Monday, December 12, 2011

Peltophorum africanum (African wattle)

Peltophorum africanum is one of our most wonderful flowering indigenous trees. With it’s dense, spreading, rounded crown and showy golden yellow flowers the African wattle is a must for dry or windy situations. The spectacular flowers of this hardy tree provide a high yield of pollen and nectar which is perfect for bee keeping. One of the common names for this charming tree, ‘Weeping wattle’, refers to the moisture that drips from the branches before the first rains. This is caused by nymphs or small frog hoppers called spittle bugs that suck sap from the trees which they excrete as almost pure water. Butterflies, bees and birds are all attracted to this lovely tree which provides them with food and shelter in an urban setting.
Botanical Name
Peltophorum africanum
Common Name
African wattle
RSA National Tree No’
The strikingingly beautiful Peltophorum africanum is unsurpassed as a street tree when planted as an avenue, creating a breathtaking display when flowering in summer. These beautiful trees are perfectly suited to hot parking areas and courtyards in the urban landscape where they provide welcome shade on hot summer days. The hardy African wattle is an excellent choice for dry or windy gardens as it will provide year round interest with minimum maintenance. In winter when the tree loses it’s leaves, the low branching habit and interesting tracery of branches is almost sculptural and when the leaves appear in spring, this lovely tree soon creates dense shade followed by the spectacular bright yellow flowers. These wonderful trees are true all-rounders and can be used to great effect in almost any setting.
5 – 7 m
4 - 7 m
Deciduous / semi deciduous
Growth Habit
The lovely peltophorum africanum is commonly found at medium to low altitudes in wooded grassland as well as along marginal valleys
On older trees the grey – brown bark is grooved while on younger branches the bark is smooth and grey
The twice compound, dull green leaves have a feathery appearance and consist of 4 – 9 pairs of pinnae with between 8 – 22 pairs of leaflets per pinna.
The bright yellow flowers with crinkled petals appear at the ends of the branches in showy upright sprays from November to February
The 100mm long, dark brown to black seed pods are borne in clusters after flowering. The pods taper at both ends and have a wing like margin
The seeds are dark brown to black and are dispersed by birds, game and domestic stock
Growing regions
In South Africa, the lovely African wattle occurs naturally in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Kwa Zulu Natal and North West
Growing conditions
Peltophorum africanum will grow in most  well drained soil types including sandy soil and enjoys a sunny position
Best season
This beautiful tree is both drought and frost resistant but should be given some protection from severe frost when young.
African wattle can be very successfully propagated from seeds. The seedlings transplant easily
Growth rate
Fast, up to 1m per year
The roots and bark of Peltophorum africanum  have long been used in traditional African medicine. Amongst the many ailments that are treated with parts of this marvellous tree are eye infections, venereal disease, tooth ache, digestive problems, abdominal pain, sores, rashes, blisters and coughs….the list is endless. The wood is hard and is suitable for turning and carving. It is used to make furniture, grinding blocks, wooden buckets, tool handles and wagon parts.
               P. africanum Flowers               P. africanum Bark               P. africanum Seed

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