Kiggelaria africana

L.

Family: Achariaceae
Common names:
Wild peach, wildeperske (Afr.), umKokoko (Xhosa), uMunwe (Zulu), Monepenepe (North Sotho),
Lekgatsi (South Sotho), Muphatavhafu (Venda)

Kiggelaria africana


This tree is said to attract lightning, but some people use it to protect their homes!

Description
Leaves and flowersWell-shaped and reasonably robust, the low-branching, wild peach has smooth, pale grey bark that becomes rough with age. The variable leaves of this evergreen tree may resemble those of the peach. The tiny, bell-shaped flowers which bloom from August to January (spring to summer), are yellow-green, with male and female flowers on separate trees. The hard, round, knobbly, greenish yellow capsule which forms in February to July (late summer to mid-winter) splits to expose shiny black seeds, enclosed in an oily, sticky, bright orange-red coat.

Natural distribution
Kiggelaria africana is found in coastal and inland forests (where it can reach 20 m), in bushveld and woodland, along streams and on rocky hillsides-'koppies'. It is widely distributed in Africa, from Kenya in the north to Western Cape in the south. This is the only species of Kiggelaria in South Africa.

Name derivation
It is named after Franz Kiggelaer, Curator of Simon van Beaumont's garden. The Latin word, africana means 'comes from Africa'.

Ecology
The Crowned Hornbill, Olive Woodpecker, Cape Thrush, Cape Robin, Cape White-eye, Southern Boubou and mousebirds enjoy the colourful fruits. Caterpillars of the Acraea horta butterfly (and A. igola) often strip this tree bare of foliage - one stage in a natural cycle, as the trees quickly recover and put out a nice new set of leaves. Larvae of the Battling Glider also feed on the tree. The Diederik, Redchested, Klaas's and Black Cuckoos love caterpillars, so these beautiful birds will visit the garden.

Uses and cultural aspects
The hardish, pink-brown wood is a useful general purpose timber (beams, floorboards, furniture). It was once used for the spokes of wagon wheels. Some people believe that touching this tree will attract lightning. But, the South Sotho prepare a medicine from it to protect their kraals.

Growing Kiggelaria africana

Effective windbreakPropagate it from seed or cuttings-set out young plants when 30 cm tall to prevent them from becoming pot bound. With good conditions, young plants grow fast and flower when two years old. It makes an excellent screen, forms an effective windbreak, or develops into a large and wide-spreading shade tree (11 m high x 13 m wide) with a non-aggressive root system. It has a natural tendency to branch from low down-prune away the lower branches early on if you want a tree shape.

Reasonably frost-hardy, it likes a moderate amount of water, and a place in the sun. Always add plenty of compost to the soil when planting, and apply a thick mulch layer (organic material, e.g. dried leaves) to protect the surface of the soil. This tree grows in both summer and winter rainfall areas. It tolerates temperatures ranging from about - 2°C to 36°C.

References

  • Germishuizen, G., Meyer, N.L., Steenkamp, Y. & Keith, M. (eds) 2006. A Checklist of South African plants. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 41. SABONET, Pretoria.
  • ELIOVSON, S. 1973. South African wild flowers for the garden. Johannesburg, Macmillan.
  • COATES-PALGRAVE, K. 1988. Trees of southern Africa, edn 2. Struik, Cape Town.
  • JOFFE, P. 2001. Creative gardening with indigenous plants-a South African guide. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
  • PALMER, E. & PITMAN, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa. Balkema, Cape Town.
  • POOLEY, E. 1993. The complete guide to trees of Natal, Zululand and Transkei. Natal Flora Publications Trust.
  • VAN WYK, B. & VAN WYK, P. 1997. Field guide to the trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
  • VENTER, F. & VENTER, J. 1996. Making the most of indigenous trees. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
  • WATT, J.M. & BREYER-BRANDWIJK, M.G. 1962. The medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. Livingstone, London.

Pitta Joffe
Pretoria National Botanical Garden

November 2002



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This page forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website www.plantzafrica.com.