This is beautiful tree (pronounced si-zig-ee-um) is
home to many birds and insects, but invasive in the Betty's Bay
area of the Western Cape.
evergreen, water-loving tree, which grows to a height of 8 -15 m.
This tree is often found near streams, on forest margins or in swampy
spots. The leaves are elliptic to circular, bluish green on top
and a paler green below. Young leaves are reddish. The white to
pinkish fragrant flowers are borne in branched terminals and have
numerous fluffy stamens and produce abundant nectar. It flowers
from August to November. The fruits are oval berries, red to dark-purple
It occurs along streambanks from Kwazulu-Natal northwards to Mozambique.
It grows in forest margins, in bush or open grassy and sometimes
Derivation of Name
According to Pitman and Palmer (1972), the generic name Syzygium
is based on a Greek word meaning "coupled", an illusion
to the paired branches and leaves.
The specific name cordatum, is the Latin word "cordatus",
meaning heart-shaped, this is in reference to the heart-shaped base
of the leaves.
According to Palmer and Pitman (1972), one of the only two nesting
sites of the Woolly-necked Stork known in South Africa is in an
umdoni swamp forest near Mtunzini. The foliage of this tree is eaten
by Kudu and birds such as the Crowned Hornbill feed off the large
hairy caterpillars that sometimes infest the tree.
Uses and cultural aspects
This tree is known for its many uses. The fleshy fruit is slightly
acid in flavour and is eaten by children, monkeys, bush-babies and
birds. The berries are also used to sometimes make an alcoholic
drink. The powdered bark is used as a fish poison. In central Africa
the tree is known as a remedy for stomach ache and diarrhoea. It
is also used to treat respiratory ailments and tuberculosis
Growing Syzigium cordatum
The tree is best grown from seed. For better germination pre-treat
seed with a pre-emergance fungicide, this will prevent seedlings
from dampening off before emerging above the soil. Sow seed in a
seed tray filled with well-drained soil and cover seeds with a thin
layer of soil. Water well and keep in a well-ventilated area. Once
seed has germinated, feed seedlings with an organic liquid fertilizer.
Pot seedlings into individual plant bags or pots.
As its common name suggests, this is a water-loving tree, so it
is best planted in full sun near a stream or river bank or any damp
- Coates Keith, 1983, Trees of Southern Africa, second edition,
Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
- Palmer Eve and Pitman Norah, 1972, Trees of Southern Africa,
A.A Balkema, Cape Town.
- Van Wyk Braam and Van Wyk Piet, 1997, Field Guide to Trees of
Southern Africa, Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
- Van Wyk Ben-Erik and Gericke Nigel, 2000, People's Plants A
guide to Useful Plants of Southern Africa, Briza Publications,
- Van Wyk Ben-Erik, Van Oudtshoorn Bosch & Gericke Nigel,
1997, Medicinal Plants of South Africa, Briza Publications, Pretoria.
Harold Porter NBG