Diospyros lyciodes subsp. guerkei is a deciduous, large shrub or small tree growing to about 5m. Often a pioneer tree on the Highveld grasslands, being first to colonise open areas and then provide shelter to other less hardy tree and shrub species. Suitable to be used as a security hedge or pruned up to form a shade tree. A very draught and cold hardy tree.
Diospyros lycioides subsp. guerkei, the Bushveld Bluebush, is indigenous to Gauteng.
Family:                       EBENACEAE       (Ebony family)

Name Derivation:

 Diospyros – (Greek) Dios – divine or godly, and pyrium, pear, so ‘divine pear’ referring to the tasty fruits of some species.

lycioides – like Lycium, a genus of the Salonaceae (Potato family), possibly referring to its  form and shape of the leaves.

guerkei – honoring RLAM Gurke (1854-1911) a German botanist who was particularly interested in African Ebenaceae (Ebony family)

Common Names:           Bushveld bluebush, star apple (Eng), bosveldbloubos (Afr), motloumana (Nso), umchafutane (Swa), letlhajwa (Tsw), muthala  (Ven), and umnqandane (Zul)

SAF Number:                  605.2   

The small, creamy-white flowers are pendulous and are clustered from the nodes and leaf axils.
Form:                              A large shrub to small, single or multi-stemmed tree.

Size:                                   2 -4 m ( –7m) by 2 – 4 m

Flower:

  • Small pendulous flowers are clustered in in the leaf axils.
  • Dioecious – male and female flowers are on separate trees.

Colour:                            Creamy white.

Flowering Months:         Sep – Dec.

Fragrance:                      Sweetly scented.

Foliage:

  • Deciduous
  • Simple leaves are ovate to oblanceolate, 2 – 5 by 1 – 2 cm, and alternate.
  • The net-veins are sunken on upper surface, giving the leaf a quilted appearance.
  • Dull grey-green.

Thorns:                          No thorns.

 

The net-veins are sunken on upper surface, giving the leaf a quilted appearance.

When red, the ripe berries of Diospyros lycioises subsp. guerkei are not just very showy, but also rather tasty to eat.

Diospyros lcyioides subsp. guerkei can be pruned to form an interesting and neat small tree.
Fruit:

  • Round to ovoid fruits (- 2cm) are hairy and green when young
  • Become smooth, orange-brown, red or dark brown when ripe.
  • The calyx remains attached to the fruit, curling back, away from the fruit.
  • The flesh contains 1 to 6 seeds.
  • Edible and sweet.

Bark:                            Quite smooth and grey.

In the Garden:

  • Can be pruned up into shapely small trees.
  • Particularly attractive plants when in fruit.
  • Because it is drought and in the garden cold resistant, it is a good choice for gardens on the Highveld.
  • Good wildlife friendly plants, attracting insects, butterflies and birds.
  • May be used to good effect for screening and informal hedging.
  • Good as container plants.
  • Ideal bonsai subjects.

Soil Needs:                  Will grow in most soil types

 Care:

  • A low maintenance garden shrub or small tree.
  • Fast growing while young, feed and nourish for best results
  • Prune to create your required shape.
Cold Hardiness:              Very cold hardy.

Water Requirements:    Drought hardy, but will grow quicker with regular watering.        

Light Requirements:     Full sun or light shade.

Roots:                                The roots are not aggressive.

Birds:

  • The fruit are eaten by many different bird species.
  • Used by insectivorous birds for foraging and gleaning.
  • Provide good nesting sites for smaller birds like Prinias and Cisticolus.

Insects and Butterflies:

  • The larval host to the Mooi River Opal which does not occur in Gauteng.
  • Many insects and adult butterflies visit the flowers for nectar.
  • 26 moth species are linked to Diospyros lycioides.
The fruit are much sought after by most fruit eating birds, including Speckled Mousebirds.
Diospyros lycioides subsp. guerkei in fruit in grassland habitat.
Medicinal:                      Used as a purgative.

Poisonous:                       Not poisonous.

Notes of interest:

  • Roots and twigs are used to make tooth brushes.
  • A yellowish-brown dye is extracted from the roots.
  • Leaves are browsed by various game species.
  • The tasty fruit is eaten by humans, monkeys, jackals, dassies and many different birds.
  • The fruit does have a laxative effect, so do not eat too many at a time.
Natural Distribution:

  • Found in the extreme south eastern Bot, NW, G, M, L, Swa and KZN.
  • Endemic to southern Africa.

 

Natural Habitat:

  • Grasslands and savanna-bushveld.
  • Favours rocky, particularly quartzite, outcrops.

© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2011 & 2018.