Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Loxostylis alata (Tarwood)

Each month, our readers look forward to our featured tree review. We conduct in-depth research into each species, to obtain as much information as we possibly can in order to offer you a truly valuable, expansive information resource. All the trees we feature are indigenous species which are suitable for use within commercial and residential landscaping projects and are easily grown throughout most of Southern Africa, but specifically the Western Cape.
Loxostylis alata is such a decorative and versatile tree that it really deserves to be used far more extensively. This medium sized, water-wise evergreen has a lovely shape and looks absolutely gorgeous when the beautiful sprays of white flowers appear. As the fruit begins to develop the sepals around the fruit turn deep pink creating a stunning display. Aside from being extremely showy, the Tarwood attracts butterflies, bees and insects which in turn attract many birds to the urban landscape. Loxystylis alata does not make a mess, has non invasive roots, is highly ornamental and can tolerate harsh dry, windy conditions making it an ideal, low maintenance all rounder.
Botanical Name
Loxostylis alata
Common Name
RSA National Tree No’
The changing colours and attractive form of the Tarwood ensures that it will create an eye catching focal point in any landscape as well as providing welcome shade on hot summer days. These delightful trees are ideal for creating a dense screen where privacy is needed as well as forming a formidable windbreak in coastal areas where strong, salt laden winds, harsh sunlight, sandy soil and dry conditions prevail. As more and more people opt for small, low maintenance gardens, Loxostylis alata is a wise choice as these trees are the perfect size for more confined areas while their tidy habit makes them ideal for providing shade on patios and for parking areas. As they are able to withstand harsh growing conditions, Tarwoods are perfect for public areas as well as for street planting.
Height6 - 8m
3 - 4 m
Growth Habit
Loxostylis alata occurs naturally along river banks and streams, on the fringes of forest as well as on quartzite and sandstone outcrops and cliffs
The bark of the Tarwood is grey with vertical fissures and appears red where any damage occurs
The glossy, dark green leaves are compound with a single leaflet at the tip and the rachis are markedly winged
From November to February the dense terminal sprays of fragrant flowers appear. Male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. The male flowers are white while the female flowers have a greenish tinge.
Once the petals of the female flowers fall the sepals surrounding the developing fleshy, globose red fruit enlarge, and turn bright pink to brick red
The oval seed is dull brown
Growing regions
These trees can be found on the edge of the Karoo but are more widely distributed in the Eastern Cape and Kwa Zulu Natal
Growing conditions
This lovely small tree will grow well in full sun or semi shade. Plant in a large hole with plenty of compost and organic fertilizer. Water regularly for the first two years
Best season
Spring / Summer
The Tarwood is drought tolerant and will withstand wind and mild frost
The seeds germinate easily but care should be taken not to damage the root-ball when transplanting
Growth rate
Medium to fast
The leaves as well as the bark of Loxostylis alata have medicinal properties and are traditionally used in childbirth to control labour pain while the extract also boosts the immune system. Scientific tests have been carried out to establish the effectiveness of substances from this tree in controlling various avian diseases
Dovyalis caffra flowersDovyalis caffra fruitDovyalis caffra leaves and thorns
                 L alata Flowers                   L. alata Fruit                      L. alata Leaves

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