Tree of the week: Cunonia capensis – Red alder – Rooiels – Umlulama

A beautiful evergreen tree with cream showy scented flowers which appear on the tree from late February to May. Cunonia capensis is the only species of Cunonia native to South Africa. Although the tree can reach a mature height of 10m in forests, it may only attain a height of 5m in open landscapes. The crown spread of this tree can go up to 12m when growing conditions are favourable.

When young, the leaves have a rosy tinge and the stems are red. The shiny green leaves that are divided into multiple leaflets. This tree can be either a single stemmed, small tree or a bushy, evergreen shrub. The white, sweetly scented, upright ‘bottlebrush’ flowers attract a myriad of insects and butterflies. These are followed by brown two horned capsules which attract birds to the garden.

The Red alder is fast growing, frost resistant and has a non-invasive root system. This tree prefers a more temperate climate and does not grow well in very hot and dry or windy conditions. It also prefers well drained, fertile soil but will also grow in sandy soils if kept moist. Cunonia capensis is suitable for container planting, it makes a beautiful indoor plant as well.