Tree of the week: Searsia crenata – Dune crow-berry – Duinekraaibessie

Previously Rhus crenata, Searsia crenata is an evergreen shrub belonging to the Mango family. This shrub is endemic from the coastal Western Cape region to KwaZulu Natal. In its natural habitat, it is found in sandy coastal areas. The species name, crenata, refers to the leaves that are toothed with crenatures or scallops. S. crenata is fast growing reaching a mature height of about 3m.

When grown as a small tree, the Dune crow-berry is usually multi-stemmed. Its leaves are alternately arranged and are trifoliate (each leaf has three leaflets).They are also glossy and dark green. The insignificant white-cream flowers are borne in small clusters at the tip of branchlets from autumn to April. The fruits are small round red-brown to pale black berries which are loved by birds. This tree is dioecious, only female plants produce the fruit.

Searsia crenata’s multi-branched growth habit makes it ideal for clipped or formal hedging. This hardy tree prefers mild to warm areas and will cope well with wind, sandy soil and sea salt spray. The tree is a good subject for bonsai, and can easily be pruned into a very neat hedge. It enjoys full sun and is semi- frost hardy. It can be grown in pots but the pots should have good drainage.