Tree of the week: Calpurnia aurea – Wild laburnum – Geelkeurboom – Umkhiphampethu

Calpurnia aurea is an indigenous semi-evergreen to evergreen tree named after T. Julius Calpurnius, a Latin poet, Aurea refers to the flower colour. Although this summer flowering tree can reach a mature height of about 10m in the wild if growing conditions are favourable, it normally grows to a height of 2 to 4m in the garden. This tree occurs naturally in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

The Wild laburnum is characterised with drooping unevenly compound leaves, the leaflets are thinly textured. Flowers appear as drooping terminal sprays from December to February, the yellow showy flowers attract birds and bees to the garden.  After flowering, thin light brown papery pods containing up to 8 brownish seeds are produced. The pods are indehiscent (do not split open when mature).

This tree is fast growing, it does best in fertile, well drained soils. C. aurea can withstand winter temperatures as low as -5ﹾC. It is an ideal tree for small gardens and town houses because of its non-invasive root system. When planted as a single plant on the lawn, the Wild laburnum also makes a beautiful specimen plant. This tree also makes a great informal hedge when planted in groups. Apart from being a beautiful tree for the garden, C. aurea has a medicinal value. Leaves and roots of this tree are used to kill lice, relieve itches and allergic rashes.