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Combretum apiculatum

Combretum apiculatum is a species of tree in the family Combretaceae known by the common name red bushwillow. It is native to the mesic to semi-arid savanna regions of Africa, southwards of the equator.

Red bushwillow
Combretum apiculatum, habitus, Steenbokpan, b.jpg
Nominate subsp. in Limpopo, South Africa
Combretum apiculatum, loof en vrugte, Phakama, a.jpg
Fruit and foliage, Limpopo
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Myrtales
Family: Combretaceae
Genus: Combretum
C. apiculatum
Binomial name
Combretum apiculatum



This is a semi-deciduous tree growing up to 10 meters tall, or sometimes a shrub remaining shorter. It has rough gray-black bark with fissures, and the smaller branches may be woolly in texture. The oppositely arranged leaves are up to 11[1] to 13[2] centimeters long. They are hairless or hairy. The tip of the leaf tapers abruptly to a twisted point.[1][2] The foliage turns reddish or golden in the fall.[3] The spike inflorescences emerge between the leaves and are up to 7 centimeters long. They bear yellow or greenish flowers with tiny sepals and petals, and with style and stamens about half a centimeter long.[2] The flowers have a strong scent.[3] The reddish, winged fruit is 2 or 3 centimeters long.[1][2]


There are two subspecies, the southern ssp. apiculatum, and ssp. leutweinii, which occurs from Namibia to Malawi and northwards, which is differentiated by its more hirsute leaves.[3]

Range and habitatEdit

It occurs in South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe,[1] southern Angola, Zambia, Malawi, southeastern DRC, Tanzania and southern Kenya.[4]

This tree occurs in various ecosystems in southern Africa. It is the dominant tree on the savanna in many areas,[5][6] including regions characterized as lowveld and mopane savanna. It grows alongside other woody vegetation such as common hook thorn (Acacia caffra), sicklebush (Dichrostachys cinerea), large sourplum (Ximenia caffra), livelong (Lannea discolor), white seringa (Kirkia acuminata), and marula (Sclerocarya caffra).[5]

Utilization by game and livestockEdit

Many animals use the tree, especially for food. Kudu, bushbuck, elands, giraffes, and elephants browse the leaves.[3] Eland are so attracted to the tree that they can do damage to it with their feeding.[7] The brown-headed parrot eats the seeds.[1]

Cattle also eat the leaves. The fruits are hazardous to livestock, however, because they are toxic.[3] The foliage can be fed to goats as a supplemental fodder.[8]

Human useEdit

C. apiculatum logs, showing dark heartwood and pale sapwood
C. apiculatum fruit, a winged achene containing one seed

This tree has dense (1.15),[9] fine-grained, strong, dark brown to black heartwood, sometimes used as firewood or for making charcoal.[1] It is hard, and termite-resistant.[3] The tree responds well to coppicing, growing back with plentiful foliage.[10] The bark has been used in leather tanning.[3] Medicinal uses for the species include the treatment of conjunctivitis and stomach ailments.[1][3] It contains a number of antioxidant compounds, such as cardamonin, pinocembrin, quercetin, and kaempferol.[11] It is an appropriate garden tree, as it is tolerant of frost and drought and provides shade.[3]

Vernacular namesEdit

Common names for the tree in other languages include rooiboswilg (Afrikaans), umbondwe (Zulu), imbondvo (Swazi), mohwidiri (Tswana), mohwelere (Sepedi), muvuvha (Tshivenḓa), ndhuva (Tsonga),[3] rukweza (Shona), and omumbuti (Herero).[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Schmidt, E., et al. Trees and Shrubs of Mpumalanga and Kruger National Park. Jacana Media. 2002. pg. 456.
  2. ^ a b c d Combretum apiculatum. Flora Zambesiaca Volume 4 Part 0 (1978). Combretaceae by A. W. Exell. Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Masupa, T. and E. Rampho. Combretum apiculatum (Sond.) subsp. apiculatum., Pretoria National Herbarium, January, 2011.
  4. ^ "Combretum apiculatum Sond". Retrieved 2 June 2015.
  5. ^ a b Walker, B. H. A review of browse and its role in livestock production in southern Africa. In: Le Houérou, H. N., Ed. Browse in Africa: The Current State of Knowledge. International Symposium on Browse in Africa. Addis Ababa. April 8–12, 1980.
  6. ^ Bengtsson-Sjörs, K. (2006). Establishment and survival of woody seedlings in a semi-arid savanna in southern Botswana. Committee of Tropical Ecology, Uppsala University, Sweden.
  7. ^ Nyengera, Reason; Sebata, Allan (2010). "Effect of eland density and foraging on Combretum apiculatum physiognomy in a semi-arid savannah". African Journal of Ecology. 48 (1): 45–50. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2028.2009.01071.x.
  8. ^ Aganga, AA; Monyatsiwa, CB (1999). "Use of browses (Terminalia serecia, Combretum apiculatum or Euclea schimperi) as a supplement for growing Tswana goats". Tropical animal health and production. 31 (5): 295–305. doi:10.1023/A:1005203806867. PMID 10509422.
  9. ^ "African Wood Density Database". Retrieved 2017-08-04.
  10. ^ Smit, G N (2003). "The coppicing ability of Acacia erubescens and Combretum apiculatum subsp. apiculatum in response to cutting". African Journal of Range & Forage Science. 20 (1): 21–7. doi:10.2989/10220110309485794.
  11. ^ Aderogba, M.A.; Kgatle, D.T.; McGaw, L.J.; Eloff, J.N. (2012). "Isolation of antioxidant constituents from Combretum apiculatum subsp. Apiculatum". South African Journal of Botany. 79: 125–31. doi:10.1016/j.sajb.2011.10.004.
  12. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2012). CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants : common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC. p. 1071. ISBN 9781420080445.