Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Searsia pendulina (formerly Rhus pendulina)

In 2008 most of the species grown in southern Africa under the genus Rhus were reclassified into the genus Searsia. A comprehensive article containing in-depth botanical and taxonomical detail can be read by clicking on the following link:-


Botanical Name: Searsia pendulina
Common Name: White karee
Genus: Anacardiaceae
RSA National Tree No’: 396


This willow-like small-medium size tree is ideal for small gardens as it grows quickly, has a non-invasive root system, is tidy and easy to maintain. As a mass planting around dams and waterways (where the tree occurs naturally), the S.pendulina creates a wonderful show of lush greenery, it also forms a highly effective windbreak when planted in rows along the boundaries of larger properties.


Height: 5-10m in height
Spread: 2-5m wide
Deciduous/Evergreen: Evergreen
Growth Habit: Occurs naturally on banks alongside rivers and streams.
Bark: The bark is pale gray and smooth with spines often present. As the bark ages it begins to flake.
Foliage: The leaves are lanceolate in shape and trifoliate with the terminal leaflet 2.5 – 9.5 x 0.6 – 1.5cm in size. Lateral leaflets are slightly smaller than the terminal leaflet.
Flowers: The flowers are insignificant greenish/yellow in delicately branched panicles which appear in spring-summer and attract an array of birds and insects.
Fruit: Round berries appear after the flowers in December-May. Starting out as a fresh green, the berries turn to red when ripe, after which they dry to black. Fruit ripens in Autumn.
Seed: Once the berries have dried (autumn), the small seeds held within become ready for germination.


Growing regions: The White karee can be found naturally in karroid, semi-desert areas from Namibian, Free State and Orange River regions to the Northern Cape although it is used as a popular ornamental tree throughout South Africa.
Growing conditions: S.pendulina prefers a sunny position and rich soil with plenty of water to ensure optimal growth.
Best season: Spring - Autumn
Hardiness: Wind and drought resistant. The S.pendulina is also capable of surviving cold conditions with moderate frost.
Propagation: The White karee can be easily propagated from seed or cuttings.
Growth rate: Fast


The wood of the White karee is durable and well suited for use as fencing posts. The pliable, slender stems of the S.pendulina are often used to build fish traps, baskets and whips. The Khoisan people have been known to brew a kind of beer/mead from the fruit of the White karee and indeed the word Karee is said to be derived from the Khoisan word used to describe beer. A sticky sweet that tastes similar to dates can be made by mixing the berries of the White karee with Acacia karoo gum. Medicinally, an infusion of the leaves in milk is given, as an enema, to children suffering from stomach upsets.

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