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Calodendrum capense

   (Family: Rutaceae)
Afrikaans: Wildekastaiing English: Cape Chestnut, Wild Chestnut Xhosa: umBhaba  EDIT
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Plant Type: EDIT  Tree
Height: 7 - 20m
Special properties:
  Has Medicinal Uses
Rarity Status:
Preferred rainfall: Winter
Preferred position:
Full Sun
Tolerated soil:  
pH: neutral
Flowering time EDIT
                  x x x
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Flower colours
Flower type
  Flower scent EDIT
  Faintly sweet-scented
  Flower info
  Pale pink, carried in conspicuous terminal panicles during early summer. Each flower has five long narrow pale pink petals (4-5 cm x 0.5 cm), alternating with five petal-like staminodes (sterile stamens), also pale pink but conspicuously dotted with purplish to maroon glands. The calyx is star-shaped and persists after the flower has dropped off.
Leaf shape EDIT
Leaf margin
Leaf type
Leaf texture Smooth
Bark / Stem type
  Leaf scent
  Strong scent
Leaf size 50 - 220mm
  Leaf info EDIT
  The leaves are dark green, relatively large (5-22 cm long x 2-10 cm wide), simple, with untoothed undulate margins, and elliptic in shape. At the coast this tree is often evergreen, but inland it is deciduous with rich yellow autumn colours.
Fruit type EDIT
Seed colour
  Seed info EDIT
  SeedThe ovary, on a long gynophore (stalk carrying the female organs), swells to form the fruit which is green maturing to brown, 5-lobed woody capsule with a rough warty surface, splitting during late summer to autumn, to drop the large smooth black seeds which are hard but surprisingly light in weight.
Description EDIT
A well-shaped tree with a single trunk and a dense rounded canopy, growing up to 7m, but may reach 20m in a forest envirnment.
The flowers are large and pink and carried in conspicuous terminal panicles.
Growing EDIT
Calodendrum capense does best in deep fertile, well-composted soil with plenty of moisture, particularly during spring and summer, and requires a warm sunny position. To develop and maintain its shapely canopy, it requires protection from strong, sustained winds, like Cape Town's south-easter. Young plants require protection from frost, but established specimens should be able to survive in Zone 9 (-7°C / 20°F) When grown in bitterly cold areas, it is likely not to flower very well.

Calodendrum capense is propagated by seed or cuttings. Seed can be sown as soon as it drops in late summer to autumn, or kept refrigerated and sown the following spring or summer. Sow in deep trays in well-drained soil. Germination should take 10-40 days but may be erratic with older seed. In colder climates, bottom heat should be used. This tree has a relatively long juvenile phase and will rarely flower until it is 7 or 8 years old.

Cuttings should be taken from new growth in spring to early summer, treated with a rooting hormone and rooted under mist using bottom heat. Trees propagated by cuttings should flower in 4 to 5 years.
Young trees transplant easily and under ideal conditions can grow nearly 1 m in a year.
Distribution EDIT
It occurs along the south and east coast of southern Africa from around Swellendam in the Western Cape through the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Swaziland, Gauteng, North West and Northern Province and into tropical Africa as far north as Tanzania and Ethiopia, and grows mainly in forests and kloofs (ravines / gorges), but occasionally in scrub and riverine bush, from sea-level to 2000 m.
History EDIT
Calodendrum capense got its common name because William Burchell (1782-1863) thought that the flower and fruit resembled the horse chestnut. It is, however, not closely related to the chestnuts.
A very ornamental tree, suitable for use as a shade or specimen tree in gardens and parks, also as a street tree.

The timber is white or light yellow, fairly hard but bends well and is easily worked. It is used for tent bows, wagon-making, yokes, planking, shovel handles, and furniture, and is considered one of the most generally useful hard woods.

The bark is used as an ingredient of skin ointments and is sold at traditional medicine markets. Seeds are crushed and boiled to obtain oil that is suitable for making soap.

The Xhosa believe that the seeds have magic properties, and hunters used to tie them around their wrists when hunting to bring them skill and good luck.
Ecology EDIT
Samango and vervet monkeys, and rameron and olive pigeons, cinnamon doves and Cape parrots eat the seeds. The larvae of several butterfly species, including the orange dog (Papilio demodocus) which also uses other citrus family trees, breed on the foliage.
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