Monday, February 16, 2009

Diospyros whyteana (Bladder nut)

For the month of August, we look ahead to the 2008 common tree of the year which will be celebrated during Arbor Week in the month of September, namely Diospyros whyteana.


Botanical Name: Diospyros whyteana (Hiern) F.White
Common Name: Bladder-nut, Swartbas
Genus: Ebenaceae
RSA National Tree No’: 611


The D.whyteana is a versatile little tree which has been cited as an ideal container tree to be used within small gardens as it creates an ideally neat accent plant. It responds exceptionally well to clipping and can therefore also be used as a hedging / screen plant and is ideal for bonsai growing.


Height: 5-7m
Spread: 2-3m
Deciduous/Evergreen: Evergreen

Growth Habit: Neat, multi-stemmed dense shrub / small tree with a straight trunk that branches low down to form a dense, round to pyramidal crown.
Bark: Smooth, grey to almost black. New branchlets appear as a green / pinkish colour and are densely covered with rust coloured hairs.
Foliage: 1-3cm long leaves which are glossy dark green on top and a paler green underneath.
Flowers: 5-10mm long, small white / cream to pale yellow and almost pendulous. Sweetly scented in spring.
Fruit: Fleshy berries which are borne throughout summer and turn red when ripe. Berries are enveloped by inflated bladder-like capsules which dry to a reddish / brown colour and can be found on the tree at almost any time of the year.
Seed: 2-5mm long, smooth and pale brown.


Growing regions: RSA coastline from Western Cape, to Lowveld & Highlveld regions and throughout Africa into Zimbabwe, as far as Ethiopia.
Growing conditions
· Thrives in moist areas where heavy frost does not occur
· Will tolerate mild winter drought
· Prefers moist soil and low nitrogen content fertilizer
· Check for fruit fly attacks, brown scale & sooty mould
· Semi-shade position
Best season: Late winter to mid summer
Hardiness: Hardy and wind-resistant
Propagation: Seed, budding and grafting
Growth Rate:
Fairly fast


D.whyteana attracts various fruit eating birds, including the Rameron pigeon, African green pigeon, Loerie, Barbet and Bulbul. The seeds were once used, ground and dried as a substitute for coffee and as a medicinal tree the D.whyteana has been used as an enema to treat impotency and barrenness.

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