Tree of the week: Diospyros lycioides – Bluebush – Bloubos – Umbulwa

Diospyros lycioides is a very hardy, deciduous to evergreen tree that reaches a mature height of 5m when growing conditions are ideal. The common name ‘Bluebush’, refers to the distinctive blue-green colour of the foliage, that display flashes of red during the cool, dry autumn. Its distribution stretches from Limpopo province in the North to KwaZulu Natal in the South.

The smooth bark of the tree is dark grey to brown on mature specimens. The crown is open and the branches drooping. From September to December, sweetly scented, creamy bell-shaped flowers appear on the branches. The flowers attract insects and bees, as well as insectivorous birds to the garden. These are followed by large, round fruits that mature from yellow to red through January to May. The berries have a sweet taste and are eaten by birds, wildlife and humans alike. Only female plants bear fruit, so it would be advantageous to plant more than one tree in the garden.

The Bluebush is a very decorative tree for the garden with the light green leaves, masses of cream-coloured flowers and red fruits. It is very drought resistant and cold hardy, enabling it to tolerate adverse conditions and is popular as a pioneer species for wildlife gardens. It can also be grown as a screen in a shrubbery. This tree has proved very successful as a container plant, it grows well in full sun and in shade.