Tree of the week: Gymnosporia buxifolia – Common spike-thorn – Stinkdoring – Motlhonu

A very hardy semi-deciduous to evergreen small tree with strong long spikes. Gymnosporia buxifolia can either grow as a large shrub reaching a height of 3m or a small tree with a mature height of 7m. This tree is endemic to Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. It is found growing naturally in grasslands, fynbos, Nama-karoo, forests, thickets and savanna-bushveld.

The spiky branches of Gymnosporia buxifolia are drooping. Leaves are usually clustered on very short dwarf spur-branchlets in the axils of the spines or occasionally on green spines. The Common spike-thorn produces white flowers that cover the branches from August to March. The flowers have an unpleasant smell which attracts flies and other insects. After flowering, fruits appear on the tree in the form of green 3-lobed capsules, these turn greyish-brown and become wrinkled when dry. This tree is a good addition to a wildlife garden as it provides nesting sites for birds and shelter for other animals.

Because of its strong, sharp spines, this tree makes a very good screen or hedge. It tolerates shade and is ideal as an undergrowth to taller trees. The smell of the flowers can be quite unpleasant, this is not an ideal tree to plant too close to your house.

Information sourced from Sun Gardens