Turraea floribunda Hochst.
Common names: honeysuckle-tree, wild honeysuckle-tree (Eng.); kanferfoelieboom (Afr.); umdlozana (Swazi); umadlozane (isiZulu)
SA Tree No: 296
This is a slender, elegant tree that is ideal for small subtropical and tropical gardens. The tracery of leafless branches is covered in spring with a profusion of fragrant, lily-like flowers coloured a delicate pistachio-green.
A slender, small to medium-sized, often deciduous tree, up to 10(–15) m tall , single or multi-stemmed and loosely branched. The bark is pale grey or brownish. The branches are hairy when young and slender and whip-like, often growing in a flat plane. The leaves are ovate to lanceolate, 25–140 × 15–80 mm when mature, rather soft-textured and hairy beneath.
The flowers appear with or just before the leaves and, like them, are borne in clusters of 2–18 flowers at the end of the slender branches. The calyx is small and cup-shaped with mostly five small teeth and is densely and minutely hairy. The buds are long and slender, very slightly swollen at the tips and sparsely hairy on the outside, splitting into five pale pistachio-green, ribbon-like like petals with a waxy texture, 35–95 × ± 5 mm. The mostly 10 stamens are joined into a slender, pure white, funnel-like tube slightly shorter than the petals, crowned with a fringe of hair-like appendages at the mouth. The anthers are situated in a ring at the mouth of the staminal tube but the style projects 6–18 mm beyond it, terminating in a knob-like head. The flowers are beautifully fragrant, and the petals drop before they wither, covering the ground under the tree with a pale carpet. Remarkably few fruits are produced for so many flowers. They are globe-like with 5–10 woody segments, 13–25 mm in diameter, and glossy pale yellowish when ripe. The fruits split along the ribs into sharp, spreading lobes, rather like a starfish, that curl back to expose the small, glossy orange or red seeds.
The species is moderately quick-growing.
Not Red listed.
Distribution and habitat
The species is an element of evergreen and deciduous forest, mainly coastal, from sea level up to about 760 m, in coastal bush, open woodland, wooded ravines, riverine forest, especially at the edges, and in secondary forest. It ranges from the Eastern Cape through KwaZulu-Natal, northwards as far as Sudan.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
Turraea was named for Giorgio della Turre, Director of the Botanic Garden in Padua (1649–1683). The genus includes about 50 species in Africa, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands, plus a few species in the tropical Far East. The specific epithet floribunda is derived from the Latin floribundus, meaning ‘profusely flowering’.
The best known species in South African gardens is Turraea obtusifolia, and T. floribunda is surprisingly poorly known in cultivation her
The species was described in 1844 from plants collected at Umlaas Road near Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal by the German collector Christian Ferdinand Krauss (1812–1890). Krauss arrived in Cape Town on 7 May 1838, where he initially devoted himself to studying the local geology, fauna and flora. On 21 November he set off along the southern coast on a collecting expedition that took him some distance beyond Port Elizabeth before returning to Cape Town. On 2 June 1839 he embarked for Durban on the Mazeppa, spending the rest of the year in the province, at which time he collected the material of Turraea floribunda that served as the type for the species.
The genus is a member of the mahogany family (Meliaceae), and is readily distinguished by its simple leaves and knob-like style-head that serves as a pollen-presenter, as well as a stigma.
The fragrant, pale green and white flowers with long, slender stamen tube suggest that the flowers are adapted to pollination by moths. This has not been documented, however. The pollen is deposited on the outer rim of the knob-like style head that projects beyond the stamen tube. Here it is picked up by the visiting insect and later deposited on the stigma at the tip of the style knob, when the insect visits another flower. The small, glossy red or orange seeds, exposed when the woody fruits split open, are certainly dispersed by birds, but this also has not been documented. What is known, however, is that the leaves are eaten by the larvae of the White-barred Charaxes, Charaxes brutus, a swift-flying forest butterfly.
The species is highly suitable as ornamental in moist, frost-free tropical and subtropical gardens, and as a conservatory plant in temperate countries. It can be tried in protected places in cooler gardens.
The roots and bark are used medicinally to treat rheumatism, dropsy, and heart ailments, as well as a purgative and enema. Zulu sangomas use it as an emetic in order to enter the tranced state, necessary for their divinations.
Growing Turraea floribunda
The species is suitable for cultivation outdoors in warm, moist climates, although it can be grown in a conservatory in temperate situations. In cooler gardens it is worth trying it in protected situations. Yvonne Reynolds, who has grown a plant near Wolseley in the Western Cape for some years, reports, that although her plant has thrived, it has yet to flower, and it may be that more tropical conditions are required. The species is propagated from seed. It should be planted in good, compost-enriched soil and watered regularly.
- Joffe, P.1993. The gardener’s guide to South African plants. Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town.
- Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa, vol. 2. Balkema, Cape Town.
Plant Type: Tree
SA Distribution: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal
Soil type: Loam
Flowering season: Spring, Early Summer
PH: Acid, Neutral
Flower colour: Green, White
Aspect: Morning Sun (Semi Shade)
Gardening skill: Average