Combretum kraussii


Common name:
forest bushwillow

Fruit of Combretum kraussii:ęG.Nichols
© G Nichols

Handsome, quick growing and reasonably cold resistant, this tree is recommended for shady areas in gardens with a mild to warm climate.

Flowers and white new leaves.ęG.NicholsThis is a medium to large tree, that has been classified as mostly evergreen (Carr 1988) or deciduous or semi-deciduous (Van Wyk & Van Wyk 1997) tree. This beautifully decorative tree's leaves turn bright red to purple in winter, dropping just before flowering, which starts around August and continues through to November.

The flowers are creamy-white and carried in dense heads. Some trees also have a showy flush of small white leaves in spring which either turn green (Palmer & Pitman 1972) or are replaced by the bright green leaves (Coates Palgrave 2002). Four-winged fruit carried in clusters from about February to June follow the flowers. The fruit are small, light to dark red and turn a conspicuous brownish red when dry.

Found from the coast to the midlands in the eastern regions of South Africa and neighbouring Swaziland. The habitat ranges from rocky hillsides at altitudes from almost sea level up to 1 200 m. It grows anywhere from evergreen forest or forest margins to dense woodland.

Autumn colourDerivation of name and historical aspects
The specific name of this tree honours Dr F. Krauss of the Stuttgart Museum who made a collecting trip to South Africa in 1837-1840.

Combretums are pollinated by various kinds of insects, including bees. They have adapted to wind dispersal by developing a wing-like fruit structure that can carry the seed with the help of air currents or wind. Some animals are known to eat Combretum fruit and also help with the seed dispersal.

Uses and cultural aspects
The young stems are pliable and used in basket-making. The wood is tough and yellowish in colour; the sawdust can however cause a skin irritation. Certain parts from the tree are used to produce antidiuretics, lotions for eye infections, as well as antiseptics.

Growing Combretum kraussii

Twig in autumnIts range of seasonal features make this a good choice for the garden. In spring it bears white flowers and an unusual flush of white leaves, the red fruits of late summer are showy and in winter its leaves turn fiery before falling.

Combretum kraussii grows easily and quickly from seed. Fruit can be harvested, since it is produced in fair quantities and is usually not unduly parasitized. If fruit is collected for cultivation purposes it should be checked for parasites. Indications of parasites being present are small circular holes in the body or a gummy excrescence. Fruit should be stored in a dry place. It is a good idea to take the seed out of the fruit covering and soak it for an hour or so before sowing. Sow the seeds at a depth of 3-5 mm below the surface in a well-drained medium. The first seedling appears 9 to17 days after sowing. All seeds should have germinated after 15 to 29 days.

Protect seedlings from too much moisture - check that the soil drains well. Shelter seedlings from severe heat and cold for at least the first year. This is a fast-growing tree and can reach 1.7 m after two summers.

This tree is reasonably drought resistant. Water seedlings every 3-4 days in summer and every 7-10 days in winter.

For more about possible pests please see Combretum microphyllum.


  • Carr, J.D. 1988. Combretaceae in southern Africa. Tree Society of Southern Africa, Johannesburg.
  • Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of southern Africa, edn 3. Struik, Cape Town.
  • Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa, vol. 3. Balkema, Cape Town.
  • Van Wyk, B. & Gericke, N. 2000. People's plants. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
  • Van Wyk, B., Van Oudtshoorn, B. & Gericke, N. 1997. Medicinal plants of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
  • Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.

Lou-Nita Le Roux
Lowveld National Botanical Garden
July 2003
With additions by Yvonne Reynolds

To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.

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