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Tree of the Year 2015

Every year is represented by a tree of the year and this year’s is Combretum kraussii or the Forest Bushwillow.

The Forest Bushwillow

The Forest Bushwillow

The Forest Bushwillow is a semi-deciduous species meaning that it sheds its leaves for a very short period of time, usually when the old leaves fall off and new leaves start to grow. Indigenous to South Eastern Africa and Mozambique, this tree commonly grows in forested areas but can also be seen in many South African urban areas and gardens. These trees become very noticeable, especially in late spring when the leaves change from green to a very distinct pale, almost white colour. Its fruit, which grows in clusters, have a distinctive four-winged shape and is usually a colourful red and turns into a mid-brown once they dry. Although the fruit of the bushwillow is inedible, the fruit nevertheless contains Combretastatin B-1, a type of stilbenoid which can be effectively used in the combat of various tree diseases. The name Combretum kraussii commemorates the famous German scientist and collector, Dr. F. Krauss who undertook a collecting expedition to South Africa from 1838 to 1840.

Uses and cultural aspects

Being quite supply the young stems are often used in basket-making and weaving. The wood is tough and yellowish in colour, however the sawdust can cause a skin irritation.
Medical products created from certain parts from the tree includes:

  • antidiuretics,
  • lotions for eye infections, and
  • antiseptics.

Growing Combretum Kraussii, The Forest Bushwillow

Its range of seasonal features make this a good choice for the garden. In spring it bears white flowers and an unusual flush of white leaves, the red fruits of late summer are showy and in winter its leaves turn fiery before falling.

Combretum kraussii grows easily and quickly from seed. Fruit can be harvested, since it is produced in fair quantities and is usually not unduly parasitized. If fruit is collected for cultivation purposes it should be checked for parasites. Indications of parasites being present are small circular holes in the body or a gummy excrescence. Fruit should be stored in a dry place. It is a good idea to take the seed out of the fruit covering and soak it for an hour or so before sowing. Sow the seeds at a depth of 3-5 mm below the surface in a well-drained medium. The first seedling appears 9 to17 days after sowing. All seeds should have germinated after 15 to 29 days.

forest bushwillow seeds

Protect seedlings from too much moisture - check that the soil drains well. Shelter seedlings from severe heat and cold for at least the first year. This is a fast-growing tree and can reach 1.7 m after two summers.

This tree is reasonably drought resistant. Water seedlings every 3-4 days in summer and every 7-10 days in winter.

forest bushwillow tree of the year
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