Combretum erythrophyllum is a medium to large, deciduous tree with lovely form, crooked stem with attractive pale bark and, often, beautiful autumn colours. A good choice as a specimen shade tree in large gardens or may be planted in groves to create a parkland effect. It is also very cold hardy and fast growing.
- Combretum – a name originally given by Pliny to a climbing plant of another genus.
- erythrophyllum – ‘erythro’ red and ‘phylum’ leaves because of the red leaves in autumn.
Common Names: River bushwillow, (Eng), riviervaderlandswilg (Afr), moduba-noka (Nso), umdvubu (Swa), mbvuva (Tso), modubu(Tsw), muvuvhu (Ven), and umdubu wehlanze (Zul).
SAF Number: 536 Zim Number: 703
Size: 6 – 9 m (–12 m) by 6 – 9 m.
- Flowers are creamy-white catkins.
- Flowers after appearance of new leaves in early spring.
- Leaves around the flowers have reduced chlorophyll levels during flowering, giving trees a pale appearance.
Colour: Creamy-white to pale yellow.
Flowering Months: Sep – Nov.
Fragrance: Not fragrant.
The leaves are simple and opposite or whorled in threes.
- The simple, elliptic or oblong-elliptic leaves are carried on short lateral twigs.
- They are opposite or whorled in threes, margin is entire.
- Leaf veins are conspicuous.
- The new leaves are pale green and appear in Aug – Sep.
- Leaves may turn brilliant autumn colours before dropping about Jul.
Thorns: No thorns.
- The characteristic four-winged fruit remain on the tree for a long time.
- Each fruit contains one wrinkled seed that looks a bit like a small walnut.
- The pale, creamy-brown bark may be mottled or smooth.
- The branches and stem feel soft and velvety.
- A lovely shade tree that can be grown in a lawn as a feature tree.
- May be used to give definition to the seasons in a garden, with its lovely stark form in winter, soft pale green leaves in spring, darker leaves in summer and yellow to red in autumn.
- Group planting in large spaces such as in school grounds, parks, office and housing estates will create a parkland feel to the spaces.
- Combretum erythrophyllum are good trees for next to driveways and on pavements as their roots are not likely to lift paving.
- May be planted along stream and river banks to bind the soil.
- A good plant for a wildlife friendly garden, attracting insects and birds.
- Fast growing, up to 1.5m or more in a year.
Soil Needs: Most soil types.
- A low maintenance plant.
- Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
- In very cold gardens protect young plants in winter.
Cold Hardiness: Very cold hardy.
Water Requirements: Drought hardy, but thrives on regular summer water.
Light Requirements: Full sun but will grow partial shade.
Roots: The roots are not aggressive.
- Insect-eating birds are attracted to the insects that visit these shrubs.
- Parrots and Pied Barbets eat the seeds.
- Southern Black Tits eat insect larva that parasitizes the seeds.
Insects and Butterflies:
- May well be host to some butterfly and moth larva.
- Bees, wasps and other insects feed off the flowers.
- Some wasp species lay their eggs on the fruits.
- The root is used as a purgative but overdose may cause death.
- Roots and bark are used to protect against and to cure venereal diseases.
- Leaves are used to treat stomach pain and coughs.
Notes of interest:
- The soft wood is easily worked and is used as a general timber.
- Elephant and giraffe browse the leaves.
- The gum has been used to tan leather, to varnish wood and as a dye.
- Found in the north-eastern EC, KZN, Swa, M, eastern FS, G, NWP, south eastern Bot, NC along the Vaal and Orange Rivers, L, western Moz and central and eastern Zim.
- Endemic to southern Africa.
- Grasslands, Nama-Karoo, savanna-bushveld, savanna-woodland and savanna-lowveld.
- Occurs along water courses and occasionally away from water in wooded grasslands.
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.