Kirkia acuminata


Family: Kirkiaceae
Common names: white seringa (Eng.); witsering (Afr.); mvumayila (Tsonga); modumela (Tswana ); mubvumala (Venda)

Kirkia acuminata trunk

This splendid tree does not yet enjoy the fame it deserves, but it is a good choice for those gardeners who prefer something different. It was selected as one of the SA Trees of the Year for 2004.

This is a straight-stemmed tree with a fine, round , leafy crown. It grows from 6 to 18 m high with a trunk diameter of 0.8 m. The leaves are sticky when young, colouring splendidly to gold and red in autumn. The leaf is compound with 6-10 leaflets and one terminal one. The narrowly ovate leaflets are 20-80 x 10-25 mm, with or without hairs. The apex is narrowly tapering to a long point.

Leaves of Kirkia acuminata

Kirkia acuminata flowers from October to December with small greenish cream flowers. The fruits are thinly woody capsules of about 10-20 x 6-10 mm that are 4-angled, and split into four seed pods when mature. Each seed pod contains a seed. The wood is yellowish brown, light and soft .

Kirkia acuminata extends from Gauteng, Botswana, Namibia, and to the north in Tanzania. It grows in the bushveld and lowveld of Gauteng in deep, sandy soil or on rocky hills.

Name derivation and historical aspects
The genus Kirkia is named in honour of Sir John Kirk, a famous explorer and a naturalist. The specific epithet acuminata probably comes from the narrowly tapering apex to a long point (acuminate).

Uses and cultural aspects
According to Palmer & Pitman (1972), the white seringa is regarded as a sacred tree in some places in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean women also use the bark of the tree for weaving. In Gauteng, white seringa is planted around enclosures for livestock (kraals).

Growing Kirkia acunimata

This tree is easily propagated from seed and from truncheons . If given a well-drained soil in a warm, sheltered position, it will do well in cultivation. It is a relatively fast grower. White seringa can tolerate drought, but it is sensitive to frost making it a better choice for warmer gardens.

References and further reading

  • 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.
  • Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa, vol. 2. Balkema, Cape Town.
  • Ross, J.H. 1970. Kirkia wilmsii. The Flowering Plants of Africa 40: t. 1590.
  • Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.


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

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