The abundant Red Bushwillows are deciduous by nature, and usually amongst the first to forewarn us of a change in season as their leaves turn from a brilliant summer green to a golden yellow.
Combretum apiculatum is from the family Combretaceae which has 18 genera. The genus Combretum is the largest and comprises some 370 different species of trees and shrubs of which many (300) are indigenous to tropical and southern Africa.
The Red Bushwillow is classed as a small to medium size tree, usually between 3 to 10 metres in height. It is widespread in the bushveld and whilst it is fairly drought resistant it can not tolerate severe frosts. It can be grown from seed and is slow growing, preferring wll drained soils.
It flowers between September and February; the flowers are heavily scented and are creamy yellow in colour. Bees and ants are attracted to the flowers.
On Ingwelala it is an important tree in the habitat. The leaves are browsed by elephants, giraffes, kudu, impala, bushbuck and grey duikers. Brown headed parrots, amongst other fruit eating birds, enjoy feeding on the 4-winged fruit, a distinguishing characteristic of this tree.
Humans are also known to utilise this tree. The heavy wood is resistant to borer and termites making it a useful resource for fencing posts, small furniture items and is excellent firewood. It is used in traditional folk medicine. Leaves have antioxidant compounds and when steamed are used to remedy stomach disorders and microbial infections. Inflammatory conditions resulting in headaches and toothache are also treated. The ash is used to treat conjunctivitis.
Facts researched on the Internet; text by John Llewellyn.