Tree of the week: Cordia caffra – Septee tree – Septeeboom -Umduda

The beautiful Cordia caffra is a small to medium sized tree that possesses an interesting smooth light brown bark. This tree occurs naturally in coastal, riverine forests and bushes. It is mainly distributed  along the eastern seaboard of the country, from Natal, Transkei and the Eastern Cape, but it can be found more inland and in the Lowveld parts of the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, as well as parts of Gauteng.

This tree has a drooping growth habit, a well-shaped crown with glossy light to dark green alternately arranged leaves. The stem can be a single or multi-stemmed and is usually slender with a tendency to lean sideward. The Septee tree sheds its leaves in winter revealing the interesting natural scars from the peeling bark. From September to November, the tree produces creamy fragrant flowers which attract a lot of bees and butterflies. The insects lured may entice insect-eating birds to pay the tree a visit. After flowering, masses of very decorative orange fruits are produced. These attract birds and are edible but not very palatable.

The Septee tree is fairly fast-growing and establishes itself in a space of approximately 7 years. It can reach a mature height of four to five metres when growing conditions are favourable. Although this tree prefers semi-shade conditions, it grows equally well when planted in full sun. It can be planted as a focal plant in the garden. This tree will also look stunning when planted as an avenue specimen in an urban setting. It is fairly hardy and will tolerate mild frost, but young trees should be protected.