Monday, May 20, 2013

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

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