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Tarchonanthus trilobus

   (Family: Asteraceae)
Afrikaans: drietandkanferbos English: three-lobed tarchonanthus, three-lobed camphor bush, trident camphor bush Xhosa: isiMemela, iGqeba-lamatshe  EDIT
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Plant Type: EDIT  Tree
Height: 4 - 8m
Special properties:
  Frost Tolerant (light)
Rarity Status:
Preferred rainfall: Summer
Preferred position:
Full Sun
Tolerated soil:  
  Clay (fine texture, holds a lot of water),
Sand (coarse texture, drains easily)
Biome: Thicket
Flowering time EDIT
        x x            
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Flower colours
Flower shape
Flower type
  Flower info
  Flowerheads are small, thistle-like, yellowish to cream, in branched inflorescences 5-10 cm long, in the axils of the leaves. Tarchonanthus is dioecious, i.e. male and female flowers are carried on different trees. Taking a closer look at the flowerheads requires a magnifying lens as the individual flowers are tiny. Male flowerheads contain 10-16 flowers and are conspicuous and decorative. Each flower has a tubular or funnel-shaped corolla of 5 recurved lobes, covered with woolly hairs on the outside. The anthers taper gradually into a long flat tail-shaped apical appendage. The style is narrowly cylindrical but there is no ovary. The female flowerheads are made up of only 1 flower, and are not decorative. Each flower has a short 4- or 5-lobed corolla tube, covered with woolly hairs on the outside. The style branches are short, flat and egg-shaped and there are no stamens.
Leaf shape EDIT
Leaf margin
Leaf type
Leaf texture Rough
Bark / Stem type
  Leaf scent
  Strongly scented
  Leaf info EDIT
  The leaves are strongly scented, dark green and wrinkled above, densely velvety-white underneath but with veins and midrib still clearly visible, variable in shape but typically narrow at the base with broad three-lobed tips. Young growth is woolly and cream-white.
Fruit type EDIT
Fruit size Length: 5mm   Width: 1mm
Sow seeds in Spring
  Seed info EDIT
  The fruit is a thinly woolly nutlet, 5 x 1 mm, inside the fluffy flowerhead. Seed is best sown in spring to early summer
Description EDIT
Tarchonanthus trilobus var. trilobus is a shapely, small, evergreen tree with decorative, aromatic foliage, well-suited to today's smaller gardens.
Growing EDIT
Tarchonanthus trilobus is quick-growing.
Plant in well-drained, fertile soil in a sunny position. Water generously and deeply during its first few years; once established it requires little maintenance. Although coming from the summer-rainfall region, it grows well in the winter-rainfall Western Cape, coping with the harsh coastal conditions and summer drought. It is frost hardy, but will probably not survive severe frosts and needs protection from frost when young.

Not easily propagated by cuttings, but can be propagated by seed, and young self-sown seedlings transplant easily.
Seed is best sown in spring to early summer. Seed is ripe when the flowerheads detach relatively easily from the inflorescence, i.e. by gently pulling or knocking them off. It is quite a fiddly task to remove the tiny seeds from the woolly flowerheads and they will germinate if sown with the remains of the flowerhead attached provided they do not get too wet and are treated with a fungicide that combats pre-emergence damping off. Use a well-drained sowing medium, cover lightly - enough to stop them from blowing away, keep moist but not wet and in a warm but not hot position. Seedlings can be potted up when they are strong enough to handle.
Distribution EDIT
Grows on rocky outcrops, in thicket, in wooded ravines, on hillsides and on forest margins in the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal.
History EDIT
There are two possible explanations for the name Tarchonanthus. One, that it is based on the Arabic name tarchon for Artemisia dracunculus and the Greek anthos meaning flower, alluding to the similarity of the flowerheads of the two species. The other, that it is derived from the Greek tarchos meaning funeral rites, and anthos meaning flower, perhaps due to the camphor scent of the leaves. The species name trilobus means three-lobed in Latin, referring to the typically 3-lobed leaves.
Tarchonanthus trilobus wood is bright brown with yellow graining, hard, durable and aromatic, with a lovely camphor scent.

An excellent garden subject, is recommended as a street tree and is a good choice for a small suburban garden.
Ecology EDIT
The leaves and stems are browsed by black rhino and other game.
The fruits are light and encased in soft woolly hairs and are readily dispersed by wind.
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