Heteropyxis natalensis (Lavender Tree)
Plant image

The Lavender tree is a small to medium tree, usually multi-stemmed, with a rounded crown and drooping foliage with reddish autumn colour. The local genus, Heteropyxis, is characterized by alternate, entire, simple leaves with secretory cavities that emit a pleasant smell when crushed.

Name & classification

Botanical name:
Heteropyxis natalensis

Common names:
Lavender Tree (English); Laventelboom (Afrikaans); iNkunzi (isiZulu)

Heteropyxis dehiniae

Plant family:

Plant categories:

SA tree no:
Zimbabwe tree no:

Name derivation & history:
The genus name of this plant (Heteropyxis) is made up of two words. Hetero is a Greek word meaning 'different' and pyxis is a Latin word meaning 'the container with the lid'. This refers to the capsule (a fruit) that is sometimes called the pyxidium, because it looks like it has a lid. The species name natalensis refers to its place of origin, KwaZulu-Natal.



Leaf habit:
Semi-deciduous to deciduous (depending on conditions)

7 metres

Exhibits interesting autumn leaf colour

Plant shape:
Lavender trees are usually multi-stemmed with rounded crowns

Leaf description:
The lavender tree has drooping foliage. The leaves are narrowly elliptic and are arranged spirally. They are shiny dark green above and paler green below, slightly hairy to hairless when mature. When crushed they produce a strong lavender scent. The leaf petiole is slender and pink over the lower half.

Flower description:
The yellowish-green flowers appear in summer. They are very small, about 3mm in diameter, and are borne in branched terminal clusters. They are sweetly scented.

Flower colour:

Flowering months:
December to March

Flower scent:
Sweetly scented

Fruit description:
The fruit is a small oval capsule that is up to 4 x 2.5mm. Its colour is shiny brown and it bears numerous seeds. When ready, it splits into 2 to 3 valves releasing the seeds, after which the old capsules may remain on the tree for months.

Bark or stem description:
The main stem is crooked and sometimes fluted. The bark is distinctively pale grey, often almost white and is flaking on the old stem.


Natural distribution:
Mainly KwaZulu-Natal Province, however it is also found growing in Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Bushveld and along forest margins

Water requirements:
Waterwise (little water required)

Frost tolerance:

Light conditions:
Sun; semi-shade

Other Characteristics

Drought resistant
Has non-aggressive roots

Edibility & Toxicity

We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is edible
We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is toxic, however we urge caution as this information may be incorrect.


Interaction with physical surroundings:
Bark and leaves are browsed by black rhino.

The flowers attract bees, wasps and butterflies.
Attracts insects
Attracts mammals

Other information

Uses & Cultural aspects:
Leaves are also used in herbal tea and potpourri.

The wood is hard, very fine grained and is pale pinkish brown in colour. It is suitable for use as fencing posts and charcoal.

The leaves and roots of this plant are used medicinally and to treat worms in stock.

African healers prescribe inhaling the steam from a decoction of the roots to heal a bleeding nose.

The roots are also used in the treatment of mental disorders and fresh leaves are used during weaning.

The leaves are also used to scent tobacco.

The lavender tree can be grown from seeds. They germinate easily and the young plants are relatively quick growing. Sow the seeds in well-drained moist soil and cover them with a thin layer of compost. Make sure they are kept in a warm area as this promotes rapid germination. This plant can also be propagated by cuttings, although the success rate using this method is very low. Fresh cuttings may be taken and rooted in pure sand. Rooting hormone may be used to help promote rooting.

Heteropyxis natalensis is a very decorative tree for small gardens. With its glossy green leaves and a whitish stem, it makes a very good focal point. The leaves develop rich red autumn colours, adding to the tree's attractiveness.

Similar species:
Heteropyxis canescens (rare species from a small area in Mpumalanga and Swaziland).

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