Combretum kraussii (Forest Bushwillow) is a shapely, small to medium tree. These trees turn bright red to purple in autumn and winter. Fast growing, they are ideal shade trees for even townhouse gardens.

Combretum kraussii is a beautiful tree that has rightly become very popular with South African landscapers and landscape architects.

Combretum kraussii is a beautiful tree that has rightly become very popular with South African landscapers and landscape architects.

 

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 collected  first collected this plant.

Common Names:          Forest bushwillow (Eng), bosvanderlandswilg (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.

The leaves around the flowers of Combretum kraussii sometimes loose their chlorophyll and so turn white.

The leaves around the flowers of Combretum kraussii sometimes loose their chlorophyll and so turn white.

Foliage:

  • Evergreen to semi-evergreen.
  • Leaves surrounding the flowers may turn white during flowering, 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 leaves turn beautiful autumn colours in winter, and mostly remain on the tree till spring.

Combretum kraussii leaves turn beautiful autumn colours in winter, and mostly remain on the tree till spring.

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.
The fruit of Combretum kraussii is the characteristic four-winged fruit of the Combretum genus.

The fruit of Combretum kraussii is the characteristic four-winged fruit of the Combretum genus.

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.
A good street or driveway tree, Combretum kraussii's benign root system will not lift paving.

A good street or driveway tree, Combretum kraussii‘s benign root system will not lift paving.

Soil Needs:                         Good soils rich with compost.

Planting spacing:

  • Plant as a specimen trees
  • May also be planted in  groves 5-7 m or more apart.
  • Plant 3 m apart to form a screening hedge

Care:

  • A low maintenance plant.
  • May be pruned up when young to form a perfect shade tree.
  • Feed at least annually with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
  • Protect young plants against the cold in winter.

Cold Hardiness:                Semi-tender when young, mature trees are hardy.

Water Requirements:        Likes regular water but will withstand some drought.

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.

Butterflies:

  • Adult butterflies visit the flowers for nectar.

Bees:

  • Bees visit the flowers for nectar.
The dark autumnal colours help define the seasons in a garden.

The dark autumnal colours help define the seasons in a garden.

Medicinal:

  • 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.

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.

 © Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2017.