Tree of the week: Combretum apiculatum – Red bushwillow – Rooiboswilg – Mohwidiri

The beautiful Red Bushwillow is characterised with light green slender point leaves. This semi-deciduous tree can grow as tree or shrub with a mature height of 3 to 9m. There are two subspecies, the southern ssp. apiculatum, and ssp. leutweinii, which occurs from Namibia to Malawi and northwards, which is differentiated by its hairier leaves. The distribution of Combretum apiculatum subsp apiculatum stretches from KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga to Limpopo.

This is a lovely shade tree during summer, it is also well known for its colourful autumn foliage. The leaves turn reddish yellow to golden brown during autumn providing a stunning display. The bark is grey to brownish grey and becomes roughly fissured with age.  The leaves are distinctive in that the tip of the leaf typically twists upwards.  The tree produces greenish flowers from September to February and the tiny blooms have a heavy scent. The four-winged fruits are borne from January to May, these often remain on the tree until the next flowering season.

The Red Bush Willow grows well on sandy soil to rocky soils. It can also survive low rainfall to semi-arid conditions. When young it can be sensitive to frost, but becomes hardier with age.  This tree is medicinal, the leaves can make a decoction which treats stomach disorders. Combretum apiculatum adds colour to your garden all year round.