Antidesma venosum; Tassel-berry (English); voëlsitboom (Afrikaans); isibangamlotha, isiqhuthwane, umhlabahlungulu, umhlalanyoni (Zulu); umhlalanyoni, umhlala-mahuhulu, umhlongi (Siswati); umtyongi (Xhosa); anshongi, anwangati (Tembe-Thonga)

 

This is a tree of our low altitude bushveld and coastal regions stretching along the whole eastern seaboard of Africa from the Eastern Cape through to Sudan in the north east.

I have specimens that have flowered after about 5 years from seed. The most important thing about using this species in cultivation is that you will have to plant between 3 and 5 seedlings. The reason is because the tree produces male and female flowers on separate plants. Once the saplings have flowered it is best to thin out the extra or surplus male trees and leave more females to provide the fruit for the various forms of wildlife that come to eat the ripe fruit.

Trees will grow at a medium rate and then fill out over a long period of time but producing fruit each season.

The shape of the tree is one of a rounded canopy. The trees are partially to fully deciduous depending on the rainfall. The leaves have a velvety feel to them and when the tree goes into its winter rest the leaves begin to turn yellow before they are shed from the tree.

                     Female flower

When in fruit this tree brings a whole host of animals to feast on the bounty of fruit. The tree is clever in that the individual fruits on each tassel start of green then white then red and finally purple black when fully ripe. This means the tree spreads its wealth and seed dispersal over a relatively long period of time. The fruiting trees will be in fruit for at least a month and many thousands of seeds are distributed far and wide by bats, civets and genets at night, monkeys, baboons, turacos, bulbuls, barbets, mousebirds, hornbills, white-eyes and thrushes. Then on the ground bushpig, bushbuck, nyala, red and blue duiker and francolin with a whole host of insects all take the seed away to be spread around to other parts of our coastal and riverine forests and bushveld. As a human I remember eating these fruits by the handful on my way back from school when we walked back along the tracks through the coastal bush from the bus that dropped us off at the main road.

The seeds germinate fairly quickly in about 2-3 weeks once cleaned of the flesh surrounding each seed.

These trees are often pioneers in bushclumps and I know from my own garden these trees germinate all over the garden even in gutters and in my roof gardens. Their rounded neat shape make this tree suitable as a street tree.

 

                           Fruit

                                   Tassel-berry

 

Male flower

                        Male flower