Kirkia acuminata Oliv.
Common names: white seringa (Eng.); witsering (Afr.); mvumayila (Tsonga); modumela (Tswana ); mubvumala (Venda)
SA Tree No: 267
This splendid tree does not yet enjoy the fame it deserves, but it is a good choice for those gardeners who prefer something different. It was selected as one of the SA Trees of the Year for 2004.
This is a straight-stemmed tree with a fine, round , leafy crown. It grows from 6 to 18 m high with a trunk diameter of 0.8 m. The leaves are sticky when young, colouring splendidly to gold and red in autumn. The leaf is compound with 6-10 leaflets and one terminal one. The narrowly ovate leaflets are 20-80 x 10-25 mm, with or without hairs. The apex is narrowly tapering to a long point.
Kirkia acuminata flowers from October to December with small greenish cream flowers. The fruits are thinly woody capsules of about 10-20 x 6-10 mm that are 4-angled, and split into four seed pods when mature. Each seed pod contains a seed. The wood is yellowish brown, light and soft.
Distribution and habitat
Kirkia acuminata extends from Gauteng, Botswana, Namibia, and to the north in Tanzania. It grows in the bushveld and lowveld of Gauteng in deep, sandy soil or on rocky hills.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus Kirkia is named in honour of Sir John Kirk, a famous explorer and a naturalist. The specific epithet acuminata probably comes from the narrowly tapering apex to a long point (acuminate).
According to Palmer & Pitman (1972), the white seringa is regarded as a sacred tree in some places in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean women also use the bark of the tree for weaving. In Gauteng, white seringa is planted around enclosures for livestock (kraals).
Growing Kirkia acuminata
This tree is easily propagated from seed and from truncheons. If given well-drained soil in a warm, sheltered position, it will do well in cultivation. It is a relatively fast grower. White seringa can tolerate drought, but it is sensitive to frost, making it a better choice for warmer gardens.
- Germishuizen, G., Meyer, N.L., Steenkamp, Y. & Keith, M. (eds) 2006. A Checklist of South African plants. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 41. SABONET, Pretoria.
- Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa, vol. 2. Balkema, Cape Town.
- Ross, J.H. 1970. Kirkia wilmsii. The Flowering Plants of Africa 40: t. 1590.
- Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Tree
SA Distribution: Limpopo, Mpumalanga
Soil type: Sandy, Loam
Flowering season: Early Summer
Flower colour: Green, Cream
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy