Allophylus natalensis (Sond.) De Winter
Common names: dune false-currant (Eng.); duinevalstaaibos (Afr.); umgqalagquzu, uzingathi (Xhosa); isihlohlela (Zulu)
SA Tree No: 426
A very decorative, evergreen shrub or small tree, which produces tiny, sweet-scented, white to cream-coloured flowers in autumn. It is hard not to notice the bright red berries that are produced in large numbers in winter.
Allophylus natalensis may be grown as a shrub due to its multi-stemmed growth habit, or a small tree that will reach a height of 5 m. The bark appears to be greyish brown and may have a smooth or wrinkled texture. The greyish white branchlets are covered with minute hairs.
The leaves take a trifoliate shape; the leathery leaflets are narrowly elliptical and appear to be shinier above than underneath, and are about 35–85 × 10–20 mm in size. The leaflet margins show characteristics of being toothed; the petiolules (the stalk of a leaflet in a compound leaf) are very short and can appear to be absent, and the petiole (the stalk of a leaf) on the other hand, may be up to 30 mm long.
The sweetly scented, cream-coloured to greenish yellow flowers are presented in small clusters in autumn, from March to May. The tree produces clusters of decorative, bright red berries towards the end of winter (June to August).
According to the Red List of South African Plants, checked on the 2016/07/20, the conservation status of this species is Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
Allophylus natalensis is found growing wild in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. This tree loves to grow in coastal dune forest and bush. This genus is adaptable to a wide range of habitats and tolerates slight frost.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Allophylus derives from the Greek words allos and phylon, which mean ‘different’ and ‘tribe’, respectively. The specific epithet natalensis, means ‘from Natal’, which is now KwaZulu-Natal.
Allophylus is a genus of about 250 species within the litchi family, Sapindaceae. It occurs throughout the tropics.
Butterflies and other insects are responsible for the pollination of the flowers. The dispersal of seed is facilitated by birds eating the berries.
The species of Allophylus in southern Africa, makes a good food source for the larvae of the butterfly, known as the Pearl Emperor, Karkloof Emperor or Pearl Charaxes (Charaxes varanes). It is a member of the family Nymphalidae, found in Africa from Saudi Arabia to South Africa. The wingspan of the female (70–90 mm) is about 10 mm larger than the male; these butterflies are active year round. The body and wings of the butterfly display a combination of white, orange and brown colours. This butterfly camouflages itself to successfully blend in with its surroundings, by mimicking a dead leaf.
This tree grows very successful in coastal gardens and forms a good screen or wind break.
Growing Allophylus natalensis
Allophylus natalensis prefers moist, warm climates with a moderate to good rainfall. This tree will survive short periods of winter drought and slight frost. This tree can tolerate salt air quite well.
Plants can be easily propagated from cuttings or seed. Sow seeds in spring; use a general soil mix, such as one which consists of 2 parts river sand, 1 part loam and 1 part well-rotted compost. Position the seeds about 5 to 10 mm deep. The seeds will germinate successfully at temperatures of 25°C. Seed takes about 3–6 weeks to germinate. Keep seedlings constantly moist, but not soaked.
Spider mites may occur on this tree, but it can be successfully controlled by an application of a suitable pesticide.
- Boon, R. 2010. Pooley's trees of eastern South Africa, a complete guide. Flora & Fauna Publications Trust, Durban.
- Coates Palgrave, K. 2002. Trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
- Harris, G. & Harris, M.W. 1994. Plant identification terminology, an illustrated glossary. Spring Lake, Utah.
- Joffe, P. 2001. Creative gardening with indigenous plants. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to the trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
- Venter, F. & Venter, J.A. 2012. Making the most of indigenous trees. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- Von Breitenbach, F. 1990. National list of indigenous trees. Second revised edition. Dendrological Foundation, Pretoria.
- Wikipedia.Charaxes varanes.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charaxes varanes.Accessed on 2016/09/16.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Shrub, Tree
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Late Summer, Autumn
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: White, Cream
Aspect: Full Sun, Afternoon Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Average