Tree 10m high has mottled bark. The simple Leaves, smell of lavender when crushed. The small unisexual Flowers are 5-merous. Fruit a small glossy capsule. The tiny Seeds are 3-angled.
RSA Tree No. 455.
Common names: Lavender Tree, Weeping Lavender-tree, Laventelboom.
Family: Myrtaceae. (Myrtle and Eucalyptus family has 130+ genera and 3 000+ species and includes the Australian genus Eucalyptus, guava and clove). These evergreen trees have simple Leaves that are, leathery, usually entire, gland-dotted and usually opposite. Stipules are very small or absent. Flowers are bisexual and regular. The many Stamens are inflexed in the bud and Anthers are 2-thecous (with 2 pollen sacs). They usually open by lengthwise slits. The usually inferior Ovary has a simple single, capitate (formed like a head) Style and a single capitate Stigma. Fruit is a capsule or berry. Local genera include Eugenia, Heteropyxis, Metrosideros (Western Cape) and Syzygium.
Name derivation: Heteropyxis – distinct or different with a box like lid – referring to the capsule. natalensis – from Natal. The other 2 local species are Heteropyxis canescens, and H. dehniae.
Conservation Status: L C. (Least Concern). 2009 (Raimondo et al.).
The height of this Tree is usually up to 10m high but may reach 15m. It can also be a shrub. The Trunk is white, grey or even orange and may have more than one stem. It is slender and can be crooked or even grooved. The Bark has a distinctively mottled appearance. Like Heteropyxis canescens, fairly large pieces may flake off on older stems. In this case, they reveal a snow-white to orange under-bark, which soon fades. No thorns are present.
The smooth, simple Leaves tend to droop. They are alternate or spirally arranged, long and narrow. The tree is deciduous in cold areas and develops rich red, brown and yellow autumn colours (photo 822 above). Leaves are narrowly to broadly lanceolate to narrowly elliptic and up to 10 x 2,5cm. The Upper surface is glossy green and is slightly darker than below. On the Lower surface, the midrib is clearly defined, having 1 pair of lateral veins (which may be conspicuous) moving towards the margin and then moving upwards close to the margin and ends close to the apex. Other veins connect to these 2 veins. The veins are best seen when viewed against the sun (photo 340). Apart from hair tuft Domatia (a tiny chamber produced by plants that house arthropods. To the naked eye the domatia appear as small bumps) which are present in vein axils, the mature leaves are hairless. They are hairy and reddish only when young. The Midrib is grooved above, dull, and prominent. Leaves fold slightly upwards along the midrib. Only the midrib protrudes below. The blade has gland dots. The Apex tapers to a narrow point. The Base is narrowly tapering and may be red. The Margins are entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented but may be hairy) and wavy. Leaves are not rolled under. Petiole (leaf stalk) is up to 2cm long. It may be pinkish and grooved above. Stipules (basal appendages of the petiole) are rudimentary or absent. Crushed leaves have a strong, long lasting, smell of lavender.
The small, whitish or creamy yellow, sweetly fragrant Flowers are about 3mm wide. They occur in spreading axillary and terminal Panicles (indeterminate, branched inflorescence with stalked flowers). Flowers are actinomorphic (regular, symmetrical. Perianth – the calyx and corolla, can be divided into 3 or more identical sectors). The Pedicels (flower stalks) are hairy. Flowers are unisexual by abortion and the tree is dioecious (having male and female flowers on separate plants). They are perigynous (having sepals, petals, and stamens around the edge of a cuplike receptacle containing the ovary). The Calyx is cup-shaped with 5 Sepals that are overlapping. The Corolla has 5 free, imbricate (having regularly arranged, overlapping edges, as roof tiles) and gland dotted Petals, which alternate with the sepals. These petals, which arise from the inner rim of the hypanthium (the cup-like receptacle derived usually from the fusion of floral envelopes and androecium, and on which are seemly borne calyx, corolla and stamen), fall early. The Disc (a more or less fleshy or elevated development of the receptacle or of coalesced nectaries or staminodes about the pistil) is well developed. There are 4-8 Stamens in the Male flowers, which extend slightly above the corolla. In Female Flowers there are reduced to small staminodes (sterile stamens). Here the Pistil (a unit of the Gynoecium, the female element of the flower, composed of the Ovary, Style and Stigma) has an almost spherical Ovary and is usually 2 locular (compartment within an organ e.g. ovary, anther or fruit) with numerous Ovules. The Style is short but persistent. The Stigma is capitate (formed like a head). (Dec -Mar).
The small, spherical or a broadly ellipsoidal and glossy Fruit is a Capsule (a dry fruit resulting from the maturing of a compound ovary, which usually opens at maturity by one or more lines of dehiscence) about 3 x 2mm. Fruit occurs in dense clusters. The fruit is gland-dotted with more than half its length protruding beyond the persistence calyx. The thin Style is visible in the early stages of fruit formation (photo 692). The capsule remains on the tree and finally splits – releasing the seeds. Old capsules also remain on the tree (photo 244). The tiny, brown, 3-angled, Seeds are slightly winged and wind dispersed. (Mar-Jul).
Distribution & Ecology
These Trees are found in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo. They are also are found in Swaziland and Zimbabwe. They grow in riverine bush and rocky slopes from close to sea level to 2 000m. Black Rhino, Grey-duiker and Kudu browse the Leaves. Rhino also eat the Bark. Flowers attract butterflies, bees and wasps.
The brownish purple Wood is fine grained and tough. It is used for fence posts and charcoal. This is a good garden tree and is also used in bonsai. Herbal tea and perfume can be made from the Leaves. The leaves are also used to scent tobacco. Trees can be Grown from seeds or cuttings. They are fast growing – up to 1m per year. The tree is cold sensitive when young. Plant the tree in full sun.
Boon, R. 2010. Pooley’s Trees of eastern South Africa. Flora and Fauna Publications Trust, Durban.
Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa, edn 3. Struik, Cape Town.
Lawrence, G. H. M, 1951. Taxonomy of Vascular Plants, The Macmillan Company, New York. Tenth Printing 1965.
Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa, Balkema, Amsterdam, Cape Town.
Schmidt, S. Lotter, M. & McCleland, W. 2002. Trees and Shrubs of Mpumalanga and the Kruger National Park.
van Wyk, B. & van Wyk, P. 1997 Field guide to Trees of Southern Africa, Struik, Cape Town.