General Info

Tree is up to 10m high. Simple Leaves broadly elliptic, light green. Many tiny, bisexual, actinomorphic, 4-merous Flowers are in panicles. Fruit: small, ovoid, brown hairy Capsule releasing tiny wind dispersed Seeds.


Nuxia floribunda, Nuxia dentate, Nuxia schlechten, Lachnopylis floribunda.

RSA Tree No. 634.

Common names: Forest Elder, Forest Nuxia, Water Nuxia, Water Elder, Watervlier, White Elder, Wild-Elder, Kite Tree, Wild Peach, Bosvlier.

Family: Stilbaceae family – was Scrophulariaceae but moved after molecular studies. The 12 genera in this family include Anastrabe, Bowkeria, Halleria, and Nuxia and there are nearly 150 species. Members of this family have simple and entire Leaves that lack stipules. Non-stellate hairs are present. Flowers are bisexual and zygomorphic and the corolla is funnel-shaped. The Stamens are epipetalous and the superior Ovary has 2 locules each with 1 ovule.

Name derivation: Nuxia named after M. de la Nux a French botanist on Reunion Island. floribunda – many flowers. There are 5 species of the genus Nuxia in the southern Africa.

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


With its rounded canopy, the Tree is usually from 3-10m high but may reach 25m . Trunk is up to 60cm wide and may be twisted or crooked especially in smaller trees. The Crown may be large and rounded. The stringy, fibrous Bark is pale grey to grey-brown, initially smooth, becoming roughish and becomes slightly fissured when older. Long flaking strips may be visible. Twigs (1-year-old current branch segments) are angular to squarish and finely hairy. They are initially purplish, and marked with raised leaf scars. Nodes (joint from where the leaves may arise) are slightly swollen.


On this evergreen tree, the soft Leaves are simple (have a single blade which may have incisions that are not deep enough to divide the leaf into leaflets). They occur in whorls of 3 or are occasionally opposite. Leaves tend to droop, are broadly elliptic and up to 18 x 7cm – usually smaller. Leaves are light glossy green above and even lighter below. This makes them distinguishable from the other darker leafed forest trees. Leaves may be hairy.  New growth on leaves is slightly purple. The raised Midrib is noticeable – especially on the lower surface. It may be red or purplish in young leaves. The Apex and Base both taper. The Margin is usually entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented) and may be wavy (photo 621). It may be slightly toothed – especially on coppice (young tree stems are repeatedly cut/burned down to near ground level. This may cause regrowth from the stump or roots) leaves. Seedling leaves are toothed. The Petiole (leaf stalk) is long and slender up to 4,5cm.


Collectively the very small Flowers are most impressive. Use of a hand lens is suggested for closer examination. Flowers are less than 4mm long and 2mm wide but produced in large numbers in much branches Panicles (indeterminate, branched inflorescence with stalked flowers) which are up to 30cm long. Individual flowers are bisexual and actinomorphic (regular, symmetrical. Perianth, the calyx and corolla, is divisible into 3 or more identical sectors). They are located near the ends of branches and in leaf axils. The buds may be sticky. The Calyx has 4 Sepals that are erect, yellow, tubular and lined with hairs. The Corolla is joined at the base to form a tube. It is creamy and only its 4 white Petal lobes extend beyond the calyx. As they emerge, the lobes curl over and hang down the calyx with the apex bending slightly away. The 4 Stamens arise between the corolla lobes, close to the throat of the corolla tube. The stamens distinctively protrude outwards and away from the flower centre. The free straight Filaments have exserted Anthers with confluent Theca (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 superior Ovary is composed of 2 fused carpels (female reproductive structure that encloses the ovule/s). The ovary with many ovules narrows into a Style with a protruding Stigma that may appear after the stamens. (Mar-Oct). The flower is possibly self and bee pollinated.


The ovoid, brown and hairy Fruit is an Capsule (a dry fruit resulting from the maturing of a compound ovary with more than 1 carpel) about 4mm long. It protrudes beyond the persistent Calyx. The capsule splits at the apex. Many tiny, wind dispersed seeds are produced from each capsule. (Jun-Oct). Old capsules persist on the tree.

Distribution & Ecology

Trees are located in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape (e.g. Baviaanskloof also in Knysna Forest), KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo. They are also found in Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. These plants are common in forests and forest margins. Flowers are similar to those in Schefflera umbelliferae. Nuxia floribunda is drought and cold sensitive therefore not found in cold, dry regions.


The Roots are non-aggressive. Wood is pale yellowish to white, hard, close grained and dense. Timber is used for fence posts and general carpentry. Bark is rich in tannins. Best flowering often occurs every 2 years. Game and livestock graze the Leaves. Propagation is from seeds or cuttings. This reasonably fast growing plant is sensitive to heavy frost. Young plants are susceptible to Fungal attack. It is a good honey tree.


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.