Saturday, January 18, 2014

Strychnos spinosa (Spiny Monkey Orange)

Strychnos spinosa is a very attractive, small to medium sized tree with a much branched, flattish spreading crown. The dense, greenish flower heads are followed by large, round, green fruit that ripen to bright golden yellow. When the distinctive fruit appear, often after good rains, these lovely trees can be easily identified growing in open woodland throughout most parts of the country. The fruit as well as the leaves are a popular food source with a wide range of wildlife such as baboons, monkeys, elephant, bushpig and a number of species of antelope.
Botanical Name
Strychnos spinosa
Common Name
Spiny Monkey Orange
RSA National Tree No’
The Spiny Monkey Orange is a charming small to medium sized tree that will add interest to any garden or landscaping project. These trees are particularly eye catching when the large fruit appears so they make excellent specimen trees. Having a fairly wide, dense crown they are a lovely source of shade in summer while the striking yellow autumn foliage provides a splash of colour before the leaves are shed in winter. A mini forest can be created by planting a small group of three or five Strychnos spinosa together and under planting them with perennials such as agapanthus that will enjoy summer shade and winter sunshine.
Height3 – 6 m
3 - 5 m
Growth Habit
Strychnos spinosa is found growing singly along riverine fringes, coastal forest or bushes well as sand forest and bushveld in well drained or sandy soils.
Spiny Monkey Orange has fairly smooth bark that flakes in elongated pieces. The pale coloured branchlets have hooked thorns and often ending in a terminal spine.
The glossy, dark green leaves are paler underneath and are elliptical to ovate or almost circular, with or without hairs. They are conspicuously three veined with a somewhat wavy margin. The leaves turn bright yellow in autumn.
The greenish white flowers are borne in dense, terminal heads in spring and summer.
The large, round, yellow to yellowish brown fruit is about 120mm in diameter and has a fairly smooth, thick, woody rind. Inside the fruit the numerous seeds are embedded in edible flesh.
The pale beige to light brown seeds are large and flattish.
Growing regions
The Spiny Monkey Orange is found from the Eastern Cape to Kwa Zulu Natal, inland to Swaziland and up north to Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Growing conditions
Strychnos spinosa prefers an open, sunny position although these attractive trees will also tolerate semi shade. These trees do best in very well drained or sandy soil with a moderate amount of water.
Best season
The Spiny Monkey Orange should be protected from very severe frost as it originates in the milder regions of the country.
The seeds germinate readily so the best method of propagation is to plant the seeds in a good seedling mix in bags and keep moist. Plant out when seedlings are large enough.
Growth rate
The Spiny Monkey Orange is well known for its numerous medicinal applications for which the leaves, fruit and roots are used. The hard, dry shells of the fruit are carved with designs and sold as curios as well as being used as sounding boxes for musical instruments such as the marimba. The hard timber from the tree is used for carved decorative items, as well as carpentry, implement handles, hut poles and fighting sticks.
Strychnos foliageStrychnos fruitStrychnos bark

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