Combretum zeyheri, Large-fruit Bushwillow or Raasblaar, with its attractive shape, autumn colours and fruit make this a desirable garden plant.

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. It is an icon of the ‘bushveld’, as it almost always has conspicuous   large 4-winged fruit, even when all the leaves have fallen. 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 Provence.

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

Form:                              Small to medium, deciduous, rounded tree.

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

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.

The spikes of small, greenish-yellow flowers typically are borne before or when the new leaves appear.

The simple, eliptic to oblong leaves are either opposite or 3-whorled.

Foliage:

  • Deciduous.
  • Simple, opposite or three-whorled leaves are 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.

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.

 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.

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 and housing estates will create a ‘bushveld’ feel to these spaces.
  • A wildlife friendly tree, attracting insects and birds.
  • A fairly quick growing tree, up to half a metre per year.

The fruit are the largest of all the Combretums in southern Africa.

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

Its rounded shape make it a good choice for a tree where shade is wanted in summer and sun in late winter.

 Soil Needs:                         Most soil types.

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 partial shade.

Roots:                                  The roots are not aggressive.

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.

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 provences.
  • Various moth species’ larva feed on these trees.
  • Flowers are visited by bees and adult butterflies and moths.

African Grey Hornbills extract the seeds from the fruits to feed on them.

The seed leaves of germinating Combretum zeyheri are very different from the leaves that follow.

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 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) 2019.