General Info

This evergreen Tree is up to 40m high.  The simple, hairless, leathery Leaves have entire margins.  Whitish, bisexual, 5-merous Flowers are in compact heads.  Fruit is a capsule.  The small Seeds lack wings.


Breonadia salicina: Adina galpinii, A. lasiantha K.Schum, A. microcephala, A. microcephala, Breonadia microcephala, B. salicina, Cephalanthus spathelliferus, Nauclea microcephala.

RSA Tree No. 684.

Common names: African teak, Matumi, Mingerhout, Water Matome, Wild Oleander.

Family: Rubiaceae. This family of dicotyledonous plants has in excess of 600 genera and about 13 000 species and members include trees, shrubs and herbs.  Local genera with trees include Afrocanthium, Canthium, Coddia, Gardenia, Pavetta, Rothmannia and VangueriaLeaves are simple, opposite or whorled and have interpetiolar stipules.  Flowers are bisexual or unisexual.  They are gamosepalous (a calyx whose sepals at least partly united) and Gamopetalous (united joined petals – at least at the base).  Stamens usually as many as and alternating with corolla lobes.  The Ovary is inferior.  Fruit is a drupe, berry or capsule.

Name derivation: Breonadia was probably named after Jean Nicolas Breon (1815-1894) who collected plants in Mauritius.  salicina – willow (Salix sp.) like: possibly referring to the leaves.

Conservation Status: L C (Least Concern).  Raimondo et al. (2009).


This is often a large, tall timber Tree up to 40m high and has a crown of evergreen leaves.  The Trunk may reach 1,5m wide and the initially smooth; brown to grey-brown Bark becomes rough and flakes into irregular plates.  Small branches are hairless.  Recently fallen leaves leave leaf scars (photo 216).


The simple, hairless Leaves are usually arranged in whorls of 4 but may have 3 or 5 leaves. They are tough, leathery and tend to be concentrated towards the ends of branches.  Individual leaves may reach 29 x 9cm.  They are lanceolate to narrowly elliptic and are similar to leaves of Oleander.  The Apex tapers to a pointed end. The Base tapers. The Blade is dark green above and lighter below.  Lateral Veins are pale yellowish green and move close to the margin where they loop together.  Veins are best seen when viewed against a strong light (photo 218).  The Margins are entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented but may be hairy).  The Petiole (leaf stalk) is thickset, may reach 2cm long and is partially decurrent (leaf blades that partly wrap or have wings around the stem or petiole).  The small, pointed Stipules (basal appendage of the petiole) occur between pairs of leaf bases.


The small and sweetly scented, bisexual Flowers occur in dense spherical heads with each flower subtended by a Bract (a much-reduced leaf, particularly the small scale-like leaves in a flower cluster or associated with flowers).  These spherical heads rest on a stalk that is up to 5cm long.  This flower head rests on a thin stalk up to 9cm long.  The oblong 5-lobed Calyx is hairy.  The hairy, tubular Corolla may be pinkish green, white, or yellowish brown.  The 5 lobes are oblong and imbricate (having regularly arranged, overlapping edges, as roof tiles).  Each of the 5 Stamens arise from the corolla throat.  The linear Filaments are shorter than the basifixed Anthers, which end abruptly in a short, sharp point – like an arrowhead.  The inferior Ovary has 2 locules (compartments) each containing several ovules.  The club shaped Stigma rests on an exserted Style.  (Nov-Dec).


The Fruit is a tiny capsule (a dry fruit resulting from the maturing of a compound ovary, which usually opens at maturity by one or more lines of dehiscence).  Many fruits are clustered together in hard, brown spherical heads.  The small Seeds are not winged.

Distribution & Ecology

This tropical tree occurs in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.  It is also found in Madagascar, Swaziland, northern central and extreme southern Mozambique and northwards into tropical Africa.  It is also found in Madagascar.  This plant is common along permanent riverbanks and in riverine-fringed forests up to an altitude of 2 000m.  Rameron pigeons consume the Fruit and aid with seed dispersal.  Game browse the Leaves.


The moderately dense Wood is hard, fine-grained, durable and termite resistant.  Cut wood has an oily smell.  It varies from yellow to brown and has black or flame-like markings.  Good furniture is manufactured from it but may be difficult to polish.  It is used for making canoes, hut and cattle-kraal building.  The Bark is used in local medicine.  It is also rich in tannins.  This plant Grows well from seeds but has invasive roots.  Keep plants away from buildings, including swimming pools.  The tree is frost sensitive and should be Planted in moist, well drained soils.


Boon, R. 2010. Pooley’s Trees of eastern South Africa. Flora and Fauna Publications Trust, Durban.

Burrows, J.E., Burrows, S.M., Lotter, M.C. & Schmidt, E. 2018. Trees and Shrubs Mozambique.  Publishing Print Matters (Pty) Ltd.  Noordhoek, Cape Town. 2018.

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.

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