Lagerstroemia indica – Pride of India – Crape myrtle

A beautiful large tree characterized with lush foliage and red berries which attract wildlife to the garden. Although classified as evergreen, the Cape Ash can be briefly deciduous in cold dry winters. Its distribution in South Africa stretches from Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga to the Limpopo Provinces.

The Cape ash has a spreading crown, up to 8 m wide and the leaves are compound with a glossy, green colour.  New growth has a reddish colour and appears in spring.  In areas that have colder winters, the foliage turns yellow and then red before falling to the ground. The bark is rough light grey to almost black with few buttress roots at the base.  E. capensis is often confused with the Wild plum however, the leaves of Wild plum are stiff and not drooping. They are also sickle shaped. Between September and November, this tree produces sprays of tiny scented white flowers. Male and female flowers are found on separate trees. The white blooms are followed by fleshy red fruits which are edible to both birds and mammals.

This fast growing tree makes a beautiful street tree. Ekebergia capensis can also be planted in gardens for shade. Its rounded canopy makes it a good climbing tree for kids. The tree grows well in both full sun and semi-shade conditions. The Cape ash can tolerate light drought conditions and very light frost. It is also sensitive to heavy frost hence it is only suitable for warmer areas of the Highveld not the cold ones.