Tree of the week: Searsia pyroides – Common wild currant – Gewone taaibos – Mutasiri

The genus Searsia was named after a highly qualified American ecologist Paul B. Sears. The epithet pyroides was derived from the Greek word, pyros, meaning fire and refers to the burning sensation caused by a prick from the thorns. Searsia pyroides is a dioecious shrub or tree that reaches a mature height of up to 6m high depending on the climate the tree is growing in. This tree was first collected by Burchell on the Asbestos Mountains in the Northern Cape.

Searsia pyroides may be deciduous or evergreen and usually alternate. This very hardy tree is widely distributed in South Africa. It is characterised with large, stout, woody thorns borne along the stems which make this a good addition to a security hedge. The light grey-green leaves are velvety, compound and are composed of three leaflets. It bears tiny white flowers which are heavy, giving the female plants a droopy shape when in flower.

This tree is a valuable addition to the garden as it attracts multitudes of birds and insects due to its nutritious fruit.  S. pyroides is found in many vegetation types, it plays a role as a pioneer species in the cycle of plant succession. When grown as a shrub, this plant responds well to pruning thus enhancing the beauty of the garden. It is also suitable for bonsai and is a useful fodder tree for cattle.