South Africa Arbor Month: September 2012
These are the beautiful trees highlighted for South Africa's Arbor month, September 2012.
Water Berry, Waterbessie, umdoni, umSwi, umJoni (Syzygium cordatum)
The water berry is a beautiful evergreen, water-loving tree, which grows up to a height of 13m (8 to 15m) and is home to many birds and insects. This tree is often found near streams, on forest margins or in swampy spots, especially from Kwazulu-Natal northwards to Mozambique, but also in bush or open grassy and sometimes high country.
What does it look like?
The leaves are elliptic to circular, bluish green on top and a paler green below. Young leaves are reddish. The white to pinkish fragrant flowers are borne in branched terminals and have numerous fluffy stamens and produce abundant nectar. It flowers from August to November. The fruits are oval berries, red to dark-purple when ripe.
Uses and cultural aspects
This tree is known for its many uses. The fleshy fruit is slightly acid in flavour and is eaten by children, monkeys, bush-babies and birds. The berries are also used to sometimes make an alcoholic drink. The powdered bark is used as a fish poison. In central Africa the tree is known as a remedy for stomach ache and diarrhoea. It is also used to treat respiratory ailments and tuberculosis.
According to Palmer and Pitman (1972), one of the only two nesting sites of the Woolly-necked Stork known in South Africa is in an umdoni swamp forest near Mtunzini. The foliage of this tree is eaten by Kudu and birds such as the Crowned Hornbill feed off the large hairy caterpillars that sometimes infest the tree.
Growing Syzigium cordatum
As its common name suggests, this is a water-loving tree, so it is best planted in full sun near a stream or river bank or any damp area.
The tree is best grown from seed. For better germination pre-treat seed with a pre-emergance fungicide, this will prevent seedlings from dampening off before emerging above the soil. Sow seed in a seed tray filled with well-drained soil and cover seeds with a thin layer of soil. Water well and keep in a well-ventilated area. Once seed has germinated, feed seedlings with an organic liquid fertilizer. Pot seedlings into individual plant bags or pots.
Sources: http://nicolasplants.co.za/tree-of-the-year-2012/; www.plantzafrica.com/plantqrs/syzygcord.htm; www.rarefruit.org,
Red Beech or Rooiboekenhout (Protorhus longifolia)
Black Mangrove or Swartwortelboom (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza)