Tree of the week: Euclea undulata – Common guarri – Inkuzane

Also known as the Common guarri, Euclea undulata is a small dense evergreen shrub with stiff leathery dark green leaves. This tree occurs in a variety of climates ranging from tropical, subtropical and semi-arid to arid, where rain falls either in winter, summer or right through the year. Euclea undulata can reach a mature height of 5-7m. In South Africa, this tree is found almost all over the country with the exception of the central interior associated with high altitude habitats.

The bark is pale grey and covered in reddish-brown granules when young. The leaves are alternate or arranged in pseudo whorls, crowded at the ends of the branches. They are also egg-shaped to widely lance-shaped with tips that are round or bluntly pointed. From December to May it produces whitish to cream flowers carried on unbranched 5 to 7 flowered spikes of up to 20 mm length. These are followed by brownish to black fruits that are eaten by birds and other animals.

This tree prefers rocky places. Because of the numerous branches and closely packed leaves, the tree looks like a dome in the landscape. Euclea undulata is an ideal species for screening. It is popular as traditional medicine in Southern Africa, the roots are sold as herbal medicine.