Combertum molle is small to medium, deciduous tree with a rounded crown. It has a real ‘bushveld’ jiz or ‘feel’. It often has beautiful yellow and bronze autumn colours. The four-winged seeds are a deep red-brown colour and remain on the plant for up to 6 months. It is also cold hardy and fairly fast growing.
Family: COMBRETACEAE (Bushwillow family)
- Combretum – a name originally given by Pliny to a climbing plant of another genus.
- molle – soft or with soft hairs, referring to the velvety leaves.
Common Names: Velvet bushwillow, (Eng), fluweelboswilg (Afr), mokgwethe(Nso), imbondvo lemnyama (Swa), xikukutsi (Tso), modubatshipi (Tsw), mugwiti (Ven), and umbondwe omhlope (Zul).
SAF Number: 537 Zim Number: 709
Form: Small to medium, deciduous, rounded tree.
Size: 4 – 6 m (–10 m) by 4 – 6 m.
- Creamy flowers on dense spikes, before or with new leaves.
- Flowers are sweetly scented and attract many insects.
Flowering Months: Aug – Nov.
Fragrance: Sweetly scented.
- Simple, opposite leaves are elliptic to obovate, 6-10 by 4-6 cm
- Densely hairy, giving the leaves a velvet feel.
- Veins deeply sunken on topside giving a quilted appearance.
- Leaves turn copper, gold and red before dropping in autumn.
Thorns: No thorns.
- The attractive, four-winged fruit are quite small (1.5 – 2 by 1.5 cm).
- As they ripen a red-brown tinge forms along the base of the wings and spreads across the wings.
- Each fruit contains one wrinkled seed that looks rather like a small walnut.
- The mature bark grey brown to black, rough and fissured into small blocks that flake off.
In the Garden:
- May be used as a small to medium shade or grown in a lawn as a neat and graceful feature tree.
- It can be used along boundary walls or among other plants in a shrubbery.
- Group planting in large spaces such as in school grounds, parks, office and housing estates will create a ‘bushveld’ feel to the spaces.
- A wildlife friendly tree, attracting insects and birds.
- A fairly quick growing tree, up to half a metre per year.
Soil Needs: Most soil types.
- Plant as a focal tree.
- Planted 3 or more 3 or 4 m apart to create a savanna-like grove.
- A low maintenance plant.
- Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
- Protect young plants against the cold in winter.
Cold Hardiness: Cold hardy, but protect young plants.
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 trees.
- Amethyst and White-bellied Sunbirds visit the flowers.
- Canaries pull strips of bark from young twigs to use in building their nests.
- A popular choice for nesting sites with many garden birds.
- Combretum molle is the larval host to both the Guineafowl and Morant’s Skipper.
- Flowers are visited by adult butterflies.
- Looped and Vernal Prominent moth larva feed on these trees.
Bees: Bees and other insects feed off the flowers.
- Leaves are used to as wound dressings.
- Roots and leaves are used together as a snake-bite antidote.
- Roots are used to treat constipation, infertility and post abortion bleeding.
- Combretum molle is also used in the treatment of stomach complaints, fever and intestinal parasites.
Poisonous: Not poisonous.
Notes of interest:
- The hard, yellow wood is used to make stamping mortars and grinding bowls.
- Poles from Combretum molle are used in hut construction.
- Some antelope do browse the leaves.
- Red dye extracted from the leaves and yellow from the roots is used in weaving.
- Found in KZN, Swa, Moz, M, L, G, NWP, south eastern and north-western Bot and central and northern Zim.
- North of our area its range extends through tropical and east Africa and into the Yemen.
- Savanna-bushveld, savanna-woodland savanna-Kalahari and savanna-lowveld.
- Found in woodland and bushveld, often on rocky ridges and hillsides.