General Info

Tree up to 5m high and lacks milky sap. Olive-green Leaves are simple.  The small, hairless, regular Flowers are dioecious and occur in racemes. Fruit is a berry usually with 1 Seed.



Euclea linearis, Euclea crispa (once considered a subspecies), Euclea eylesii.

RSA Tree No. 596.

Common names: Smalblaar gwarri, Asbestos bush.

Family:  Ebenaceae (persimmon and ebony family). The latter is known for its useful wood. There are more than 700 species, in 4 genera, worldwide. The 2 genera that occur in South Africa are Euclea and Diospyros. The simple, coriaceous and entire Leaves are usually alternate and lack stipules. The usually unisexual and regular Flowers have a persistent calyx that is often divided to near the base and the corolla usually has a short tube. The basifixed Anthers are longer than the filaments. The superior Ovary has up to 2 ovules in each locule. The Styles may have 2-5 branches. Fruit is a berry, which may slowly dehisce. Young fruit contains tannins – avoided by animals.

Name derivation: Euclea – good fame: referring to the ebony like wood in some species. linearis linear – of very narrow leaves.

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


The Tree is a suffrutex (low-growing woody shrub or perennial with a woody base). It is often a much-branched shrub. However, single stemmed trees do occur and may reach 5m high. The Bark is grey. The branches are light grey and generally narrow. Branchlets may be reddish brown. They are hard and may be slightly curved. No milky sap is present.


On this evergreen plant the hairless, olive green to yellowish green, simple Leaves are very thin. They are up to 80 x 5mm. They may be opposite or nearly so, or alternate. The Apex tapers abruptly or is round. It may have a hair-like tip. The Base tapers and runs down the petiole (leaf stalk). The Margins are entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented), not wavy and may be sickle-shaped. The Veins are inconspicuous. The Petiole is very short – about 1mm long. Stipules (basal appendages of the petiole) are absent.


The small, creamy and hairless Flowers are and situated in leaf axils. They are in short Racemes (simple elongated inflorescences with stalked flowers that open in succession towards the apex). Flowers are dioecious (having male and female parts on separate plants) and actinomorphic (regular, symmetrical. The perianth, the calyx and corolla, are divisible into 3 or more identical sectors). Flowers are gamosepalous (a calyx whose sepals are partly united) at least at the base. The Corolla is united and is removable as a single piece). The Stamens have Anthers, which dehisce through longitudinal slits and are longer than the Filaments. There is a single Pistil (a unit of the Gynoecium, the female element of the flower, composed of the Ovary, Style and Stigma) and the Ovary is superior and may have a single, pendulous ovule in each locule. (Aug-Dec).


The thinly fleshy, edible and black or purple when mature Fruit is a Berry (pulpy, indehiscent fruit like a grape or tomato). These berries are in short racemes and may have a few bristles attached. The fruit is up to 8mm in diameter. The fruit usually contains 1 Seed, which has curved grooves. (Feb-Jun).

Distribution & Ecology

Trees are found in the Western Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Zimbabwe. This suffrutex (low-growing woody shrub or perennial with a woody base) is located in several isolated and widespread areas. Trees are found in scrub, dry bushveld and rocky ridges. They may occur in heavy mineralized soils. The roots and leaves are able to accumulate high levels of Iron and Aluminium.


The fruit is edible.


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.