Rothmannia capensis is our most beautiful evergreen indigenous trees. It has a dense, roundish crown of glossy, dark green leaves. The flowers are large, white to cream bells with maroon speckles in their throats. A tree in full flower is a sight to behold. The flowers fill the air with a wonderful ‘gardenia’ fragrance.
Rothmannia capenis is normally a small to medium sized, evergreen tree with a more or less rounded crown. In forest conditions it may become a large tree.
- Rothmannia – Named after Dr. Georgius Rothmann (1739 – 1778), a friend of Carl Thunberg and fellow student of Carl Linnaeus.
- Capensis – from the Cape of Good Hope.
Common Names: Stately rothmannia, Scented-bells, common rothmannia (Eng), witklokke (Afr), monkgobo (Nso), sikhokho (Swa), morutla (Tsw), muratha-mafene (Ven), umzukuza (Xho), and isiqathankobe (Zul).
FSA Number: 693
Size: 5 – 8 m (–15 m) by 4 – 6 m (- 8m)
- Large (8 * 7 cm), bell shaped flowers borne singly in leaf axils.
- Calyx has 5 spreading lobes.
Colour: White to cream with maroon speckles in throat.
Flowering Months: Dec – Mar.
Fragrance: Lovely Gardenia-like fragrance.
- Simple, leathery leaves are more or less elliptic.
- Margin entire, dark shiny green above, paler underneath
- Opposite, or occasionally with a third leaf, venation above obscure.
- Occasional domatia (hair-filled pits) occur at vein junctions on the underside and can be seen as swellings above.
Thorns: No thorns.
- Fruit is large (7 cm), round, green and ridged, softens when ripe.
- Fruit contains many seeds embedded in a fleshy pulp.
- The flesh is edible but does not taste nice.
Bark: The bark is brown or grey-brown with ‘crocodile skin’ texture.
In the Garden:
- A most desirable garden tree, for its shape, colour and beautiful flowers and fragrance.
- May be safely used as a shade tree in small gardens, or grouped in larger gardens.
- May safely be planted close to walls and paving.
- Young plants grow moderately quickly with regular feeding and in good soil, between 500 and 800 cm per year.
- Grows in most soils except clay.
- A low maintenance tree in the garden.
- Feed and water in growing season for good results.
- Responds very well to kelp based fertilizers and Nitrosol.
- Protect from cold when young.
Cold Hardiness: Cold hardy once established.
Water Requirements: Quite drought hardy.
Light Requirements: Full sun or partial shade.
Roots: The roots are not aggressive.
- The pulp of the fruit are eaten by some birds.
- Used by insectivorous birds for foraging and gleaning.
Insects and Butterflies:
- Carpenter bees visit the flowers.
- Not known to host any butterfly larva.
Medicinal: Used in traditional medicine to treat rheumatism, leprosy, wounds and burns.
Poisonous: Not poisonous.
- The fruits are eaten by vervet and samango monkeys and baboons, bushpigs, duikers and bushbuck eat dropped fruit.
- The hard, pliable wood makes durable cooking spoons as well as good tool handles, and is used in building huts.
- Dried flowers retain their fragrance so should be a good ingredient in potpourri.
- Found in south eastern WC, EC, KZN, Swa, M, L, G, NWP, and extreme south eastern Bot.
- This lovely tree is endemic to southern Africa.
- Grasslands, forests, and savanna-bushveld.
- Found from sea level to 1 600m, in evergreen forest, on rocky outcrops and rocky hillsides in mountain grasslands.
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2012 & 2018.