General Info

This Tree may reach 10m high. Leaves are glossy, leathery and simple. Impressive, large, solitary Flowers are actinomorphic. Fruit apex has the remains of the persistent calyx. Many flat, smooth Seeds form.


Rothmannia capensis, Gardenia capensis, Randia bellatula, Gardenia rothmannia.

RSA Tree No. 693.

Common names: Cape Gardenia, Common Rothmannia, Wild Gardenia, Aapkos, Aapsekos, Bergkatjiepiering, Bobbejaanappel, Candlewood.

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: Rothmannia: named after Dr Georgius Rothman (1739-1778) Swedish botanist, physician, translator and pupil of Linnaeus. capensis: of the Cape. The genus Rothmannia has 3 species in the RSA.

Conservation Status: LC (least concern). 2009.


This sturdy, stocky Tree with its small Crown is usually up to 10m high but may reach 25m in a forest. The slender trunk has Bark that is initially smooth and somewhat pale, grey-brown and darkish. With aging, bark becomes rough and finely cracked by horizontal lines into segments. Branches are erect and spineless.


The glossy, leathery Leaves on this evergreen tree develop near the ends of branches and are up to 10 x 4cm. They are simple (have a single blade which may have incisions that are not deep enough to divide the blade into leaflets). Although they are usually opposite, a third leaf may also be present. When leaves do fall, they leave a leaf scar. The Blade is elliptic or slightly lanceolate, dark green above and a lighter green below. Leaves are velvety and light green when young but become hairless as they age (a human trait?). Distinct raised pockets with Domatia (hair-tuft domatia – a tiny chamber produced by plants that house arthropods) are present. They occur as surface swellings in the vein axils. Even without a hand lens, their small bumps are clearly visible (photo 577). The waxy and possibly slightly wavy leaf Margin is entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented but may be hairy). The Apex tapers, is sharp pointed or rounded. The Base tapers. The Petiole (leaf stalk) is short – up to 0,5cm or it is absent. Stipules (basal appendages of the petiole) are ovate and hairy inside.


The large (up to 8cm long and 7cm wide), sessile (stalkless) and solitary Flowers are sweetly scented. Even dried the flowers retain the sweet scent. Flowers are bisexual and actinomorphic (Regular, symmetrical. The Perianth – calyx and corolla, can be divided into 3 or more identical sectors). They occur singly, in leaf axils, towards the ends of branches. The Calyx tube ends in vertical thin lobes that may not adhere to part of the lower corolla tube. This Corolla tube is funnel-shaped and not cylindrical as in Gardenia. This tube ends with no more than 5 Lobes which are spreading and pointed at the ends. They are white to cream coloured with maroon streaks and speckles in the inside of the corolla tube (photo 225). White Hairs are visible near the inner base of the tube (partly dissected: photo 828). The 5 Stamens arise from the corolla mouth and alternate with the corolla lobes. Mature Anthers are linear, sessile and curl outwards between the corolla lobes. The Disc (a more or less fleshy or elevated development of the receptacle) is enlarged. 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 inferior Ovary is 2-chambered – not 1 as in Gardenia. It has many Ovules. There a single, hairless Style that extends about 2cm beyond the mouth of the tube. The Stigma has a short bilobed apex. A Pollen presenter is present. Although situated on the tip of the style, its function to aid cross-fertilization. (Dec-Mar).


The green, ribbed, leathery and almost spherical Fruit is about 7cm in diameter. At the end of each fruit, the remains of a persistent Calyx may be visible. The hard, plain green, shiny fruits become soft when mature. Imbedded in the solid mass of pulpy placental tissue are many flat, smooth seeds. (Jan-Aug+).

Distribution & Ecology

The trees are slightly cold and drought resistant. Location. They are found in most forests up to an altitude of 1 900m. These trees are located in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, through KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng (Common in Johannesburg and Pretoria), North-West Province, Waterberg and Soutpansberg, Limpopo, Swaziland and Botswana. Monkeys and baboons consume the Fruit. Bushpigs and bushbuck consume fallen fruit. Ripe fruit also attracts fruit eating birds.


The pale grey, hard and strong Wood is used for house-hole implements, instrument handles and for fuel. The Fruits are edible but not very tasty. Fruit juice stains blue. Roots are used in local medicine. Seeds germinate easily and trees have a non-aggressive root system. They grow well in full sun or partial shade at a rate of a little over 0,5m per year.


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.