Forestry in South Africa
Friday, February 26, 2021

click here to see
all logo's

Trees of the Year : National Trees

previous page

COMMON TREE OF THE YEAR : Ekebergia capensis Cape ash, Essenhout
Adansonia digitata Baobab,Kremetart

 Ekebergia capensis Cape ash, Essenhout

Tree of the year: Ekebergia capensis Cape ash, Essenhout

This is a large attractive evergreen tree that has been used as a street tree in many towns and cities of South Africa, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is also a good ornamental garden tree and its fruits are enjoyed by birds and mammals. 

Cape ash is a large evergreen tree that grows to about 15 m in height, and occurs in a number of different habitats, from high altitude evergreen forests to riverine forests, and from the sea level to about 1500 m above sea level.

The main stem of E. capensis is characterised by a rough light grey to almost black bark, with few buttress roots at the base. The large glossy green leaves that are often tinged with a pinkish patch, or pink edges are pinnate.

The small sweetly scented flowers are white, occasionally also with pink tinge. They appear in loose sprays, in the summer months (September to November). A fleshy fruit containing four seeds appears green and then turns bright red as it ripens in autumn.

Cape ash is often confused with the wild plum (Harpephyllum caffrum). However, the leaves of wild plum are stiff and not drooping, they are also sickle-shaped.

Conservation Status: Ekebergia capensis is not threatened.

Distribution and habitat: The Cape Ash grows from the Western Cape, along a coastal distribution through the Eastern Cape, from where the range extends more inland and northwards through KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces in South Africa. The species extends beyond South Africa into Swaziland, southern Mozambique and into Zimbabwe. It also occurs as far north as Uganda, Ethiopia and the D.R.C.

Derivation of name and historical aspects: The genus Ekebergia was named after Captain C.G. Ekeberg, whose sponsorship, in the 18 th Century, made it possible for Anders Sparrman (the author of the tree species) to visit Africa. The specific name 'capensis ' means 'from the Cape' but is used in reference to southern Africa, since this tree occurs naturally from this region. Although it is commonly called the Cape ash, this tree is not related to the true ashes (Fraxinus sp. in the family Oleaceae).

E. capensis belongs to the Mahogany family (Meliaceae). This is a tropical and subtropical family of trees and shrubs. Members include Red Mahogany (Khaya anthoteca), African Mahogany (Khaya senegalensis) and Mahogany (Swietenia mahogany). This is a well-represented family with 51 genera and 800 species worldwide.

Ecology: Birds such as Knysna and Purple-crested louries, barbets, bulbuls, mousebirds and hornbills, eat fruits of E. capensis. Baboons, monkeys, bushbuck and nyala readily eat the fallen fruits of this tree. Leaves are browsed by domestic stock and game.

Uses: Cape Ash makes a good shade in the garden. It has been used as a stunning street tree. The light and soft wood is easy to work with, and with its straw colour, it makes attractive furniture. The bark is used as an emetic, and for treating dysentery. It is also used for tanning. Decoctions from roots are used to treat headaches, heartburn and for chronic coughs. Leaves are used as a remedy for intestinal worms. Unspecified parts of the tree are used magically to protect the chief from witchcraft.

Growing Ekebergia capensis: Cape Ash can be grown from seed. Soak stored seeds in water for a day and then scrub with a brush to remove the fleshy part. Sow in trays filled with river sand or normal potting soil, plant not deeper than 5mm. They germinate in 4 - 8 weeks.

The Cape Ash can also be grown from cuttings. This is the fastest method of propagating this tree. Tip or hardwood cuttings can be planted in trays filled with river sand or can be planted directly into the ground as truncheons.

E. capensis grows well when it is given lots of water, but can tolerate light drought conditions and very light frost, it is sensitive to heavy frost.


UPCOMING TREE OF THE YEAR 2021: Vachellia karroo, Sweet Thorn

2000 Peltophorum africanum African wattle, Huilboom Salix mucronata Safsaf willow, Kaapse wilger
2001 Loxostylis alata Tarwood, Teerhout Ptaeroxylon obliquum Sneezewood, Nieshout
2002 Pittosporum viridiflorum Cheesewood, Kasuur Alberta magna Natal flame bush, Breekhout
2003 Rhus chirendensis Red currant, Bostaaibos Pterocarpus angolensis Wild teak, Kiaat
2004 Kirkia acuminata and K. wilmsii White seringa, Mountain seringa, Witsering, Bergsering Combretum bracteosum Hiccup nut, Hikklimop
Schefflera umbellifera False cabbage tree, Basterkiepersol Adansonia digitata Baobab, Kremetart
2006 Burchellia bubalina Wild pomegranate, Wildegranaat Raphia australis Kosi palm, Kosipalm
2007 Rhus pyroides Common wild currant, Gewone Taaibos Pavetta schumanniana Poison Bride's Bush Gifbruidbos
2008 Harpephyllum caffrum Wild plum, Wildeprui

