General Info

Tree is up to 5m high. Decussate Leaves are slender, elliptic to lanceolate + entire margins. Flowers bisexual, actinomorphic & 4-merous, long corolla lobe & exserted anthers + style. Fruit a drupe + persistent calyx.


Pavetta lanceolata, Pavetta tristis, Pavetta inandensis, Pavetta alexandrae, Pavetta opaca, Ixora lanceolate.

RSA Tree No. 718.1.

Common names: Weeping Bride’s Bush, Treurbruidsbos, Christmas Bush, Christmas Tree.

Family: Rubiaceae. (Coffee family). 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 Vangueria. Leaves 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: Pavetta – either after Pavetta indica in India or a name of the genus in Sri Lanka. lanceolate: refers to the lance shaped leaves. There are about 21 species of the genus Pavetta in the RSA and all are restricted to summer rainfall areas.

Conservation Status: L C. (Least Concern). 2009.


This Tree may reach 5m+ high and has a crown of glossy-green leaves. It can also develop as a shrub. The Trunk is much branched and up to 23cm in diameter. Branches are, at least initially, in opposite pairs – at right angles to next pair.  The light brown to grey Bark is initially smooth and becomes slightly longitudinally fissured.


On this this evergreen tree the Leaves are 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). Individual leaves are simple, slender and elliptic to lanceolate and may be slightly leathery. They measure up to 10 x 2cm. Leaves are hairless and not always glossy dark green above. The leaves are a dull green below. The 3-9 pairs of side veins are clearly visible on both sides. Domatia (hair-tuft domatia – a tiny chamber produced by plants that house arthropods. To the naked eye the domatia appear as small bumps) are often present in the axils of main veins. The Apex and Base are both narrowly tapering. Margins are entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented but may be hairy). They may be rolled under and slightly wavy. The short Petiole (leaf stalk) is up to 0,6cm long. Stipules (basal appendages of the petiole) are present and interpetiolar (between the leaf petioles). Crushed Leaves have a spicy smell.


The bright white, tubular Flowers are up to 1,9cm long.  They are bisexual, actinomorphic (regular, symmetrical.  Perianth, the calyx and corolla, are divisible into 2 or more identical sectors) and grouped towards the ends of branchlets.  A pair of leafy Bracts subtends each flower.  The 4 Calyx lobes are reduced to short tips.  The Corolla has an impressive tube that is longer than its lobes and often has a greenish base, which becomes whiter closer to the lobes.  The 4 white Petal lobes are up to 1cm in length and move out from the corolla mouth at nearly 90 degrees.  They are green-tipped before opening.  There are 4 grey rather dirty looking Stamens, each about as long as the petal lobes.  They arise in the corolla mouth and tend to fold down between and then around the bases of these lobes.  The Filaments are shorter than the linear to oblong Anthers and these may become twisted.  The inferior Ovary is 2-chambered and ends in a long, clearly visible, substantially protruding Style which is longer than the corolla tube.  This in turns ends in a hairy, relatively long, green-tipped Stigma (photo 141).  Pollination agents are birds, bees, wasps, ants and hawk moths in the family Sphingidae. (Nov-Jan).


The one or 2 seeded Fruit is a slightly fleshy Drupe (fleshy, 1-seeded indehiscent fruits with the seed enclosed in a stony endocarp; stone fruit e.g. peach) that occurs in dense clusters. The fruit is almost spherical and up to 7mm in diameter. Initially green, it become black and finally shrivels (photo 302). The remains of a persistent calyx are visible on the end of the fruit (photo 932). (Mar-Jul). Usually only one Seed is produced.

Distribution & Ecology

These Plants occur in forest margins in high rainfall areas, rocky hillsides, coastal as well as bushveld. They occur in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape from Port Elizabeth northwards. These plants also occur in southern Mozambique. Flowers attract bees, wasps and ants. Birds consume the Fruit and aid in seed dispersal. The Nectar also attracts birds – including collard sunbirds.


The white Wood is hard and dense but small. Leaves are edible and taste like watercress. Seeds are removable from fruit and germinate quite easily. Seedlings are collectable from the base of the plant. Young plants require watering and they do best in a sunny protected area.


Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa, edn 3. Struik, Cape Town.

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.