General Info

This large, evergreen Tree has a straight trunk with a thin bark. Simple, translucent Leaves lack stipules. Small dioecious Flowers in panicles. Edible Fruit is a berry with a single Seed.


Euclea natalensis natalensis, Euclea ochrocarpa, Euclea lanceolate, Euclea multiflora.

RSA Tree No. 597.

Common names: Natal Guarri, Large-leaved Guarri, Hairy Guarri, Harige Ghwarrie, Berghhwarrie.

Family: Ebenaceae (Ebony Family – known for its useful wood). There are more than 700 species, in 4 genera, worldwide. 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. 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. In South Africa, there are 2 genera – Euclea and Diospyros.

Name derivation: Euclea – Greek: good fame: referring to the high quality of the wood in some species. natalensis – from Natal – now KwaZulu-Natal.

Conservation Status: L C. (Least concern). Assessment Date: 2009.


This evergreen Tree is a large and up to 10+m high. The usually straight Trunk has a diameter up to 46cm and has spreading branches. It may also be a multi-stemmed shrub. Young branches are thin, crooked and initially have rusty coloured hairs. The spreading crown is dark and up to 10m wide. The thin Bark is grey to dark grey or black. It may be smooth to cracking and rough. Milky sap is not present.


The simple, alternate or nearly so, or spiralled arranged Leaves have a variable shape, which is elliptic, obovate or oblong. Leaves are coriaceous (of a leathery nature) and usually broader in the upper half. The leaf is up to 13 x 5cm. Leaves may be hairy even red – especially on the lower side in young leaves. The dark green leaf Blade is stiff but when viewed against a strong light the leaves are translucent. Here veins are white and hairs are visible on the margin and petiole (photo 92M). The Upper surface is usually dark olive green and shiny. It may be hairy. Here the Midrib and lateral veins are visible. The Lower surface is a lighter green – particularly when young and is hairy and the veins appear more reticulate (net like). Young leaves are a much lighter green and may have silvery hairs. Here a hand lens will help. The yellowish-white Midrib and the lateral veins are raised on both sides but more visible above. The broadly tapering to rounded Apex may have a pointed tip. The Base is tapering. The thickened Margins are entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented), often wavy and may be rolled under. Petiole (leaf stalk) is up to 1cm long and may be hairy. Stipules (basal appendages of the petiole) are absent.


The small, bell-shaped and sweet-scented Flowers are greenish white, cream or yellow and are dioecious (male and female flowers on separate trees). Flowers are actinomorphic (regular, symmetrical. The Perianth, the calyx and corolla, is divisible into 3 or more identical sectors). Flowers are borne in leaf axils and in Panicles (indeterminate, branched inflorescence with stalked flowers) up to 4cm wide. The Calyx is hairy and has 4 or 5 lobes which are persistent but do not enlarge. The hairy Corolla is gamopetalous (has united joined petals – at least at the base) and has from 4-8 lobes. Male flowers have 16 Stamens and the anthers are longer than the filaments. Also present is a small sterile ovary. The Female flowers lack both stamens and staminodes. They have a single Pistil (a unit of the Gynoecium, the female element of the flower, composed of the Ovary, Style and Stigma). The superior Ovary rests on a fimbriate (having a border of hair-like or finger-like projections), somewhat fleshy Disc (a more or less fleshy or elevated development of the receptacle). All parts, except the petals, are covered with dense rusty woolly hairs. (May-Nov).


The almost hairless, edible, spherical Fruit is a Berry (a pulpy, indehiscent fruit like a grape or tomato) that is about 1cm in diameter. As it matures the thinly fleshy fruit changes colour from green to either red or black. It is usually single seeded. (Nov-Aug).

Distribution & Ecology

These Trees occur in all provinces in the RSA and are especially noticeable along the coast in KwaZulu-Natal. They extend from the Western Cape (Clanwilliam – about 200km north of Cape Town). These trees also occur in Swaziland, Mozambique and Northwards – up the east coast into tropical Africa. The tree thrives under conditions varying from dune bush, where it is common to arid and rocky areas where it grows to less than 1m high. The tree also occurs in swamps, but it is in the forests, where it can reach its maximum height. The trees may also be found in forest margins up to an altitude of 1 200m. This tree hybridises with other Euclea species. Birds, monkeys and baboons eat the Fruit. The pollinating agents are Bees.


The white Wood is tinged with brown. It is hard, relatively dense and may have dark patches. A black Dye is extractable from boiled Roots. Fruit is edible. The plant is frost sensitive when young and plants can be grown from cuttings or seeds. Research shows that plant extracts used traditionally for the prevention and treatment of oral problems. These extracts can also be used to reduce dentin hypersensitivity. Twigs (1-year-old current branch segments) are used as toothbrushes. Tests have shown that extracts from this plant are significantly effective against Phytophthora sp. This is a fungus that can damage crops.


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.