a narrow, linear or lance-like shape and leafstalks are often absent.
  • The flowers are generally bisexual, though some members are dioecious.
  • Many members have flowers that have a coiling shape, often at the apex, and as the flowers develop this slowly uncoils.
  • The corolla tube can be tubular, bell-shaped or rotate, and the petals are often partly or completely fused.
  • It usually has 5 lobes.
  • The fruits are either drupes or capsule, sometimes fleshy.


  • This species is distributed mainly along the eastern seaboard of the country, from Natal, Transkei and the Eastern Cape, but it can be found more inland and in the Lowveld parts of the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, as well as parts of Gauteng, Swaziland and the southern parts of Mozambique.

  • It frequents forested habitats, but as it needs a fair amount of light, it tends to grow along the edges of forests rather than inside the dense vegetation.

  • Found in coastal bush and forest, woodlands and riverine thickets and fringes.


  • The bole can be either single or multi-stemmed, with a diameter of 200-450 mm, and is usually slender with a tendency to lean sideward.

  • The branches are whitish to light greyish-brown and covered with a fine layer of rusty hairs when young, which soon fade.

  • The bark is more or less smooth textured, creamy brown, with large, dry cracking and flaking pieces and attractive pinkish patches, giving the tree a mottled appearance.

  • Underneath the flaking patches, where the bark is exposed, it is a pale greyish-white colour.


  • Deciduous.

  • Simple, alternately arranged, ovate to narrowly ovate (50-100 x 25-40 mm) leaves that have a distinctive drooping habit.

  • The leaves have a thin texture, are glossy light to dark green above and paler green below, with 4-6 pairs of secondary veins on each side of the midrib.

  • Fresh, young leaves have a thin layer of soft, short, yellowish-red hairs, but as the leaves mature the become smooth and hairless.

  • The margin is very finely to coarsely and irregularly toothed, and tapers to a narrowly pointed tip and rounded to almost square, often asymmetric base.

  • The leafstalk is slender (15-50 mm).


  • Smallish (5-10 mm), bell-shaped, creamy-white flowers with whitish, yellowish or greenish corolla tubes (2.5–3.5 mm long) are carried on slender stalks.

  • The cymes are arranged in compact flowerheads at the tips of short lateral branches.

  • The flowers have a sweet scent and are either male or hermaphrodite.

  • Each flower has 4-6 stamens inserted at the tip of the corolla tube, but in the male flowers the style is absent, while in hermaphrodite flowers it is 5-7 mm long.

  • The ovary in male flowers is 1-1.5 mm. long and globose to conical shaped, in hermaphrodite flowers it is ovoid to obovoid and 2 –2.5 mm long.

  • September – November.


  • An oval to almost round, fleshy, sharp-tipped drupe (14 x 9 mm).

  • It is enveloped at the base by the persistent and widened cup-like calyx and matures from yellow to deep apricot orange.

  • It contains 1-2 seeds that are embedded in a small capsule and have a distinctive, pleated cotyledon.

  • Edible but unpalatable.

  • December – February.


  • 2-20 m, often less in cultivation.


  • 2-6 m


  • Records of medicinal usage are very incomplete, but different parts of the plant are reputed to have been used by local peoples of South Africa to treat sore and inflamed eyes, fever and headaches as well as sores and wounds.


  • The sapwood of this tree is a light, caramel brown, while the heartwood is pinkish-brown to dark brown.
  • The sapwood is soft and is mainly used in the construction of huts and for sticks.
  • The heartwood is durable, heavy, hard, fine-grained and polishes well.
  • It has been used to make beautiful furniture as it also does not chip easily when worked.
  • Dry sticks are used to create a fire by friction.


  • The fragrant flowers attract a vast amount of insect life, as well as bees and butterflies.
  • The insects lured may entice insect-eating birds to pay the tree a visit.
  • The fruits are readily devoured by birds and sometimes monkeys, less often people, and the leaves are browsed by antelope and certain game species.


  • A highly decorative, adaptable tree that can be used in a variety of landscape applications.
  • It tolerates shady conditions and does not get too big, making it ideal for smaller gardens and areas with limited space.
  • The Septee is a very handsome and interesting tree that has something to offer the gardener in every season – decorative fruits, sweetly fragranced, dainty flowers, lovely lustrous foliage and eye-catching, beautiful bark textures in the warmer months followed by a few months where it is bare but still just as eye-catching when the bare branches, with their striking, intriguing patterns and colourations add a dramatic feel to the landscape.
  • A lovely accent or focal specimen, that, although not a classic horticultural beauty, is definitely worth growing for its artistic branching pattern and decorative bark and fruits.
  • When planted in groves or small groups, it adds a stunning woodland atmosphere to the garden.
  • It does not have an overly aggressive root system, so can be planted fairly close to permanent structures, paving and pools.
  • It is a relatively fast-growing tree that can easily be trimmed down and shaped for a more shrubby effect which will work very well as an background foliage addition or as a sturdy hedge or privacy screen.
  • Perfect for attracting birds.


  • It is a woodland area tree, preferring warm to temperate climates, but once established it can tolerate only mild frosts.
  • Young and recently transplanted specimens should be given a good deal of protection for at least their first five cold seasons.
  • In areas where frosts are frequent and severe, it should be planted indoors or against a sunny, north facing wall.
  • Protect from cold winds.
  • It has moderate drought tolerance but does not respond well to excessively dry and hot conditions.

Growth Rate

  • A relatively fast grower, able to establish itself fairly rapidly.
  • First flowering can be expected at 5-7 years of age, depending on locality and individual conditions.
  • Under optimal conditions, Cordia can grow between 500 – 750 mm per year.


  • It prefers a lightly shaded position but will accept semi-shade or full sun. (4-6 hours of direct sunlight each day is beneficial, especially to flowering).

Soil & Water

  • Prefers a deep, well-drained, fertile soil, with a slightly acidic to neutral ph.
  • Peat, loam or sandy soils are best. If the soil is very sandy, add some bonemeal, compost or liquid fertiliser when planting or every spring to give the plants a nutrient boost.
  • Cordia prefers climates with a moderate to low annual rainfall, and therefore has moderate water requirements, depending on the seasonal rainfall.
  • Water well and often, and give more water in summer and on hot, dry days, less in winter.


  • Easily grown from seed, which germinates fairly rapidly.
  • Sow the seeds in spring or early summer into a mixture of fine, washed river sand and compost (2:1).
  • Place the seeds 5-10 mm deep into the soil, then cover with an additional, thin layer of soil.
  • Place the seedling trays or containers in a bright, warm and temperate area and keep the soil moist by misting it often.
  • Once the plants have developed a few proper leaves, they can be further transplanted.