Tree of the week: Gardenia volkensii – Savanna gardenia – Bosveldkatjiepiering –Tshiralala

The Savanna gardenia is a small deciduous to evergreen tree that can reach a mature height of 8m depending on the habitat. It prefers open woodland, bushveld and thicket and occurs from tropical Africa through Namibia, Botswana, and the north-eastern parts of South Africa into KwaZulu-Natal in the southeast.

This multi-stemmed tree is characterised with a dense round crown. The bark is pale grey and smooth and the branchlets appear knobbly due to persistent leaf-like appendages at the base of the leaf stalk. The glossy green spoon shaped leaves exist in groups of three and are crowded at the tips of short stout branchlets. From July to October, the tree produces masses of white, sweetly scented flowers that age to a creamy-yellow colour. These blooms open during the night, spreading their fragrance throughout the garden. After flowering, ribbed, egg-shaped fruits are produced. These add on to the beauty of the tree.

Its slow growth rate, small stature and non-invasive root system makes this tree suitable for a small garden. G. volkensii makes an interesting container plant for the patio, flowering every season with fragrant, white, waxy flowers. This tree also makes a beautiful bonsai specimen.