Monday, May 20, 2013

Important Plant Families in South Africa - Moraceae

In order to facilitate the identification of our wealth of lovely South African trees, it is helpful to be familiar with the most prominent plant families in an area as well as the characteristics that distinguish each plant family. Every month we will feature one of the most important and well represented plant families, focusing on easily recognisable features to assist identification.

Moraceae (Fig family)

The large Moraceae family is well represented in the warmer, frost free regions of South Africa, the most common genus being the Ficus with more than 35 species throughout the country. The other two genera in this family namely Morus and Bosqueia are far less common.

Although the trees in the three genera differ considerably, they are all characterised by milky latex which is exuded when a leaf or fruit is removed, alternate, simple leaves and a conspicuous conical stipule that covers the terminal leaf buds. The deciduous stipule leaves a distinctive semicircular scar on falling.

The leaves of the Ficus genus can be quite large with strong veins from the base and margins that are mostly entire.

Moraceae flowers are tiny and inconspicuous and are clustered inside complicated fleshy fruit such as the well known ‘fig’ fruit with an ostiole at the tip which is either open or closed by bracts. The fruits are borne in the axils of the leaves or on the branches or trunk, occasionally in bunches.

Economically, the most important members of this family are Ficus carica, which originated in Asia minor and has been grown for it’s fruit since early times and Morus nigra, the common black mulberry. Another well known edible fruit from this family is the Jackfruit (Artocarpus) while Chlorophora yields good timber. A number of Ficus species such as the rubber plant (Ficus Elastica) and the weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) are grown as ornamental container plants.

Examples of Moraceae include Morus mesozygia (African mulberry), Trilepisium madagascariense (False fig), Ficus sur (Broom cluster fig), Ficus salicifolia (Wonderboom fig), Ficus abutilifolia (Large leaved rock fig) and Cardiogyne africana (African osage orange).

Classification Euphorbia family

TreeCo Opens Doors to Private Buyers

In response to popular demand, TreeCo has opened the nursery to private buyers in addition to the green industry (landscapers, landscape architects) and associated property industries (architects, property developers, estate agents, gold estates).

While trade will continue to receive discounted, or wholesale rates for trees purchased, private buyers can also look forward to significant savings compared with the purchase of trees at retail nurseries.

If you are a private buyer and wish to come to the nursery to view our selection of big trees, please make an appointment prior to your visit by calling Rudi on 082 829 5543 or Leske on 072 385 0270.

For directions to the nursery, please click here.

Spectacular Monthly Tree - May 2013

Trichilia emetica is a very handsome, large, spreading evergreen tree. These magnificent shade trees are widely distributed throughout the warmer regions of South Africa and are usually found in open woodland and on river banks. They have glossy, dark green, compound leaves and long clusters of fragrant, creamy white bell shaped flowers in summer. The small, fig like fruit contains black seeds that are almost completely covered with a vivid red aril making them very attractive and popular for making curios. Natal mahogany is among the most striking of indigenous trees and is unsurpassed where a substantial tree, providing deep, cool shade is sought.

To add instant impact to your landscaping project we currently have stunning, well grown, large and sturdy specimens available at R1200 each so hurry and get yours now.

On special at just R 1200 ex Vat and delivery.

Botanical Name
Trichelia emetica     
Common Name
Natal mahogany
Size Available
R 1200
Average Tree Height
Average Trunk Thickness

Should you require any further information, such as pricing details or should you wish to place an order, please contact Rudi on 082 829 5543 or Leske on 072 385 0270. Alternatively you are welcome to email us with your enquiry at

Availability List for May 2013

TreeCo provides our readers with a downloadable, updated Availability List every month.
Please note that should you not find the tree that you are looking for on this list, TreeCo will readily source what you require, on your behalf. Rudi and Leske Neethling personally ensure that all trees supplied by TreeCo, conform to our high quality standards.

CLICK HERE to download our latest Availability List.

Ochna pulchra (Peeling plane)

Although the captivating Ochna pulchra can be quite challenging to grow from seed, it is well worth the effort as this is truly one of the most decorative indigenous trees and will do really well once it is established. The specific name pulchra, means beautiful, which is a most appropriate description while the Afrikaans name ‘Lekkerbreek’, refers to the brittle branches that are characteristic of these lovely trees. This elegant small tree is fairly widespread on the hills around Johannesburg and Pretoria where it can be easily identified when the distinctive flowers and fruit appear.
Botanical Name
Ochna pulchra
Common Name
Peeling plane
RSA National Tree No’
This charming small tree is an asset to any garden as the attractive slender growth habit makes the Ochna pulchra an excellent subject for a wide variety of landscaping applications. In spring, the new, bronze – red foliage followed by the lovely delicately coloured, fragrant flowers and the splendid, colourful fruits, ensures a long lasting, decorative display wherever these trees are planted. In autumn, as the leaves turn to russet and in winter when the delicate shades of the bark create subtle interest, the decorative Peeling plane continues to please. Plant these delightful trees as eye catching specimens or in groups, for a strikingly beautiful effect that changes with the seasons. Planted in large pots, Ochna pulchra will add a lovely dimension to sunny patios and paved areas.
Height3 – 8m
3 – 5m
Growth Habit
Ochna pulchra grows naturally in bushveld and savannah areas, often on stony hillsides associated with granite, quartzite or sandstone.
The distinctive bark of these lovely trees is rough and scaly on the lower trunk while the upper trunk is pale grey, peeling to reveal smooth, opalescent creamy white patches.
The hairless, fresh green, many veined leaves are alternate, elliptic to oblanceolate with margins that are slightly toothed towards the apex. The spring foliage is pale green to reddish bronze while in autumn, the leaves change to rich russet shades. 
In early spring, the pale yellow to greenish yellow, sweetly scented flowers are borne in terminal racemes for a short while, as they fall  early.
The unusually attractive fruits resemble flowers that comprise 1 to 3 separate kidney shaped carpals ripening to glossy black and surrounded by persistent, bright carmine, enlarged sepals.
The round seeds are black.
Growing regions
Peeling plane trees are found in Limpopo, North West and the northern parts of Gauteng.
Growing conditions
Ochna pulchra enjoys a sunny position in the garden. Plant these trees in good soil and keep them adequately watered until well established.
Best season
These decorative trees will tolerate light frost.
Propagating this tree from seed can be difficult, but the best results will be achieved if very fresh seed that has not yet turned black is planted directly into soil collected from the area where the trees grow naturally. Keep moist and plant out the seedlings as soon as possible as this will ensure the highest success rate.
Growth rate
Peeling plane trees grow at an average rate of approximately 500mm per annum.
The soft, pale brown wood of Ochna pulchra has a papery feel when planed and being rather brittle, is only suitable for making small ornaments. An unpleasant smelling, greenish brown oil is obtained from the seeds which is used to polish iron as well as for the manufacture of soap and candles while the indigenous people of the Kalahari use the oil for their hair. The fruit pulp is edible but the seeds are said to be poisonous.

Ochna flowersOchna foliageOchna Bark
               O. pulchra Flowers     O. pulchra Foliage & Fruit          O. pulchra Bark