Tree may reach 14m high. The simple, leathery, shiny Leaves are opposite. Small Flowers are bisexual and regular. Fruit: a small capsule with a persistent calyx, releasing winged Seeds.
RSA Tree No. 523.
Common names: Knoppieblaar, Wild Pride of India.
Family: Lythraceae (Pride of India and pomegranate family). These flowering plants currently include 32 genera and about 630 species. The Leave are simple and usually opposite. The bisexual, usually 4-merous, usually actinomorphic Flowers have crumpled petals in the bud that emerge wrinkled and overlapping. They are 4, 6 or 8-merous. There are usually twice the number of Stamens as petals. These stamens are usually in I or 2 whorls. Here the one whorl has longer stamens. The simple compound Pistil usually has 2-4 Carpels with many ovules. The Style and Stigma are simple. Fruit is usually a dry dehiscent capsule. The Seeds are flattened or winged.
Name derivation: Galpinia – named after Earnest Edward Galpin (1858-1941). He was a South African banker interested in botany. He discovered Galpinia transvaalica: the only species of the genus Galpinia in the RSA. transvaalica – of the old Transvaal.
Conservation Status: L C. (Least Concern). 2009 (Raimondo et al.).
The small Tree with a scant Crown is usually up to 6m but may reach 14m high. It may be a multi-stemmed Shrub. The pale grey and smooth Branches usually occur quite low-down The Bark is dark grey and ridged in more than one direction. Young branches occur low down and are 4-angled. They mature becoming pale and smooth.
The leathery, shiny and thickish Leaves are simple (have a single blade which may have incisions that are not deep enough to divide the blade into leaflets), opposite and decussate (opposite pairs of leaves have successive pairs at right angles to each other i.e. rotated 90 degrees along the stem when viewed from above). This is partly because of the square stems. Leaves are up to 9 x 4,5cm and oval or ovate (egg-shaped). Young leaves are reddish or copper coloured. The upper surface of the Blade is dark green and shiny but paler and dull below. There is a Gland on midrib just below the apex of the leaf (photo 560). The Apex may be sharply or bluntly pointed or round and notched and may be twisted at the end. The Base becomes slightly narrowed or rounded. The noticeably wavy Margin is entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented). The Petiole (leaf stalk) is thick and short: 3-4mm long or it is absent. Stipules (basal appendage of the petiole) are present but fall early in this largely evergreen tree. With a hand lens Pellucid (clear, almost transparent in transmitted light) dots are visible in young leaves. In early summer, some red leaves may become visible (photo 670).
The attractive faintly scented and bisexual Flowers are actinomorphic (regular, symmetrical. Perianth – calyx and corolla – are divisible into 3 or more identical sectors). Flowers occur in terminal or axillary Panicles (indeterminate, branched inflorescence with stalked flowers). Flowers are small – up to 1,3cm in diameter, short lived and occur in dense sprays in leaf axils at the ends of branches. The flowers are perigynous (having sepals, petals, and stamens around the edge of a cuplike receptacle – that expanded tip of the flower stalk from which the floral parts develop). Floral parts are in 5’s or 6’s. The Calyx is cup-shaped ending in ovate lobes that meet but do not overlap. The Corolla has impressive white crinkle Petals that alternate with the sepals. The eventually exserted (sticking out; projecting beyond, as stamens from a perianth) Stamens are opposite the petals and attached less than half way up the corolla tube. There are as many stamens as the corolla lobes. Filaments are usually unequal in length. Anthers are dorsifixed (attached by or at the back) and have 2 Thecae (pollen sacs). There is a single Pistil (a unit of the Gynoecium, the female element of the flower, composed of the Ovary, Style and Stigma). The 2 chambered superior Ovary contains many Ovules. The single Style is slightly shorter than the stamens (Dec-Apr).
The almost spherical Fruit is a Capsule (a dry fruit resulting from the maturing of a compound ovary – of more than one carpel – usually opening at maturity by one or more lines of dehiscence). It is very small – up to 5mm in diameter, red-brown and has a persistent calyx surrounding more than half of the fruit. The now thin, reddish and protruding remains of the styles are also visible. There are many flat Seeds that are winged along the whole margin – indicating the dispersal mechanism. (Feb-Jul).
Distribution & Ecology
The Trees occur naturally in Gauteng, Northern Kaw-Zulu Natal, Swaziland Mpumalanga, southern Limpopo, Zimbabwe and Mozambique including Inhaca Island. They often occur from medium to low altitudes – usually in rocky places in the bushveld (a sub-tropical woodland ecoregion of southern Africa) and scrub forest. The trees are drought resistant. Giraffe, Kudu and elephant, browse the tree. The flowers attract insects – including bees, flies, ants and beetles and, as a result, birds.
The hard Wood is moderately dense and pale brown to yellowish brown. It is used for turning on a lathe. This is an attractive tree with a good potential for the garden. It grows best in frost-free areas with summer rains. The Roots are non-aggressive. It is also used for bonsai. Domestic animals graze the Leaves.
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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.