Terminalia sericea Burch. ex DC.
Common names: mususu (Venda); silver cluster-leaf or silver terminalia (Eng.); vaalboom (Afr.)
SA Tree No: 551
Terminalia sericea is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree which grows up to 9 m, but individual trees can reach 23 m in height.
Terminalia sericea has reddish-brown branches. The leaves are crowded at the ends of branches, narrowly obovate-elliptic with smooth margins, blue-green above, paler below, densely covered in silvery hairs.
It flowers mostly in September-January. The flowers are in axillary spikes and are pale yellow to creamy white. The fruit is an oval nut surrounded by a flat wing. The fruits are often parasitized and form deformed masses of thin round galls.
Silver cluster-leaf is not listed on the Red Data List as a threatened species.
Distribution and habitat
Terminalia sericea occurs in a variety of types of open woodlands particularly on sandy soils. It may grow as a dominant or co-dominant species in mixed deciduous forests such as Brachystegia, mopane, Combretum or Senegalia (Acacia) forest. It occurs from Tanzania and the DRC southwards to Angola and Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. A good place in South Africa to find silver cluster-leaf is the Kruger National Park (KNP) area.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The name Terminalia was given from the Latin terminus referring to the leaves appearing at the very tips of the shoots. The specific Latin epithet sericea, meaning silky, refers to the dense silky hairs on the leaves of the species.
Silver cluster-leaf is a deciduous tree of the Combretaceae family that occurs in tropical and sub-tropical regions and on the plateau. They grow almost invariably on sandy soil and may be dominant in open woodlands. In the areas where they occur they often colonize open areas such as cutlines and fire breaks or areas opened by timber harvesting. Silver cluster-leaf has a tendency to form thickets and to produce a very large biomass.
Leaves are food for caterpillars during the rainy season.
Terminalia sericea is important in traditional medicine. The leaves and roots are boiled in water and the infusion is taken orally for the treatment of coughs, diarrhoea and stomach ache. The leaves can be used as an antibiotic for wounds. In the case of bleeding, a paste can be made by cooking the leaves in water and placing them on the wounds.
The wood is used as a source of energy for cooking and boiling water, for constructing huts, for fencing material and for solid structures.
Growing Terminalia sericea
It germinates readily from fresh healthy seeds. In the nursery the seeds are planted into starter bags. They are then transplanted into larger bags or directly into the soil as soon as the root system develops or reaches the base of the starter bag.
- Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of southern Africa, edn 3. Struik, Cape Town.
- Drummond, R.B. 1981.Common trees of the Central Watershed Woodlands of Zimbabwe. Natural Resources Board, Harare.
- Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa. Balkema, Cape Town.
- Van Wyk, B. [A.E.] & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to trees of southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
- Raimondo, D., Von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. & Manyama, P.A. (eds) 2009. Red List of South African plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.
National Herbarium Pretoria
Plant Type: Tree
SA Distribution: Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer
Flower colour: Cream, Yellow
Gardening skill: Average