Combretum kraussii (Forest Bushwillow)
Plant image

A beautiful medium-sized to large, rounded tree that is even happy in the more shaded gardens. It grows rapidly and is reasonably cold resistant. Its range of seasonal features make this a good choice for the garden. In spring it bears white flowers and sometimes an unusual flush of white leaves, the red fruits of late summer are showy and in winter its leaves turn fiery red to plum purple.

Name & classification

Botanical name:
Combretum kraussii

Common names:
Forest Bushwillow (English)
Bosvaderlandswilg (Afrikaans)

Plant family:

Plant categories:

SA tree no:

Name derivation & history:
This species is named after Dr. F. Krauss of the Stuttgart Museum who made a collecting trip to South Africa in 1837-1840.



Leaf habit:
Evergreen to semi-deciduous (depending on conditions)

Exhibits interesting autumn leaf colour

Plant shape:
Medium-sized to large rounded crown.

Leaf description:
The leaves turn bright red to plum purple in winter, dropping just before flowering, which starts around August.

The leaves are opposite, simple, elliptic to obovate-elliptic up to 90 by 50mm. They are hairless, glossy dark green above and dull pale green below.

Some trees also have a showy flush of small white leaves in spring which later turn green.

Flower description:
The flowers are creamy-white and carried in dense heads.

Flower colour:
Creamy white

Flowering months:

Fruit description:
Four-winged fruit are carried in clusters. The fruit are small, light to dark red turning brownish red when dry.

Wood description:
The wood is tough and yellowish in colour.

The sawdust can cause skin irritation.


Natural distribution:
Found from the coast to the midlands in the eastern regions of South Africa and neighbouring Swaziland.

The habitat ranges from rocky hillsides at altitudes from almost sea level up to 1 200 metres. It grows anywhere from evergreen forest or forest margins to dense woodland.

Water requirements:
Waterwise (little water required)

Frost tolerance:
Hardy only when mature

Light conditions:
Sun; semi-shade; shade

Other Characteristics

Drought resistant

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:
Combretums are pollinated by various kinds of insects, including bees. They have adapted to wind dispersal by developing a wing-like fruit structure that can carry the seed with the help of air currents or wind.

Some animals are known to eat Combretum fruit and also help with the seed dispersal.
Attracts insects

Other information

Uses & Cultural aspects:
The young stems are pliable and used in basket-making.

The wood is tough and yellowish in colour (sawdust can cause skin irritation).

Certain parts from the tree are used to produce antidiuretics, lotions for eye infections, as well as antiseptics.

Combretum kraussii grows easily and quickly from seed. Fruit can be harvested, since it is produced in fair quantities and is usually not unduly parasitized. If fruit is collected for cultivation purposes it should be checked for parasites. Indications of parasites being present are small circular holes in the body or a gummy excrescence. Fruit should be stored in a dry place. It is a good idea to take the seed out of the fruit covering and soak it for an hour or so before sowing. Sow the seeds at a depth of 3-5 mm below the surface in a well-drained medium. The first seedlings appear 9 to17 days after sowing. All seeds should have germinated after 15 to 29 days.

Protect seedlings from too much moisture - check that the soil drains well. Shelter seedlings from severe heat and cold for at least the first year. This is a fast-growing tree and can reach 1.7 m after two summers.

This tree is reasonably drought resistant. Water seedlings every 3-4 days in summer and every 7-10 days in winter.

Pests & diseases:
Although parasitism on this species is low, the following general Combretum pests can cause problems: aphids might attack plants in summer; cutworms can cause damage to seedlings planted in outside seedbeds; red spider mites may attack plants, especially if they do not get enough sun.

South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa.
Photo Guide to Trees of Southern Africa; Braam van Wyk, Piet van Wyk, Ben-Erik van Wyk; Briza Publications (2008).

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