This is a small family of about ten species of trees and shrubs
endemic to southern and eastern Africa of which Olinia is
the only genus. In the past there has been a great deal of confusion
in identifying the species. This is because the species tend to
resemble one another in leaf characters. The specific name is from
the Latin 'emarginatus', meaning 'notched', in reference
to the typically notched tips of the leaves.
emarginata is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree, which
makes for an attractive garden ornamental. This particular species
originates in Kwazulu Natal, the Drakensberg and Gauteng Provinces,
where it is fairly wide spread. It grows in mountain forests, in
kloofs and in gullies, protected wooded ravines and riverine fringes
and occasionally on rocky hill slopes in high-altitude grasslands.
can be a single- or multi-stemmed tree, with glossy green foliage,
which forms a nice round crown. This tree is fast growing and frost
tolerant. It has a straight, smoothish, grey or creamy-white trunk,
sometimes mottled or marked with orange.
The leaves are glossy dark green above, pale green and dull below,
they are hairless and give off a faint smell of almonds when crushed,
indicating the release of cyanide. The leaves are opposite, simple,
entire-margined, oblong to lanceolate. The tip of the leaves is
rounded, notched and is usually tinged with pink or red. The flowers
are very small, pale to dark pink in colour, and are slightly fragrant.
Flowers are in loose, axillary heads that are usually more than
half as long as the leaves. Flowering time is from spring to summer.
After flowering, the tree forms clusters of small round fruit which
turn red in autumn and hang on the tree until well into winter.
These attract birds to the garden.
Growing Olinia emarginata
This is a very difficult species to propagate, from either seed
or cuttings. Numerous techniques have been tried, with air layering
giving the best results. Seed can be sown in a 1:1 mixture of river
sand and compost. Germination is erratic and can take up to nine
months. Do not allow the mixture to dry out at any stage. Olinia
emarginata can withstand frost, but not drought.
· Braam van Wyk, Piet van Wyk and Ben-Erik van Wyk, Photographic
guide to Trees of Southern Africa.
· Braam van Wyk and Piet van Wyk, Field Guide to Trees
of Southern Africa.
· Eve Palmer and Norah Pitman, Trees of Southern Africa
· Flowering Plants of Africa.