Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ocotea bullata (Stinkwood)

The splendid Ocotea bullata must be one of South Africa’s best known and highly prized indigenous trees. Along with the Yellowwood, the number of these magnificent trees was seriously depleted in our natural forests due to indiscriminate harvesting to satisfy the high demand for the superb timber. With careful management however, their numbers have gradually increased, but the Stinkwood remains a protected species. For this reason these superb shade trees are a valuable and worthwhile addition to the landscape.
Botanical Name
Ocotea bullata
Common Name
RSA National Tree No’
The stately Ocotea bullata is one of the best choices as a shade tree for large gardens or parks where its striking appearance can be fully appreciated. These majestic trees look spectacular as a specimen on a large lawn or as an imposing focal point in the landscape when under-planted with an attractive selection of shade loving shrubs and perennials, such as Azaleas, Cyatheas, Clivias and ferns to name but a few. The Stinkwood is also an excellent subject for planting along an imposing driveway, creating a breathtaking avenue or for enhancing any large area where a truly beautiful evergreen tree is sought.
Height30 m
4 – 5 m
Growth Habit
Ocotea bullata is typically found growing in deep soils in high forests and kloofs and occasionally in mountain scrub.
The bark of young Stinkwood trees is smooth and light grey with pink or mauve markings becoming rougher and darker as the tree ages.
The large, glossy, aromatic leaves have wavy margins, and are dark green above and somewhat paler underneath. The leaves have distinctive ‘blisters’ or bubbles on the upper surface in the axils of the veins.
The tiny, yellowish green flowers are borne in axillary clusters from December to February.
 The 20mm long, oval fruit resembles an acorn with the lower part set in a cup shaped receptacle. The fruit ripens to purple in autumn.
The brownish, seed is 10-13 mm long.
Growing regions
Ocotea bullata occurs naturally from the kloofs of Table Mountain in the Western Cape, all along the southern Cape coastal region and up along the east coast as far as Limpopo.
Growing conditions
The Stinkwood is a forest subject and generally prefers a shady position with well composted soil and adequate moisture.
Best season
All year
Ocotea bullata is fairly hardy but will not tolerate extremely dry conditions.
Propagation can be done using cuttings but these may be quite difficult to root. The best and most successful method is by planting seed that has been freshly harvested and sown immediately. Germination takes approximately 30 days.
Growth rate
Depending on conditions, medium to fast.
Stinkwood has been used medicinally by indigenous peoples for centuries. Various concoctions made from the bark are used for headaches, urinary diseases as well as for emotional and nervous conditions. The exquisitely patterned, finely textured and naturally lustrous timber, ranges in colour from reddish brown or deep walnut to almost black, making it highly sought after for fine cabinet making, gun stocks, doors, windows and wagon parts.
Stinkwood flowersStinkwood leavesStinkwood bark

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