Combretum zeyheri | Tree SA (2023)

This Tree is up to 15m high with a mottled stem. Simple, usually opposite Leaves have entire margins. Domatia may be present. The small,4-merous bisexual Flowers are greenish yellow and in spikes. Each has 8 exserted stamens and the pistil has 1 inferior ovary that produces a slender, thin style. Fruit is a 4-winged samara with a single seed. This plant hasthe largest fruit and leavesin the genus Combretum.

Combretum zeyheri

Previous Names: Combretum bragae, Combretum oblongum.

SA Tree No. 546.

Common names: (Afr) Blaasklapper, Fluisterboom, Kierie-klapper, Klapper, Klappers, Niklaasklapper, Nikolaas-klapper, Peulboom, Peulbos, Raasblaar, Raasbos, Raasklapper, Warmkos,Wurmhout. (Eng) Large-fruit Bushwillow, Large-fruited Bushwillow, Large-fruit Combretum, Zeyher’s Bushwillow. (siSwati) Immbondvo-lemhlophe, Imnbondvo-lemhlophe, Umbondo omhlophe. (Setswana) Modubana, Lesapo, Moduba-tshipi. (Northern Sotho) Moduba, Moduba-tshipi, Mokabi, Moluba. (Tshivenda) Mufhatela, Mufhatela-thundu. (isiZulu) Asembudwini, Umbondwe-asembudwini, Umbondwe mhlophe, Umbondwe wasembundwini. (Xitsonga), Mphuba, Mafamba-a-borile, Mafambaborile.

Family: Combretaceae (Bushwlillow family). In this family, there are about 16 genera, containing about 530 species. In South Africa, there are 5 genera and 41 species. Here the genera with Trees include Combretum, Lumnitzera, Pteleopsis andTerminalia. The simple and usually entire Leaves lack stipules. Flowers are usually bisexual, usually with 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 can be winged or ridged.

(Video) Fascinating Flora - Red Bushwillow Combretum apiculatum with James

Name derivation: Combretuma climbing plant named by Pliny (AD 61-113). zeyheri – the first collector of this plant was Carl Ludwig Zeyher (1799-1858) in Magaliesberg in 1835. He put together a descriptive account of some South African plants. Unfortunately, many of his collected specimens were lost.

Conservation: National Status: L C. (Least Concern). Assessed: 2005 (W. Foden and L. Potter).


The common bushveld Tree (photo 103) is graceful, spreading, and erect with a rounded crown. The plant may be single or multi-stemmed and can reach up to 15m high but is usually less than this. The possibly twisted trunk has a diameter of up to 38cm. The drooping (especially after fruit formation), light brown or grey Branches tend to be slender and occur low down on the trunk. The trunk may be reddish or light brown to grey. The hairyyoung Stems are fairly smooth and have whitish Bark that becomes rough, flaking and mottled with age (photo 98). Shed pieces of bark may reveal the reddish underbark (photo 98).

103 2015/03/17 Borakalola NP. Photo: David Becking.
98 2015/03/17 Borakalola NP. Photo: David Becking.


The large deciduousLeaves are simple (have a single blade, which may have incisions that are not deep enough to divide the blade into leaflets). They are usually opposite (photo 92), but on young branches they may appear in whorls of 3. Leaves tend to develop in cluster towards the ends of branches. The leaf Shape is elliptic, oblong or obovate. Most of the Hair present on young leaves is lost and apart from the main veins making the leathery adult leaves are almost hairless. Leaves may be the biggest of the indigenous Combretum genus range: (14)9x5 (10) cm and may have a yellow tinge. In autumn, the leaves turn a clear yellow and may remain on the tree until the emergence of new flowers. The Midrib and the 7-10 pairs of lateral veins and net veining are visible but are not deeply sunken above.Veins are clearly visible and slightly prominent below (photo 92). Here, hairy Domatia (occur in axils of principal side veins. To the naked eye, the domatia appear as small bumps. They are intended to be used by organisms that have a symbiotic relationship with the plant and are developed by plants to form a shelter for insects, fungi or mites) may be present. Domatia are visible if you carefully observe the upper side of the leaf (photo 95). Scales are present on the underside but are not visible to the naked eye. The bluntly pointed, rounded, flat or notched Apexmay bend slightly upwards (photo 95). TheBase is either narrowed or rounded. The Margin may be wavy and is entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented). The hairy Petiole (leaf stalk) has a slightly swollen base (photo 95) and is up to 1cm long.

