A beautiful Combretum zeyheri tree in its natural habitat.

Combretum zeyheri, Large-fruit Bushwillow or Raasblaar, is a small to medium sized, tree with a rounded crown. Deciduous or semi-deciduous, it may have beautiful yellow autumnal colours.

An icon of the ‘bushveld’, with its conspicuous  large 4-winged fruit. Mature fruit are golden-brown and rustle in the wind, hence the Afrikaans name ‘Raasblaar’ (noisy leaf).

May be effectively used as a feature tree or as a backdrop in larger flowerbeds.

Family:               COMBRETACEAE        (Bushwillow family)

Name Derivation:

  • Combretum – a name originally given by Pliny to a climbing plant of another genus.
  • zeyheri  – after Carl Ludwig Philip Zeyher, (1799-1858), who collected botanical material in the Western and Eastern Cape, but especially in the Free State, Gauteng and North West Province.

Common Names:

  • Large-fruit Bushwillow, (Eng), Raasblaar (Afr), moduba-tshipi(Nso), imbondvo lemlopho (Swa), xikukutsi (Tso), modubana (Tsw), mufhutela-thunda (Ven), and umbondwe wasembudwini (Zul).

SAF Number:                  546                         Z Number:                  717

  

Features of Combretum zeyheri

Form:

Small to medium, deciduous, rounded tree.

Size:                                   5 – 8 m (–10 m) by 5 – 8 m.

 Stem and Bark:

  • Single or multiple stemmed.
  • The bark is quite pale to white and rather smooth.
  • Old stems have greyish-brown bark that is fissured with rough patches.

Thorns:                          No thorns.

Combretum zeyheri trees may be single or multi stemmed.

A multi-stemmed Combretum zeyheri with typical pale bark.

Combretun zeyheri leaves are simple and either opposite or 3-whorled.

Combretun zeyheri leaves are simple and either opposite or 3-whorled.

Combretum zeyheri flowers are borne on tightly clustered spikes.

Combretum zeyheri flowers are borne on tightly clustered spikes.

Foliage:

  • Deciduous.
  • The opposite, or three-whorled leaves are simple, elliptic to oblong, 7-14 by 3-9 cm
  • The apex and base tapering to rounded.
  • Young leaves may be finely hairy, older leaves smooth.
  • Margin wavy
  • Petioles up to 1 cm long
  • Leaves turn yellow in autumn.

Flowers:

  • Greenish-yellow to cream flowers on spikes, 3 – 8cm.
  • Before or with new leaves.
  • Flowers attract many insects.

Colour:                             Greenish-yellow to cream.

Flowering Months:       Aug – Nov.

Fragrance:                       Flowers are sweetly scented.

Fruit:

  • The attractive, four-winged fruit are large, 6 by 6 cm.
  • Green ripening to a pale, golden-brown with a bit of a sheen.
  • The fruit are particularly conspicuous while the tree is leafless.
  • Each fruit contains one wrinkled seed that looks rather like walnut.

 

Growing Combretum zeyheri

The 4-winged fruit of Combretum zeyheri are the largest of all souther African Combretums.

The 4-winged fruit of Combretum zeyheri are the largest of all southern African Combretums.

A handsome tree, Combretum zeyheri should make a good pavement tree.

A handsome tree, Combretum zeyheri will make a good pavement tree.

The fruit of Combretum zeyheri are very conspicuous when the tree is leafless.

The fruit of Combretum zeyheri are particularly conspicuous when the tree is leafless.

In the Garden:

  • Combretum zeyheri, with its attractive form, fruit, and autumn colours make a lovely garden subject.
  • It can be used as a specimen tree or along boundary walls or among other plants in a shrubbery.
  • Group planting in large spaces such as in school grounds, parks, office parks, and housing estates will create a ‘bushveld’ feel to these spaces.
  • A wildlife-friendly tree, attracting insects and birds.
  • The rustling of the dry fruit add a new dimension to a garden.
  • A fairly quick growing tree, up to half a metre per year.

Soil Needs:     Plant in compost-enriched loam.

Care:

  • 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.
  • Water-wise.

Light Requirements:       Full sun but will grow in partial shade.

Space Requirements:      Plant at least 4 to 5 metres apart.

Roots:                                     The roots are not aggressive

Ecology of Combretum zeyheri

Birds:

  • Insect-eating birds are attracted to the insects that visit these trees.
  • Where found, Southern Black Tits, visit these Combretums looking for parasites in the fruit.
  • African Grey Hornbills and parrots eat the seeds from the fruits.

Bees:          The flowers attract bees.

Butterflies and other Insects:

    • In Gauteng, Combretum zeyheri is the larval host to the Guineafowl and Apricot Playboy butterflies.
    • Other butterflies utilize this tree as a host in other provinces.
    • Various moth species’ larva feed on these trees.
    • Flowers are visited by adult butterflies and moths and other insects.
African Grey Hurnbills eat Combretum zeyheri fruit.

African Grey Hornbills visit Combretum zeyheri trees to eat the seeds.

Combretum zeyheri in habitat in Gauteng, north of Culinan.

A Combretum zeyheri tree growing in habitat in Gauteng, north of Cullinan.

Medicinal:

  • Leaves are used medicinally.
  • The bark is used against gallstones.
  • An infusion made from the roots is used to control excessive menstrual flow and diarrhea.

Poisonous:             Not poisonous.

Notes of interest:

  • The yellow wood is termite and borer resistant, and makes good timber.
  • Fishing traps and baskets are made from roots of Combretum zeyheri.

Natural Distribution:

  • Found in northern KZN, Swa, Moz, M, L, G, NWP, Zim, northern Bot and northern Nam.
  • North of our area its range extends into tropical Africa.

Natural Habitat:

  • Bushveld savanna, woodland savanna, Kalahari savanna and Lowveld savanna.
  • Often found on rocky ridges and hillsides, plains and sometimes along rivers.

 

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.

Combretum erythrophyllum tree.

Combretum erythrophyllum

Combretum kraussii make very good pavement trees.

Combretum kraussii

Combretum molle is an attractive tree with a rounded crown.

Combretum molle

References:

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

Kroon, D M  “Lepidoptera of Southern Africa Host Plants & other Associations, a catalogue”  1999. Lepidopterists Society of South Africa, Sasolburg.

Malatji, Refilwe Maria & Hankey, Andrew (additions)   “Combretum zeyheri”  2015 Plantza, Pretoria & Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens.   Link: 

References:

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

Kroon, D M  “Lepidoptera of Southern Africa Host Plants & other Associations, a catalogue”  1999. Lepidopterists Society of South Africa, Sasolburg.

Malatji, Refilwe Maria & Hankey, Andrew (additions)   “Combretum zeyheri”  2015 Plantza, Pretoria & Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens.   Link:  pza.sanbi.org/combretum-zeyheri

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

Woodhall, Steve  “Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa”  2nd ed 2020  Struik Nature  Cape Town

 

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

Woodhall, Steve  “Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa”  2nd ed 2020  Struik Nature  Cape Town

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2019 & 2021.