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 – (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
- A large shrub to small, single or multi-stemmed tree.
Size: 2 -4 m ( –7m) by 2 – 4 m
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 water-wise 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
- 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.
- Drought hardy, but will grow quicker with regular watering.
Light Requirements: Full sun or light shade.
Roots: The roots are not aggressive.
- 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.
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.
- Found in the extreme south eastern Bot, NW, G, M, L, Swa and KZN.
- Endemic to southern Africa.
- Grasslands and savanna-bushveld.
- Favours rocky, particularly quartzite, outcrops.
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2011 & 2018.