Commiphora harveyi – Red-stem corkwood – Koperstamkanniedood – Umnumbi

Commiphora harveyi, also known as the red-stem corkwood, is an attractive tree characterised by its silky, copper-like bark that peels off in large flakes, revealing a green-bronze underbark. This small to medium-sized, single-stemmed tree grows well in hot, rocky valleys, bushveld, coastal dune forests, and dry forests. Its natural habitat spans the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Swaziland, and Limpopo.

The tree is deciduous, shedding its leaves during the dry winter season and re-growing them with the arrival of summer rains. It has pinnately compound leaves with thin, glossy green, broadly lanceolate leaflets that turn yellow before falling in autumn. The tree’s shape can range from upright to spreading, often appearing squat with low-growing branches. Its twisted trunk and stems are notable for their silky, copper-coloured bark that peels off in large flakes.

From October to December, Commiphora harveyi produces small white flowers on slender stalks. These are followed by attractive, pinkish-red, round fruits that split open to reveal striking red and black seeds, which are a favourite of birds. The genus name Commiphora is derived from the Greek words ‘kommi’ (gum) and ‘phoros’ (bearing), while the species name harveyi honours the Irish botanist W.H. Harvey.

Although fairly hardy and capable of withstanding light frosts, young trees require some protection during winter. Commiphora harveyi is an excellent choice for bonsai cultivation and makes a stunning garden feature when planted alongside small shrubs. Traditionally, the succulent stems of this tree have been used as a water source during droughts.

Source: The Sun Trees Team

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