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Trees, Shrubs, Aloes, Grasses and Ground Covers.
Belonging to a relatively small African genus, these slender, low-branching and tropically extravagant shrubs or small trees have large and beautifully veined, brilliantly glossy leaves and compact clusters of showy, delicate pure-white flowers with long, slim tubes and small petals. The flowers are followed by deep yellow, thick-skinned and spindle-shaped fruits that are loved by fruit eating birds. The specific epithet speciosus means showy or good looking and refers to the aesthetically pleasing qualities of the trees.
696 & 696.3
Rubiaceae (Gardenia and Coffee family)
A large, global family, belonging to the order Rubiales, mainly occurring in warmer, tropical and temperate zones of the world, comprising of somewhat 660 genera and over 11 000 species.
Members are mostly trees, shrubs and herbs, and many are renowned for their exceptionally beautiful and fragrant flowers, while others are prized economically for producing, amongst others, the coffee of commerce, Coffea arabica, from Ethiopia.
Members have leaves that are either opposite or in whorls, with clear ridges on the stems between them, usually bearing distinctive stipules, and entire, unbroken margins.
Flowers are borne singly, or in small, clustered groups, and fruits are typically crowned by the persistent remains of the calyx
These trees are predominantly found in the understory vegetation of evergreen and secondary forests, as well as low-lying riverine thickets, woodland, montane forests and subsidiary scrub.
They can be found at higher elevations from Natal, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Transkei, parts of Gauteng and Swaziland, extending into tropical Africa.
The bark is smooth and pale grey on younger trees, turning dark grey with age.
The main stem is typically straight and slender, with numerous smallish horizontally spreading branches.
Simple, oppositely arranged, very large (70-300 x 35-150 mm), elliptic to narrowly oblong leaves, with a somewhat stiffly to softly leathery texture.
They have a rather drooping habit, and the margins are entire, tapering to a drip-tip, while the bases are wedge-shaped to rounded.
The midrib is also depressed above and raised below, and the leaves are hairless except for small tufts of domatia in the axils of the veins on the lower surfaces.
The triangular or lance-like stipules (6-20 x 3-10 mm), are located on the stem between the petioles of the opposite leaves and are formed from the merging of two stipules, one from each of the two opposite leaves.
The leafstalk is 10-20 mm long.
Dense, many-flowered, erectly held inflorescences form slightly rectangular or oblong to funnel-shaped panicles (20-50 mm), that grow from the axils of the leaves.
The flowers are white, very slender, with a glabrous corolla tube (18–70 x 1–1.5 mm.), backwards curving petals and a protruding style.
November – February.
The fruits are ellipsoidal to spindle-shaped or subglobose and rounded, somewhat sharp-tipped or constricted at the top with a slender bottle-neck form and are crowned with the remains of the calyx.
They are 18-60 mm. wide by 9-60 mm. long and change from green to yellowish-orange when fully ripe.
The fruits have a rather glossy, slightly creased texture and are relatively thick-skinned.
Each fruit contains many ochre to tawny, straited seeds (2.5-4 mm long).
March – August.
4 – 12 m
2 – 6 m
Although these plants have not been thoroughly investigated for their bioactive compounds, there are reports of the stems, leaves and bark being used in traditional medicine.
Concoctions of the leaves are said to be effective febrifuges (lowers fever) and also provide relief from stomach and pulmonary ailments.
A paste is made from the leaves and pieces of the stem bark, and this is used to treat persistent coughs.
The leaves and roots are blended into a mixture that is used to treat snake bites.
Twigs and flower buds are used against fever and toothache.
The wood of these trees has little commercial value, but the slightly fibrous, slender twigs make fine whip sticks and poles.
Tool handles and various smaller household or personal items are made from the timber, and it is used as an average quality firewood.
The existence of toxic cyanogenic glycosides in various parts of the tree has been confirmed.
There are reports of this tree being used to make arrow poison.
The flowers attract moths and various other insects, while the fruits are readily devoured by birds.
The Wild Loquat is grown for its ornamental flowers, foliage and fruits, as well as its deep shade giving abilities.
It is suitable for areas of the garden where there is not much sunlight and its root system is not overly aggressive.
A slow grower that does not reach gigantic proportions in cultivation, suitable for smaller gardens, areas with limited space and can even be planted in a container on a patio.
Suitable for high rainfall areas and wet soils.
Makes a fine background foliage addition and can be trained into a hedge or screen in warmer areas, as it often develops a neat and attractive pyramidal shape, with dense branching at nearly ground level in cultivation.
It is worth a prime spot as single, focal specimen.
Attracts a variety of birdlife.
Tolerates a shady spot in the garden.
These tropical plants need a sheltered spot away from strong winds and extreme fluctuations in temperatures.
They are not frost tolerant and languish under dry conditions.
A very slow growing plant.
First flowering, depending on individual conditions, can be expected after 4 or 5 years.
Partial to deep shade is required.
Soil & Water
Optimum soil conditions for these plants are moist, deep, well-drained and fertile loam or peat soils, with a slightly acidic to neutral ph.
They will accept sandy soils but will then require added bone-meal or compost when planting.
A dose of liquid fertiliser in spring will benefit development.
They have moderate to high water requirements, more during the warm summer months or during hot, dry spells, and slightly less in winter.
A layer of mulch strewn around the trees will help with moisture retention and will also provide some insulation in colder areas.
Mostly propagated from fresh seeds sown in spring or early summer.
The fleshy, germination inhibiting pulp must be removed from the seeds prior to sowing.
Place the seeds 3-5 mm deep in seedling trays filled with a mixture of compost and river sand (1:2), then cover them with an additional, thin layer of sand.
To prevent rot or mildew setting in, the seeds and be treated with a pre- or post-emergence fungicide.
Keep the trays in a warm but temperate, semi-shady area and mist often.
When the seedlings have developed their first set of true leaves and are big enough to handle, they can be potted on into larger containers.