Combretum kraussii, Forest Bushwillow, bosvaderlandswilg, or modubu is a shapely medium-sized tree.
These trees turn bright red to purple in autumn and winter. They are considered partly-deciduous or evergreen, if they do drop their leaves it is typically only for a very short time. Fast-growing, they are ideal shade trees for even townhouse gardens.
Family: COMBRETACEAE (Bushwillow Family)
Combretum – a name originally given by Pliny to a climbing plant of another genus.
kraussii – after Dr. Christian F.F. von Krauss (1812 – 1890), who first collected this plant.
Forest bushwillow (Eng), bosvaderlandswilg (Afr), modubu (Nso), imbondvo lemhlophe (Swa), muvuvhu-thavha (Ven), ulandile (Xho) and umdubu wehlathi (Zul)
FSA Number: 450
Features of Combretum erythrophyllum
Most Combretum kraussii trees in cultivation have single stems.
A medium sized tree, single stemmed with a well-shaped crown.
Size: 5 – 10 m (25) by 4 – 8 m
Stem and Bark:
- In cultivation it is mostly single stemmed, in the wild often multi-stemmed.
- The grey to dark grey bark is smooth, becoming flaky with age.
Thorns: No thorns.
- Evergreen to semi-evergreen.
- Leaves surrounding the flowers may be white, otherwise dark, shiny green.
- Simple elliptic or oblong-elliptic leaves are carried on short lateral twigs.
- Leaf margin is entire, wavy and rolled under.
- Leaf veins are conspicuous
- Leaves turn brilliant autumn colours before dropping as late as September as new leaves are forming.
- Small, creamy-white flowers are borne on dense, short spikes in the leaf axils.
- The leaves surrounding the flowers may lose their chlorophyll and turn white while the tree is flowering.
Flowering Months: Sep – Jan.
Fragrance: Not fragrant.
Combretum kraussii leaves can get amazing colours in autumn and winter.
While flowering, the leaves surrounding the flowers of Combretum kraussii often loose their chlorophyll.
The fruit of Combretum kraussii, like most Combretums, is four-winged.
- The characteristic four-winged fruit are smallish (2 * 2 cm).
- They stay on the tree for a long time.
- The wings are pinkish to dark red, drying to a reddish brown.
- Each fruit has one wrinkled seed that looks a bit like a small walnut.
Growing Combretum kraussii
In the Garden:
- A very attractive feature or shade tree for gardens, pavements and parks.
- A good screening tree.
- The change in leaf colours highlight the changing seasons in the garden.
- Ideal for planting along driveways or in paving as roots are unlikely to lift paving.
- Will make a good container tree if fed and watered regularly.
- Fast growing, up to 1 m per year.
- Protect from cold while young, but quite hardy once established.
- Combretum kraussii grows best in soils rich with compost.
The attractive foliage of Combretum kraussii adds interest to the garden palette.
Combretum kraussii make very good pavement trees.
Sometimes, even Combretum kraussii‘s fruit is beautifully coloured.
Combretum kraussii have become a popular tree for around housing estates.
- A low maintenance plant.
- May be pruned up when young to form a perfect shade tree.
- Feed annually with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
- Protect young plants against the cold in winter.
- Semi-tender when young, mature trees are hardy.
- Likes regular water but will withstand drought.
- A water-wise tree.
Light Requirements: Sun or shade.
Space Requirements: Plant 6m or more apart
Roots: The roots are not aggressive.
Ecology of Combretum krausii
- Used by birds for roosting, nesting and foraging for insects.
- The seeds may be eaten by some birds.
- Bees visit the flowers for nectar.
Butterflies and other Insects:
- Various insects, including adult butterflies visit the flowers for nectar.
- Two moth species use Combretum kraussii as larval host plants.
The colour variations in the leaves of Combretum kraussii are amazing.
Combretum kraussii trees used to good effect in KyaSands industrial area.
- Powdered roots are used as an enema to cleanse the system or as a tonic to improve the appetite.
Poisonous: Not poisonous.
Notes of interest:
- The wood is yellowish and is tough.
- The sawdust is irritating to some people’s skin and may cause blistering.
- Found in the EC, KZN, Swa, M, L and extreme south of Moz.
- Endemic to southern Africa.
- Forests, savanna-bushveld and grasslands.
- Grows in Afromontain forests, rocky outcrops and in woody ravines.
Links to other species of the Combretum genus
To go to the “plant blog” click on the picture or the plant name below the picture.
Boon, Richard “Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa, a Complete Guide” 2nd ed. 2010 Flora & Fauna Publications Durban.
Botha, Charles & Julia “Bring Butterflies back to Your Garden” 2006 KwaZulu-Natal Branch of the Botanical Society of South Africa. Mayville.
Carr, J D “Combretaceae in Southern Africa” 1988 Tree Society of Southern Africa” Johannesburg
Coates Palgrave, K C, edited Coates Palgrave, M C “Trees of Southern Africa” 2002 Struik Publishers Cape Town
Johnson, David & Sally & Nichols, Geoff “Gardening with Indigenous Trees” 2002, Struik Publishers Cape Town
Le Roux, Lou-Nita & Reynolds, Yvonne“Combretum kraussii” 2003 Plantza, Lowveld National Botanical Gardens. Link: pza.sanbi.org/combretum-kraussii
Palmer, E & Pitman, N “Trees of Southern Africa Volume 3” 1973 A A Balkema Cape Town
Schmidt, E, Lotter M Cleland W “Trees and Shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park 2002 Jacana Johannesburg
Wikipedia “Combretum krausii” Link: wikipedia.org/wiki/Combretum_kraussii
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2013 & 2021.