Diospyros whyteana Bladder -nut, Swartbas
Markhamia zanzibarica Bell bean tree, Klokkies-boontjieboom

2009 Acacia galpinii Money thorn, Apiesdoring

Halleria lucida Tree fuchsia, Notsung

Pterocarpus rotundifolius Round-leaved Teak, Dopperkiaat

2010 Acacia xanthophloea Fever tree, Koorsboom

Rothmania capensis Cape gardenia, Kaapse Katjiepiering
Rothmannia globosa
Bell gardenia, Klokkies-Katjiepiering
Cladostemon kirkii Tonga-kerrie, Tongakierie


Pappea capensis Jacket-plum, Doppruim 

Genus Pavetta Bride's Bushes, Bruidsbome
Nuxia congesta
Common Wild Elder, Gewone wildevlier

2012 Syzygium cordatum Water berry, Waterbessie

Protorhus longifolia Red Beech, Rooiboekenhout
Bruguiera gymnorrhiza Black Mangrove, Swart-wortelboom

2013 Virgilia oroboides Blossom tree, Keurboom

Grewia occidentalis Cross-berry, Kruisbessie
Barringtonia racemosa Powder-puff Tree, Poeierkwas-boom

2014 Genus Heteropyxis Lavender trees, Laventelbome Vepris lanceolata White ironwood, Witysterhout
2015 Combretum krausii Forest bushwilow, Bosvaderlandswilg Heteromorpha arborescens Parsley tree, Wildepieterseliebos
2016 Ficus thonningii Common wild fig, Gewone wildevy Maerua cafra Common bush-cherry, Gewone witbos
Maerua angolensis
Bead-bean tree, Knoppiesboontjieboom
2017 Ziziphus mucronata Hairy buffalo-thorn, Harige blinkblaar wag-n-bietjie Euclea pseudebenus Ebony tree, Ebbeboom

Genus Podocarpus Yellowwoods, Geelhoutbome
P. elongatus, P. falcatus, P. henkelii, P. latifolius

Boscia albitrunca Shepherd's tree, Witgat
2019 Sclerocarya birrea Marula Maroela Philenoptera violacea Apple-leaf, Appelblaar
2020 Ekebergia capensis Cape ash, Essenhout Adansonia digitata Baobab,Kremetart
Vachellia Karroo, Sweet Thorn
Portulacaria Afra, Spekboom
2022 Dais Cotinifolia, Pompontree
Peltophorum Africanum, African Wattle
2023 Buddleja Saligna, Olive Sagewood
Bolusanthus speciosus, Tree-wisteria
Searsia lancea, Karee
Searsia leptodictya, Mountain karee
Apodytes dimidiata subsp. dimidiata, Whitepear
Sideroxylon inerme subsp. inerme, White-milkwood
Mimusops caffra, Red milkwood
Spirostachys africana, Tamboti
Olea europaea subsp. africana, Wild Olive
Berchemia zeyheri, Red Ivory
Dodonea Viscosa var. angustifolia, Narrow-leaved Sandolive
Calodendron capense, Cape chestnut
2028 Vachellia erioloba, Camel thorn
Senegalia galpinii, Monkey thorn
Erythrina lysistemon, Coral tree
Ilex mitis, African holly
Aloidendron barberae, Tree aloe
2030 Dombeya rotundifolia var. rotundifolia, Wildpear
Burkea africana, Wild-seringa
Combretum erythrophylum, River bushwillow
Faurea saligna, Boekenhout
Cussonia spicata, cabbage-tree
Cussonia paniculata subsp. sinuata, Highveld cabbage-tree
Croton gratissimus var. gratissimus, Lavender Feverberry
Schotia brachypetala, Weeping boerbean
Schotia afra, Karoo boer-bean
Rhamnus prinoides, Glossy leaf
Faidherbia albida, Anatree
Millettia grandis, Umzimbeet
Diospyros whyteana, Bladdernut
Diospyros mespiliformis, Jackal berry
Maytenus acuminata, Silkybark