Tree of the week: Mundulea sericea – Cork bush – Kurkbos – Mukunda-ndou

Famous for its thick corky bark, Mundulea sericea is an attractive small tree originating from KwaZulu Natal. This tree normally reaches a mature height of 7.5-12m high and is usually single-stemmed with a bushy branched crown. This tree is common in Southern African countries which include Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland.

Leaves of the Cork bush are unevenly compound, with 4-11 pale green leaflets covered in long silvery silky hairs. The tree produces mauve and lilac flowers which appear simultaneously with new leaves in Spring and early summer [October to February]. After flowering, fruits appear in form of long pods with thickened yellow-brown rims that become brown-grey as they mature. These pods are velvety hairy and may persist on the branches throughout winter.

Mundulea sericea makes a superb accent plant when planted on the lawn with a few large rocks contrasting with the silvery foliage and dark mauve flowers. Because of its small mature size, this tree is ideal for small gardens. It has been reported to be one of the best plants to grow as a container plant. The cork bush dwarfs easily and makes a beautiful bonsai plant. This tree is also suitable for hedging and attracts a lot of insects as well as sunbirds. The root system of Mundulea sericea is non-invasive, one can consider 2m as the safest distance for planting this tree from built areas. M.sericea is suitable for planting close to the pool and is also useful for Agroforestry purposes.