Monday, February 16, 2009

Rhus lancea (karee)

For the month of September, we discover a highly versatile, practical tree that we recommend for various uses to landscapers and farmers alike. The drought resistant, low maintenance, evergreen Rhus lancea, with its soft willowy appeal and dense growth habit is the perfect tree to create gentle shade near a water-feature, or as an effective windbreak. At TreeCo, our 50 litre and 100 litre stocks of Rhus lancea are looking beautiful so be sure to contact Rudi or Leske to find out more.


Botanical Name: Rhus lancea L.f
Common Name: Karee
Genus: Anacardiaceae
RSA National Tree No’: 386


The R.lancea is an easy to grow, highly adaptable tree that can be very successfully used for smaller urban, as well as larger estate type landscapes. It provides good shade due to its dense, evergreen growth habit and is also therefore a good choice when wanting to create privacy, or a sound / wind barrier. Whether planted as a single feature tree or grouped, the R.lancea creates a lovely soft garden accent.


Height: 7-8m
Spread: 4-7m
Deciduous/Evergreen: Evergreen
Growth Habit: Single stemmed, low branching with a dense, yet soft willowy canopy.
Bark: Older bark is course in texture and grey-dark brown in colour, while young branches are reddish brown in colour and smooth.
Foliage: 2.5cm-12cm in length x 0.5cm-1.2cm in width. Leaves are trifoliate with each leaf narrow and lance-like in shape. Leaves are leathery and olive-green in colour on top and yellowish underneath.
Flowers: Dense 9cm sprays of small, fairly inconspicuous, sweetly scented greenish-yellow flowers, appearing from June – September. Male and Female flowers occur on separate trees.
Fruit: Fruit appears from September - January and is approximately 5mm in diameter, round, slightly flattened and covered with a thin, fleshy skin that turns a yellow-brown colour when ripe.
Seed: 2-5mm long, smooth and pale brown.


Growing regions: Primarily arid regions from Zambia & Namibia in the north to the Western Cape in the South.
Growing conditions:
· Grows naturally along streams and river banks
· Moist, well drained soil (although this tree can tolerate poor soil conditions and drought)
· Tolerates frost
· Good air circulation / spacing around tree canopy
· Full sun to semi-shade
Best season: Late winter to mid summer
Hardiness: Frost hardy, superbly drought and wind-resistant, as well as tolerant to poor soil quality / drainage.
Propagation: Seed, cuttings or layering.
Growth rate: Fast – tree can grow to relative maturity within 5 years.


The sweetly scented flowers of the R.lancea attract bees and other insects while the fruit attracts birds such as the Bulbul, Guineafowl and Frankolin. The fruit can be pounded with water and left to ferment to make a good mead type beer. The hard wood of the R.lancea is also often used to make sturdy fencing posts and implement handles.

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