Saturday, February 8, 2014

Searsia chirindensis (Red Currant)

Searsia chirindensis is a showy, hardy, medium to large evergreen or deciduous tree. It is only in colder areas that these trees will lose their leaves in winter. The lovely Red currant trees are a common sight along the roadways in the Garden Route area of the Western Cape where the colourful, reddish foliage in spring and autumn create a striking contrast with the abundance of greenery there, while the magnificent, large trusses of shiny fruit are an eye catching sight for travelers to enjoy throughout summer.

Young growth on the Red currant is usually spiny but this disappears as the trees mature. The profusion of tiny flowers as well as the masses of fruit attracts a host of birds and insects to the garden.
Botanical Name
Searsia chirindensis
Common Name
Red currant
RSA National Tree No’
Searsia chirindensis has a multitude of landscaping uses as these attractive trees have a non invasive root system and are able to withstand a wide range of weather conditions. If a tree with a neat, well shaped crown is required, the young growth on the main stem should be removed while the tree is young so that a straight single bole develops. In areas where the Red currant is to be used as a screen or as a windbreak however, the tree can be trained into a dense shrub or allowed to take on its natural, multi stemmed growth habit. The beautiful Searsia chirindensis looks lovely throughout the year and is a perfect choice for the city garden as well as any landscaping project where a truly rewarding as well as a fast and easy to grow tree or large shrub is required.
Height6 – 10m
3 - 6 m
Semi - deciduous
Growth Habit
Searsia chirindensis occurs in coastal forest and along forest margins as well as inland scrub or inland forest and rocky hillsides.
The dark grey to dark brown bark of the Red currant is rough with longitudinal fissures in mature trees.
The distinctive hairless, trifoliate leaves of up to 130mm long are dark green on both sides and usually turn red in autumn. Young spring growth is also red to pinkish in colour. Margins are entire and wavy, ending in a tapering tip. Stalks and midrib are pinkish.
The yellowish green flowers are borne in terminal heads from August to March. Male and female flowers appear on separate trees.
 The glossy round fruit are dark reddish brown and are borne in heavy terminal clusters that weigh down the branches.
The seeds are small and dark.
Growing regions
The Red currant is widespread all along the coastline from the Western Cape up to the Eastern Cape to Kwa-Zulu Natal and up through Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
Growing conditions
Searsia chirindensis will perform equally well in full sun or partial shade. Plant in a large hole in well drained soil to which a generous quantity of compost and organic fertilizer has been added.
Best season
The Red currant is hardy and will withstand wind, drought and frost.
These trees are easy to propagate from cuttings or truncheons but propagating from seeds is also very successful. Fresh seeds will take about 5 to 8 weeks to germinate.
Growth rate
Fast, up to 1m per year.
The rich, reddish brown timber of Searsia chirindensis is heavy and hard and is used to make superb furniture. It was used for wagon building as well as for manufacturing small tools, household items and implements and for wood turning. The bark has traditionally been used to treat such ailments as rheumatism, circulatory problems and mental disorders while the sap is used to treat various heart conditions.
Searsia chirindensis flowersSearsia chirindensis barkSearsia chirindensis fruit

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