This attractive small tree is rare in nature. But
it has great horticultural potential, despite its tongue twister
of a name which is pronounced sigh-zig-ee-um pondo-en-see.
pondoense is a very rare shrub or a small tree that grows up
to 3 m high. It is often found in rocky beds of streams. It is endemic
to the Northern Eastern Cape, but extends to southern KwaZulu-Natal.
The stem of this plant is single and grows up to 15 cm in diameter.
It has reddish-brown bark when young which turns grey as it ages.
New shoots and leaves are reddish in color. The leaves are shiny
dark green but paler beneath. They are opposite with pairs at right
angles and leathery. They are 3 - 10 mm in width. They have a conspicuous
midrib on both sides. Side veins are fine and often reddish and
more prominent below.
flowers are white with a mass of stamens appearing in showy branched
terminal heads. The flowering time is early summer. In early autumn,
red to purple roundish fruits are produced. They are about 15 mm
in diameter and are tipped with a persistent calyx.
Myrtaceae (Waxberry family) is a family of woody plants with about
five species that reach tree size in southern Africa. Members are
characterized by simple, alternate and leathery leaves. The flowers
are inconspicuous, naked and borne in dense axillary spikes. In
the early years the fruits of some species were boiled to produce
wax, hence the family common name.
The genus name of this plant 'Syzygium' is derived from
the Greek "syzygos", meaning 'yoked together, referring
to the paired leaves and branches. The species name ' pondoense'
refers to its place of origin, which was known as Pondoland.
The genus Syzygium has many medicinal properties. Eugeniin
extracted from the buds of almost all species of this genus has
antiviral activity against the Herpes simplex virus. Bark
infusions of this plant are said to ease pain and coughing.
Growing Syzygium pondoense
The Pondo waterwood can be used in many ways. It is a good garden
subject, especially in the rockery or wild fruit garden, because
it attracts many bird species. Plant it in a sunny spot in the garden,
but water well. With its reddish side veins and its colorful new
leaves, it is a lovely ornamental plant. It is also an attractive
container plant with its deep green, glossy foliage. Its weeping
form placed in entrances makes a good focal point.
S. pondoense grows easily from seeds. Once the fruits are
ready then the seeds should be collected quickly before birds come
and enjoy themselves! Sow the seeds in a fine soil mix, cover them
to ensure that they don't dry out. Make sure that you keep the media
moist, but not wet, to induce germination. The correct time to sow
seeds is autumn just after you have collected them. Fresh seeds
have a high success rate. Rooting the cuttings of this plant is
also very easy. Cuttings can be taken in autumn and rooted in pure
- Pooley, E. 1993, The Complete Field Guide to Trees of Natal,
Natal Flora Publication Trust: Durban.
- Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P., 1997. Field Guide to Trees of
Southern Africa, Struik Publishers: Cape Town.
- Hutchings, A., 1996. Zulu Medicinal Plants, University of Natal
Mhlonishwa D. Dlamini
Witwatersrand National Botanical Gardens.