A beautiful Schotia brachypetala, Weeping Boerbean or Huilboerboon, tree grown on a pavement in Sundowner, Randburg. This tree gets covered in flowers most years.
One of the showpiece trees of our bushveld, Schotia brachypetala, Weeping Boerbean or Huilboerboon, is proving to be far more resilient to Gauteng conditions than previously believed. Evergreen to semi-deciduous, this medium to large tree has a beautiful shape. Its deep red flowers drip nectar, which is accounts for the ‘Weeping’ in its common name. Trees in flower are alive with birds and insects attracted to the copious nectar.
Family: FABACEAE (Legume or Bean Family)
Sub-Family: CAESALPINIOIDEAE (Bauhinia Sub-Family)
- Schotia – named after Richard von der Schot (died 1819), who was the head gardener at the Schönbrunn Gardens in Vienna, and travelled in South Africa.
- brachypetala – ‘brachy’ short, ‘petalon’ petal, with short petals.
Common Names: Weeping Boerbean (Eng), huilboerboon (Afr), molope (Nso), vovovo (Swa), chochelamandleni (Tso) mulubi (Ven), umgxam (Xho) and umgxamu (Zul)
SAF Number: 202 Z Number: 239
- A medium to large, semi-deciduous tree with a rounded crown.
Size: 7 – 15 m (25) by 9 – 15 m
- Densely clustered, showy, deep red flowers on older branches and stems.
- The sepals are showy, petals small or reduced to filaments.
- Flowers drip nectar, giving rise to the English & Afrikaans names.
- Trees in full flower are very showy.
Colour: Deep red.
Flowering Months: Aug – Oct (may be influenced by rains).
The clusters of deep red flowers produce large quantities of nectar, that may drip from the flowers.
The compound pinnate leaves (i.e. each leaf is divided into 2 rows of leaflets) are light green when they first appear, but turn dark green when they mature.
Fragrance: Not scented.
- Semi-deciduous, sometimes losing all its leaves briefly.
- The leaves are pinnately compound and dark green.
- There are 4 – 8 pairs of leaflets (2.5 – 8 x 1 – 5 cm) per leaf.
- The leaflets get larger nearer the leaf apex.
- The new leaves are a deep copper or bronze colour, and showy.
Thorns: No thorns.
- A flattened, woody pod, 6 – 17 cm long by 3 – 5 cm wide.
- The pods ripen to a rich brown and split open while still on the tree.
- Pods may be found at any time, but mainly between Nov and Aug.
- Bark is gray-brown and quite rough.
In the Garden:
- Schotia brachypetala has a neat shape and makes a stunning feature tree in a larger garden, pavement or park.
- Planted with Bolosanthus speciosus (blue – purple flowers) or Peltophorum africanum (yellow flowers) will create a lovely contrast when in flower together.
- A very good ‘wildlife tree’, attracting a variety of insects and birds.
- Fairly slow growing, taking a few years to form a canopy and flowering after 6 or 7 years.
- Fairly frost and very drought hardy.
- Do not plant as a shade tree for cars or over a patio, as the dripping nectar may stain cars or the paving.
The fruit is a hard, woody pod that ripens on the tree.
Where space allows, Schotia brachypetala is a very desirable tree.
A very old Schotia brachypetala tree growing in the Marakele National Park in Limpopo Provence.
- Will grow in most soil types, but good loamy soil recommended.
- A low maintenance plant.
- Feed with organic fertilizer and mulch with compost.
- Protect young plants against the cold in winter.
- Hardy, but protect young plants for the first few years.
Water Requirements: Very drought hardy.
Light Requirements: Sun or partial shade.
Roots: The roots are not aggressive.
- Sunbirds and other nectar-feeders are very attracted to the flowers.
- Insectivorous birds will come to the tree for larvae that feed on these trees.
- Flowers, buds and seeds are eaten by some birds.
- Will provide birds with shelter and nesting sites.
Sunbirds and other nectar loving birds like this Red-winged Starling are drawn to flowering Schotia brachypetala trees.
The Common Hairtail occurs in Gauteng and may well use Schotia brachypetala as a host plant.
A large and handsome Schotia brachypetala tree growing in the uMkuzi Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal.
Bees: Flowers are a very good source of nectar for bees.
- Schotia brachypetala is a known larval host to a few butterfly and moth species.
- Adult butterflies and moths feed on the nectar produced by the flowers.
- This plant is used in traditional medicine to treat heartburn, diarrhoea, hangovers and some other ailments.
Poisonous: Not poisonous.
Notes of interest:
- The dense, hard wood is often used to make furniture and floorboards.
- Schotia brachypetala is an important browse tree for many game species.
- People roast and then eat the seeds.
- The bark is used to tan leather and to dye Tembe-Thonga fishing nets.
- Found in the EC, KZN, Esw, M, L, NWP, Zim, and southern Moz.
- Endemic to southern Africa.
- Savanna-bushveld, savanna-lowveld and savanna-woodlands.
- Occurs in open bushveld, dry woodlands and scrub-forest, often along riverbanks or on termite mounds.
Links to other members of the CAESALPINIOIDEAE Sub-Family (Bauhinia Sub-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.