General Info

Tree may reach 10m high. Leaves are glossy, leathery and simple. 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. The family has in excess of 600 genera and about 13 000 species and members include trees, shrubs and herbs. Genera include Afrocanthium, Coddia, coffee, 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.

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


The glossy, leathery Leaves 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. Leaves develop near the ends of branches and are up to 10 x 4cm. The tree is evergreen and when leaves drop off they leave a leaf scar. The Blade is elliptic or slightly lanceolate, dark green above and paler 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. Even without a hand lens, the small bumps are clearly visible (photo 577). They occur as surface swellings in the vein axils. The leaf Margin is waxy, entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented but may be hairy) and may be slightly wavy. The Apex is tapering, 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.


Flowers are large, sessile (stalkless) and solitary. Even when dried the flowers remain sweetly scented. Flowers are bisexual, actinomorphic (regular, symmetrical – the Perianth, calyx and corolla, can be divided into 3 or more identical sectors), up to 8cm long and 7cm wide. 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. White Hairs are visible near the inner base of the tube (partly dissected: photo 828). There are 5 Stamens which 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 extends about 2cm beyond the mouth of the tube. The Stigma has a short bilobed apex. (Dec-Mar).


Fruit is almost spherical and about 7cm in diameter. It is green, ribbed and leathery. 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

Trees are slightly cold and drought resistant. Location. They are found in most forests up to an altitude of 1 900m. These trees are found 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 Wood is pale grey, hard and strong and 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.