Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Important Plant Families in South Africa - Combretaceae

The large Combretum family is represented by approximately 50 tree species in southern Africa and is widely distributed throughout the country with the exception of the central and south western regions of the Cape.

The largest and most widespread genus in this family is Combretum, with Terminalia being the second largest genus.

Members of the genus Combretum have leaves that have entire or untoothed margins and are opposite or alternate but occasionally in whorls of three or four.

Members of the genus Terminalia, have a very distinctive pagoda like shape known as Aubreville’s model. The simple leaves are alternate and are scattered or crowded towards the ends of the branches.

The small, white or greenish white flowers of this family are usually borne in axillary clusters or sprays, but are generally not very showy.

The most recognisable feature of this large family are the distinctive fruits, which in the case of Combretum have four to five wings while those of the Terminalia genus have only one or two wings.

Although members of this family do not generally have great commercial value, many are grown for the extremely decorative effect of the abundant clusters of long or round, winged fruits, which come in a range of colours from white to yellow or gold, through to pink, russet and red.

Some examples of this large family include:

Terminalia stenostachya (Rosette cluster leaf), Terminalia phanerophlebia (Lebombo cluster leaf), Terminalia sericea (Silver terminalia), Combretum erythrophyllum (River combretum), Combretum hereroense (Russet bush willow) and Combretum imberbe (Lead wood).
Classification Annonaceae

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