Three small indigenous trees

Lees in Afrikaans

Gardens around the globe are shrinking in size, necessitating the planting of smaller trees and shrubs to maintain scale and proportion in the landscape. In the local garden scene indigenous flora is the order of the day, and many housing estates insist on a grow-local planting policy.

Here are three of our finest small indigenous trees for use in limited spaces. They’re all tough and resilient and can grow in a wide range of climatic conditions. Use them to add height and shade to even the tiniest of garden spaces. If they grow too large and become overpowering, regular pruning in early spring keeps them in check.

Pompon Tree (Dais cotinifolia)

One of the most beautiful of all the indigenous flowering trees, the Pompom Tree is either deciduous or evergreen, depending on the climatic conditions where it’s growing – they shed leaves in cold winter conditions.

The waxy leaves have a bluish sheen on the upper surface, making the tree quite distinctive in the landscape. In summer the neat, well-rounded trees are covered in pink flowers and are easily noticeable from afar. Individual flowers are tubular and held in terminal clusters.

The old flowers dry out and turn brown, often remaining on the tree for some period of time. The tree grows in a wide range of climatic conditions and adapts to both dry and well-watered regions.

False Olive (Buddleja saligna)

Widespread through much of our land, this quick-growing plant is possibly under-utilised. At a quick glance the lance-shaped leaves look for all intents and purposes like those of a Wild Olive tree. However, this Buddleja grows much faster and produces attractive white to cream flowers in spring and early summer.

Leaves are dark green on the upper surface and white or grey beneath. Tiny flowers are produced in rounded heads near the ends of the branches, and these are highly fragrant with a strong honey scent, attracting butterflies and other insects to the garden. Young trees need staking and pruning to develop an acceptable garden tree shape. Left untrained they can become a large, scraggly shrub.

Sweet Thorn (Vachellia karoo)

Formerly known as Acacia Karoo, this well-known thorn tree is widespread through much of the country. Highly variable in its natural habitat, the Sweet Thorn is a lovely small tree for the garden despite the thorns.

Cold and frost hardy as well as drought resistant, this is very much the grow-anywhere answer. A low-spreading deciduous to evergreen tree, depending on the climate, it has a typical African look about it. The leaves are small and fine, while the thorns are large and prominent. Golden-yellow flowers in ball shapes appear in summer, followed by bean-like seed pods. This is a good bird-attracting tree.

The Gardener