Flowers of Pterocarpus rotundifolius are strongly honey-scented.
Bee-keepers like to plant this tree as a good source of nectar and
food for bees.
rotundifolius is a deciduous tree that reaches a height of 10
m, but under ideal conditions it can become even bigger. Deep yellow,
pea-shaped flowers appear from September to January. During hot,
dry weather the flower buds remain closed and they burst into flower
only on wet days, lasting two to three days. A flattened pod with
one seed matures from November to April. The tree burns very easily
in bush fires.
In South Africa it occurs naturally from KwaZulu-Natal in the south,
through Swaziland, Mpumalanga, Limpopo (Northern Province) to the
northern parts of North-West Province. It is also indigenous to
Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. It grows in open bushveld and on rocky
hillsides, often forming a colony.
of name and historical aspects
The genus name Pterocarpus means 'winged fruit', and the
species name rotundifolius refers to the round leaves. The
first "P" in Pterocarpus is silent and the name
is pronounced tero-car-pus.
Three species of this genus are found in South Africa: P. angolensis,
P. lucens and P. rotundifolius. The species P. rotundifolius
is divided into three subspecies, which are subsp. rotundifolius,
subsp. martinii and subsp. polyanthus.
This tree's scented flowers attract many insects like bees and wasps,
which play a vital role in pollination. Ripe fruits are often dispersed
by wind. Cattle and game browse the young leaves, and birds use
it for nesting. Larvae of the bushveld charaxes butterfly (Charaxes
achaemenes achaemenes) live on the leaves.
Uses and cultural aspects
is used as firewood in some parts of Limpopo. In the past it has
been used as a general-purpose timber, but the wood is not that
durable. It is also a favourite in bee farming as it is a good source
of nectar and pollen for honeybees. It is generally a good garden
subject. It can be used for providing shade.
Growing Pterocarpus rotundifolius
In cultivation this tree does best in frost-free areas. In areas
where there is frost, give some protection to the trunk in winter
in early years. One way to do this is to place rocks which retain
the sun's heat around the trunk to protect the tree from night frosts.
Once the tree has grown to about 2-3 m, there is no further need
to protect it. Summer rain and hot weather are ideal conditions
for this tree (20-35°C).
rotundifolius can be propagated from seed. Seeds must be removed
from the pod and soaked in hot water overnight. Discard seeds which
have been infested with insect larvaea. The next day the seed can
be sown in a mixture of sand and sieved compost (2:1). Seedlings
should be transplanted in planting bags filled with a sand-based,
well-drained growth medium. This is a fast-growing tree, reaching
a height of 1 m within a year. It can also be propagated from cuttings
taken in early spring. This tree can be used as the background plant
or as a free-standing specimen, especially in big gardens.
- VENTER, F. & VENTER, J-A. 1996. Making the most of indigenous
trees. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- COATES PALGRAVE, K./MEG. 2002. Trees of southern Africa,
edn 3. Struik, Cape Town
- SCHMIDT, E., LÖTTER, M. & McCLELAND, W. 2002. Trees
and shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park. Jacana,
Pretoria National Botanical Garden