92 2015/03/17 Borakalola NP. Photo: David Becking.

95 2015/03/17 Borakalola NP. Photo: David Becking.

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The densely arranged, small, and bisexual Flowersare in groups of axillary Spikes (simple indeterminate inflorescence with sessile flowers on a single unbranched stalk). These spikes are up to 8cm long and flowers usually appear before or with the new leaves. They are impressive when in profusion but may be unpleasantly scented (for us). Each flower iswhite to greenish-yellow with a red centre. Individual flowers have 4 Sepals in the Calyx. There are 4 Petals in the Corolla that are obovate to triangular and small – up to 2,5mm long. The 8 orange Anthers are dorsifixed andversatile (hung or attached near the middle, and usually moving freely). There is a single Pistil (a unit of the Gynoecium, the female element of the flower, composed of the Ovary, Style and Stigma). The pistil contains an inferior Ovary with a slender, free Style. (Sep-Nov).


The large, stiff and shiny Fruit is a samara (a dry, indehiscent winged fruit. The 4 wings are papery and develop from the ovary wall). The 4 papery wings are initially green and turn a light golden brown (photo 99) and finally dark brown (photo 371). This fruitis the Largest of the indigenous members of the Combretum genus – reaching up to 10 x 7cm and is diagnostic. Each fruit containsa single Seed (photo 369). Although they are individually of low density for dispersal, the fruit occurs in suchlarge numbers that they cause the branches to bend. The fruit makes an easy to hear rustling noise in the wind – especially in winter when the leaves have fallen. (Dec-Oct).

371 2018/04/24 Nylsvley NR. Photo: David Becking.

99 2015/03/17 Borakalola NP. Photo: David Becking.

Distribution & Ecology

These trees often grow on sand dunes, rocky hillsides and poor acidic soils. They occur naturally in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Mpumalanga e.g., western bank of Blyder River, Limpopo, and North West. They also occur in Swaziland, Mozambique (mainly central and north), Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and northwards), on stony hill slopes and at medium to low altitudes and in summer rainfall areas. The trees are drought resistant and considered to be an indication of “sour” and acid veld.They often grow with Combretum molle, Burkea africana and Vachellia (Acacia) robusta. The Flowers attract bees. Giraffe, may consume the Leaves. Hornbills break the fruit and eat the Seed. Butterfly larvae of the Apricot Playboy Deudorix dinochares feed on this Fruit and that of Acacia, Gardenia, Burkea africana and many others. The male wings are largely orange, and the female wings are a greenish yellow.


The Wood is yellowish-white and, like Celtis africana (white stinkwood), it may have an unpleasant smell when cut. When dry, the wood works well and is a good all-round timber, which is durable if thoroughly seasoned. The wood is used for making yokes (a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plough or cart that they are to pull). Necklaces for girl’s initiation are made from surface Roots. The fibrous roots are also used for making baskets and fishing traps. The roots are normally beige and are sometimes dyed grey or dark by using bark from Pterocarpus angolensis (kiaat) or from Burkea africana. In Namibia, the roots are used to make fishing traps. Gum is edible and has some antibiotic properties. Bark ash solution is used for straightening hair. Leaf extracts have an anti-fungal component. Leaves and fruit can make a rustling sound in strong wind (raasblaar in Afrikaans). The removed fresh Seeds will grow after soaking overnight in water. Hornbills consume fallen seeds. The plant is initially frost sensitive and grows best in full sun.


Boon, R. 2010. Pooley’s Trees of eastern South Africa. Flora and Fauna Publications Trust, Durban.

(Video) Combretum rotundifolium, Monkey brush vine. Red orange flowers bloom in spring.Woody climber Vine.

Burrows, J.E., Burrows, S.M., Lotter, M.C. & Schmidt, E.2018. Trees and Shrubs Mozambique. Publishing Print Matters (Pty) Ltd. Noordhoek, Cape Town.

Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa, edn 3. Struik, Cape Town.

Foden, W. & Potter, L. 2005. Combretum zeyheri Sond. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2023/01/08.

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. Jacana, Johannesburg.

(Video) Wiring and shaping of combretum bonsai

van Wyk, B. & van Wyk, P. 1997 Field guide to Trees of Southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.

(Video) Notable Trees of the African Bush E08: Senegalia nigrescens/Mukaya/Knob Thorn

“Domatium.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Jan. 2023.


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