Welcome to our Trees and Bees page

where we explore the plant and animal life in our park. If you would like to contribute a short story, some info,
drawings or photos, please feel free to do so!

TWO LOVELY INDIGENOUS TREE SPECIES

Apodytes dimidiata (white pear, witpeer)

The white pear is a protected tree in South Africa and one of the best known forest trees in southern Africa. It occurs in coastal evergreen bush, at the margins of medium-altitude evergreen forests, in open woodlands and on grassy mountain slopes, often among rocks. It is a constituent of the Knysna forests and in that area the white pear comprises 3-9% of the total tree population. The only specimen in De Waal Park can be found below the bandstand and is nearly 10 m tall, which is quite tall for this species.

Apodytes dimidiata can be difficult to identify at a glance. The useful identifying character of this species is the red colour of the petiole and terminal branchlets. It is evergreen with glossy, bright green leaves that have a paler green, dull underside. The bark is pale grey and smooth. A. dimidiata forms small white fragrant blooms. The De Waal Park specimen does not flower in great profusion and the fruit is also scarce. The excellent smell of the flowers attracts insects.

 

Apodytes dimidiata

The small fruit are berry-like and somewhat flattened with a red appendage, resulting in a kidney-like shape. They are very attractive to birds. Black rhinoceros are said to enjoy the leaves and bark.

The wood of A. dimidiata is very hard and was used in wagon construction and for furniture. This tree is also valued in traditional Zulu medicine. An infusion from the root bark is used as an enema for intestinal parasites. The leaves are used in the treatment of ear inflammation.

A. dimidiata is an ideal tree for the home garden as it is not very big, has no messy fruit and its roots do not disturb foundations or paved areas.

 

Apodytes dimidiata leaves and fruit

 

Harpephyllum caffrum (wild plum, wildepruim)

H. caffrum grows from the Eastern Cape northwards through KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, southern Mozambique, Limpopo and into Zimbabwe. It is an attractive evergreen tree for the garden that attracts birds and butterflies, and is popular as a street tree in a number of South African towns and cities. The De Waal Park specimens form an attractive group at the upper, small entrance gate on Upper Orange Street, where their thick crowns and drooping leaves provide welcome shade.

H. caffrum belongs to the Anacardiaceae (mango family), the fourth largest tree family in southern Africa, including approximately 80 tree species and many shrubs. Commercially grown members of the family include mango, cashew nut and pistachio nut.

The wild plum is a large tree, growing up to 15 m tall, and is usually found in riverine forests. The main stem is clean and straight, though the forest form often has supporting buttress roots. The bark is smooth when young, becoming rough, dark grey-brown as it grows older. Branches are very characteristically curved upwards, with leaves crowded towards the ends.

 

 

 

Harpephyllum caffrum (wild plum, wildepruim)

 

The shiny dark green and glossy leaves are sometimes interspersed with the odd red leaf. The whitish green flowers are borne near the ends of the branches throughout summer, with male and female flowers on separate trees. The tasty plum-like fruits first appear green, then turn red when they ripen in autumn; they contain a single seed. The fruit of wild plum are enjoyed by birds, animals, insects and humans. They can be used for making jams and jellies, and even wine. 

The bark is a popular in traditional medicine. It is inter alia used  to treat acne and eczema and powdered, burnt bark is used to treat sprains and bone fractures. It is also used for dyeing, giving a mauve or pink colour. The wood of the H. caffrum is pale reddish and fairly heavy. It polishes well but is not very durable. It is used for carving curios.

 

 

 

 

Harpephyllum caffrum green fruit

The generic name Harpephyllum is of Greek derivation, meaning sickle-like, referring to the shape of the falcate leaflets. The specific name caffrum is derived from its place of origin, Kaffraria, now part of Eastern Cape. This word also means 'indigenous'. H. caffrum may be confused with the Cape ash, Ekebergia capensis. but is distinguishable by its sickle-shaped leaflets and the leaves that are crowded towards the end of the branches.

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