Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sideroxylon inerme (White milkwood)

Sideroxylon inerme is the only genus of this species in South Africa of which the ‘post office tree’ in Mossel Bay is the most famous example. Aside from the ‘post office tree’ two other specimens have been declared national monuments in South Africa namely the ‘treaty tree’ in Woodstock and the ‘Fingo milkwood tree’ in the Eastern Cape. This superb tree with it’s much-branched, spreading habit and dense, glossy canopy is rightfully protected in South Africa. This means that the White milkwood may not be damaged and permission from the relevant authorities should be obtained with regard to pruning or moving of these trees.
Botanical Name
Sideroxylon inerme
Common Name
White milkwood
RSA National Tree No’
The splendid White milkwood is one of our most rewarding and easily grown shade trees. The attractive glossy foliage and the lovely spreading habit create a distinctive feature in any landscape or can be used to excellent effect to shade a large patio.The beautiful Sideroxylon inerme is well documented as creating an outstanding fire break, in fact, people with homes in or near the Cape mountains where fire is a constant threat in the hot and dry summer months, should consider planting these trees along their boundaries, as they have the ability to stop a fire dead in it’s tracks. The glossy purple fruit of this worthwhile tree attract numerous fruit eating bird species to the garden while the flowers are eaten by speckled mouse birds. This wonderful tree should be considered an important part of our green heritage and deserves to be planted more extensively.
8m – 10m
Growth Habit
Sideroxylon inerme generally occurs in coastal woodland as well as further inland along rivers and is widespread in mountain forest areas.
The dark grey or brown bark of the White milkwood is fissured. Young branches are covered with short, rust coloured hairs.
The broadly ovate leaves with rounded tips are dark green and leathery, smooth on the upper surface and dull green underneath. They are spirally arranged and occasionally opposite. Milky latex appears where leaves or branches are broken off.
The insignificant, 3-4mm long greenish white flowers appear from summer to autumn and give off an unpleasant smell.
The smooth, globose, one seeded, fleshy fruit appears from late summer to spring ripening to a glossy purplish black.
The 5-9mm seed is globose and cream to shiny brown in colour. The testa is thick and woody with 5 longitudinal ridges.
Growing regions
This lovely tree occurs naturally along the south-western Cape coast and up through Kwa- Zulu Natal as well as inland as far as Gauteng and Zimbabwe.
Growing conditions
Sideroxylon inerme does well when planted in full sun in a large hole with the addition of plenty of well rotted compost or manure. Water regularly for best results.
Best season
All year
This valuable tree tolerates a considerable amount of wind, has average water requirements and will even withstand some frost.
Seed sown in summer will take approximately 4-6 weeks to germinate. Cuttings taken from semi-mature side shoots will take 6-8 weeks to root.
Growth rate
Although the initial growth rate is quite slow, the tree develops fast once it has taken root.
The White milkwood is renowned for the diversity of medicinal applications for which it has traditionally been used. Parts of the tree are said to cure ailments as diverse as broken bones, conjunctivitis, fevers and nightmares. A decoction of the bark is used to treat gall sickness in stock.
The lovely yellowish brown wood is hard and fine grained and is used to make attractive household items as well as building boats and bridges.
                           S. inerme Fruit                      S. inerme Flowers and Foliage        S. inerme Flowers, Fruit & Leaves

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