General Info

Tree up to 6m+ high has tough branches. Reddish under-bark is visible on the trunk. Obovate, simple Leaves are up to 10 x 5cm. Whitish regular Flowers in spikes, lack petals. Fruit: a 1 Seeded winged samara.



Terminalia phanerophlebia.

RSA Tree No. 549.

Common names: Lebombo Cluster-leaf.

Family: Combretaceae (Bushwlillow family). In this family, there are about 16 genera, which contain about 530 species. In the RSA, there are 5 genera and 41 species. The RSA genera with trees are Combretum, Lumnitzera, Pteleopsis and Terminalia. The simple and usually entire Leaves lack stipules. Flowers are usually bisexual. There are usually twice the number of stamens as sepals or petals. The inferior ovary has 1 locule and usually only 1 of the ovules develops into a seed. Fruit is usually indehiscent and may be winged or ridged.

Name derivation: Terminalia – crowded towards the ends of branches – referring to the leaves. phanerophlebia – distinctly veined – referring to the lower side of the leaves. There are about 7 species of this genus in the RSA.

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

This Tree may reach 6m+ high and the trunk is up to 30cm in diameter. The tree is cone shaped or flat-topped. It may also be multi-stemmed. The Bark in shiny purple-brown twigs (1-year-old current branch segments) peels off in small rings. On the trunk, the bark may become rough, dark grey to black and ridged. Between ridges, the reddish under-bark may be visible (photo 749). The Branches do not break easily. They tend to be high up and in horizontal layers. Scales, spines and microscopic stalked glands are absent.


The tree may be evergreen or semi deciduous. The Leaves are broadly obovate (the reverse of ovate, the terminal half is broader than the basal) and tend to be scattered but are usually close to the branch ends. Leaves are simple (has a single blade which may have incisions that are not deep enough to divide the blade into leaflets) and up to 10 x 5cm. Young leaves are hairy. The wavy Margin is entire or slightly scalloped towards the apex. The Apex may be pointed, round or notched and may end with an abrupt point. The Base narrows is leathery and a lighter green below. 4-7 pairs of conspicuous raised Veins are visible on the lower surface. They are sunken on the upper surface. The purplish to brown Petiole (leaf stalk) may be grooved on the upper side and is up to 4cm long.


The white to cream, strongly unpleasantly scented Flowers are small, and borne in long axillary Spikes (simple indeterminate inflorescence with sessile flowers on a single unbranched stalk). Petals are absent. The upper flowers are male and the lower flowers are bisexual – both in the same inflorescence. The Disc (a more or less fleshy or elevated development of the receptacle) is hairy and ends with the sepals. The Male flowers have stalks, which resemble pedicels but correspond to the lower receptacle with abortion of the ovary. The receptacle expands into a shallow cup, ending in a hairy Calyx with 5 lobed sepals. The 10 Stamens protrude beyond the sepals and their filaments attached to one end of the Anther, which opens forming a V-shape. In the sessile Bisexual flower, 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 single locular Ovary is inferior. The single Style is free. (Oct-Feb).


Fruit is a Samara (indehiscent, winged fruit). It has a surrounding flat hard wing with a raised central part containing the single Seed. The fruit is greenish-yellow to pink, with short hairs and is up to 4 x 3 cm. It may turn reddish brown when mature. (Jan-Sep).

Distribution & Ecology

This tree is found in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Swaziland and Mozambique. It grows on stony hillsides, valley bushveld and close to streams. Elephant browse Leaves.


The Wood is relatively dense, hard and has a coarse grain. Seeds from cultivated trees apparently grow best. Crude extracts from Terminalia phanerophlebia have good antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities.


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.