Monday, November 8, 2010

Celtis africana (White Stinkwood)

The lovely Celtis africana is undoubtedly one of our most popular and successful indigenous trees as is testified by it’s extensive use in parks and gardens. This beautiful deciduous, medium sized tree has a single straight trunk and forms a fine, dense canopy making it an effective and sought after shade tree. In spring, the White stinkwood looks absolutely lovely when the tender new, light green leaves contrast beautifully with the attractive pale bark. A willing grower, this rewarding tree needs little care and even does well in areas that experience frost.
Botanical Name
Celtis africana
Common Name
White stinkwood
RSA National Tree No’
Celtis africana is a perfect choice for any area where a fast growing and very attractive shade tree is required. In a large garden, plant the lovely White stinkwood on the North West side of the house where it will provide cooling shade in summer while letting the sun through to warm the house in winter. This is an excellent subject for planting in a large tub in a courtyard garden adding interest throughout the year. As Celtis africana is so fast and easy to grow it is ideal for areas where quick shade is required, making it popular for hot parking areas and street planting as well as for parks and other public areas. The flowers of the White stinkwood attract bees to the garden in spring while the berry-like fruit provide food for a large variety of fruit-eating birds.
10m – 12m
3m – 5 m
Growth Habit
Celtis Africana is found in extremely diverse habitats including dense forest, bushveld and open grassland, mountain slopes, rocky outcrops and kloofs as well as river banks and coastal dunes.
On younger trees the bark is smooth, pale grey to white while on older trees the bark is loosely peeling, occasionally with horizontal ridges.
The dull green leaves 15-100 x 10-50mm, are sparsely or densely covered with hairs and are simple, alternate and triangular with 3 distinct veins from the base. The upper 2/3rd of the margin is toothed. 
The inconspicuous, star shaped greenish flowers appear in spring. The male and female flowers appear on the same tree, the male flowers appearing at the base of the leaves while the female or bisexual flowers appear in the leaf axils.
 The masses of berry-like fruit on 13mm stalks,  follows the flowers from October to February and, as the fruit ripens, changes colour from yellow to brown and then to black.
The round seeds are brown and are usually distributed by birds that feed on the berries..
Growing regions
The popular White stinkwood is widespread throughout South Africa and Africa and occurs from the Cape Peninsula and North through Africa to Ethiopia.
Growing conditions
The versatile Celtis africana will do well in almost any soil type and when planted in warm areas will do extremely well with the addition of compost or well rotted manure and sufficient water.
Best season
This useful tree is frost resistant and fairly drought resistant.
White stinkwood seeds germinate very successfully and the seedlings grow rapidly.
Growth rate
 Fast, young trees can grow between 1 – 2m per year.
The White stinkwood is not related to the true stinkwood (Ocotea bullata) but derived it’s name from the lightly coloured wood and the unpleasant smell of the freshly cut parts of the tree. The yellowish to white wood is of medium hardness, strong and polishes well. It is used for shelving, yokes, tent bows and furniture. Indigenous peoples have long used Celtis africana for a variety of household objects and believe that it has magical properties.
                  C.africana Bark                        C.africana Fruit                   C.afrcana Leaves

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