Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dovyalis caffra (Kei apple)

Dovyalis caffra is an attractive, much-branched small to medium sized evergreen tree with a dense rounded crown, lovely glossy foliage and distinctive apricot-like fruit. This appealing tree is dioecious so the male and female plants are separate. Not only is the hardy Kei apple becoming increasingly popular as a garden subject locally, but nowadays it is being cultivated as far afield as Australia, California and the Mediterranean countries. Birds and insects flock to this delightful tree when the flowers and fruits appear, and play a vital role in the successful pollination of the Kei apple.

Botanical Name
Dovyalis caffra
Common Name
Kei apple
RSA National Tree No’
 The useful Dovyalis caffra is not only attractive but a true all-rounder. Being able to withstand the harshest conditions such as severe drought, frost and salt laden winds, this truly marvelous species lends itself to numerous landscaping applications. The Kei apple looks equally attractive either as a single specimen, when included in a border or as a screen. In areas where an impenetrable yet ornamental hedge is required, the thorny Dovyalis caffra is unsurpassed. This rewarding tree can easily be trimmed to create a neat and compact shape where space is at a premium and, where both male and female trees are planted, these wonderful small trees will cover themselves with copious amounts of delicious fruit in summer.
Height 5 – 9 m
3 – 5 m
Growth Habit
The Kei apple is found naturally in dry woodland, valley bushveld, grassland and along forest margins.
The rough, corky, white to pale grey bark is longitudinally fissured with strong straight spines on the branches.
The simple ovate, glossy dark green leaves are 3 – 6 cm long and are borne in tight clusters at the base of the spines.
The inconspicuous creamy green flowers appear from November to December. Female flowers appear in groups of two to three in the leaf axils while the male flowers appear in dense axillary clusters.
The edible, velvety, globose fruit are apricot coloured and up to 40 mm in diameter.
The seeds are a creamy colour and are approximately 3 mm wide and 5 mm long.
Growing regions
The Kei apple is found from the Kei river in the Eastern Cape all along the eastern parts of the country through Kwa Zulu Natal, Swaziland, the Northern Province and all the way up to Tanzania.
Growing conditions
Dovyalis caffra has no special growth requirements but will respond well to the addition of compost and adequate amounts of water.
Best season
This is an extremely hardy species being able to withstand long periods of drought as well as temperatures as low as 6 degrees below freezing point.
The Kei apple is easily propagated from seed which has been cleaned and allowed to dry and then planted in a good seedling mix and kept moist. Propagation from cuttings which have been dipped in a rooting medium is also highly successful.
Growth rate
Moderate – up to 600 mm per year.
Dovyalis caffra is an important food source in parts of southern Africa and is being developed as a sustainable source of income for several communities throughout the region. The fruit, which is high in vitamin C and somewhat acidic, is delicious when sprinkled with sugar while excellent jams, jellies and pickles can also be made with the fruit.

Dovyalis caffra flowersDovyalis caffra fruitDovyalis caffra leaves and thorns



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