Combretum kraussii (Forest Bushwillow) is a shapely small to medium tree. These trees turn bright red to purple in autumn and winter. 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.
Combretum kraussii is an attractive small to medium tree.
Family:               COMBRETACEAE        (Bushwillow Family)

Name Derivation:

  • 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.

Common Names:          Forest bushwillow (Eng), bosvaderlandswilg (Afr), modubu (Nso), imbondvo lemhlophe  (Swa), muvuvhu-thavha (Ven), ulandile (Xho) and umdubu wehlathi (Zul).

 SAF Number:                   540

Form:

  • A small to medium tree, single stemmed with well shaped crown.

Size:                                  5 – 10 m (25) by 4 – 8 m

Flowers:

  • 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.

Colour:                             Creamy-white.

Flowering Months:          Sep – Jan.

Fragrance:                        Not fragrant.

Foliage:

  • 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.
Combretum kraussii flowers are in tight catkin-like spikes.
While in flower, the leaves around the flowers often lose their chlorophyll, giving the tree a white, ghost-like appearance.
The fruit of Combretum kraussii, like most Combretum fruit, are four-winged.
Thorns:                             No thorns.

Fruit:

  • 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.

Bark:

  • The grey to dark grey bark is smooth, becoming flaky with age.
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.

Soil Needs:                         Good soils rich with compost.

Care:

  • 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.
Because their roots are not aggressive and unlikely to lift paving and their attractive shape and colour, Combretum kraussii, have become a very popular choice with landscape architects and landscapers as trees for pavements and smaller gardens.
The fruit of Combretum kraussii, the Forest Bushwillow, may also have beautiful autumnal colours.
Cold Hardiness:    Semi-tender when young, mature trees are hardy.

Water Requirements:

  • Likes regular water but will withstand drought.
  • A water-wise tree.

Light Requirements:          Sun or shade.

Roots:        The roots are not aggressive.

Birds:

  • Used by birds for roosting, nesting and foraging for insects.
  • The seeds may eaten by some birds.
Insects and Butterflies:

  • Bees visit the flowers for nectar.
  • Adult butterflies visit the flowers for nectar.

Medicinal:

  • Powdered roots are used as an enema to cleanse the system or as a tonic to improve the appetite.

Poisonous:                       Not poisonous.

The colour variations in the leaves of Combretum kraussii are amazing.
Notes of interest:

  • The wood is yellowish and is tough.
  • The sawdust is irritating to some people’s skin and may cause blistering.

Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the EC, KZN, Swa, M, L and extreme south of Moz.
  • Endemic to southern Africa.

Natural Habitat:

  • Forests, savanna-bushveld and grasslands.
  • Grows in Afromontain forests, rocky outcrops and in woody ravines.

Links to other members of the COMBRETACEAE family (Bushwillow family).

To go to the “plant blog” click on the plant name below the picture.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2013 & 2018.