Euclea crispa

Water Needs

low; moderate; drought hardy

Euclea crispa
Tree small; Tree medium
Blue Guarri

3 – 6 m

Size

Light Conditions

sun; semi-shade

Frost

hardy

Flowers

cream-white December to May; summer autumn

sun; semi-shade; screen; rockery; small area tree; wildlife birds insects bees

Garden Situation

Habitat

grassland; woodland forest; rocky places; fynbos; bushveld; coastal eastern cape

Region

subtropical east coast; bushveld savanna; highveld; western cape

Rain Season

summer

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Description

Though they do take a while to grow, there is no cooler shade under which to spend the South African summer, than that of a tree. And we commonly search for a shade tree to plant as the heat is already on the rise! The Blue Guarri is an especially dense canopied tree that resembles a living umbrella. For upcountry gardeners, it also ticks all other boxes too: frost hardy, an evergreen frost protecting canopy for understory plants, and drought hardy! While many other species will wilt in high heat and drought, or succumb to severe frost, the Blue Guarri stands proud. Not the showiest of trees, the Greek word euckeia from which the genus takes its name, means glory and fame, more in reference to the wood of some of the species, which is beautiful; fine and ebony-like; the genus is a member of the Ebony (EBENACEAE) family. Crispa indicates wavy edges to the leaves. The natural habitats in which the Blue Guarri occurs, reflects its wide distribution range, being found in bushveld, sheltered spots within grassland, on the edges of forest, especially montane forests (high latitudes), and in rocky areas on both north and south-facing slopes, from the Eastern Cape, into KwaZulu-Natal, and north into Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West Province. Growth rate is slow (commonly 50 cm /year), and growth form is quite variable. Branching low down, Euclea crispa is either a single or multi-stemmed small tree, with a trunk diameter ranging from slender up to 150 mm thick. Leaves are either opposite, alternate or spiralled, and vary in shape from oval to lanceolata. Leaf size varies 15 – 90 x 5 – 35 mm), and leaf colour is green with paler undersides, though in areas of the North West, they are a blue-green. The texture is hard and leathery, hairy when young, veins are prominent and leaf margins are wavy. According to Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa - A Complete Guide, by Richard Boon, trees in coastal Eastern Cape, KZN and Mpumalanga have large, thin leaves with prominent veins on both surfaces, and mature leaves are mostly hairless. Spring leaf growth is commonly silvery white. The foliage makes for a dense, rounded and very neat canopy that, together with the mature height of up to 8 m, make it an ideal shade tree for smaller gardens. Sweetly fragranced flowering sprays cover the tree from December to May. While each flower is small and rather short-lived, there are between 3 and 10 flowers that form a 30mm long unbranched spray. The female tree alone bears fruit as flowering wanes, small and round fruits, initially red, changing to black or purplish-brown as they mature. Though considered unpalatable by many humans, the rather sweet fruits are an important source of food for birds that cover the tree in a good year. , fruits are eaten by birds, monkeys. In the wild, leaves bark and leaves are browsed by Black Rhino. Bark is a dark grey and rough to the touch, that cracks into squares as it ages. This hard, close-grained wood is fire resistant and used to beat out veld fires. For this reason, it is avoided as a wood fuel. Flowers use scent to attract bees and insects; honey made from the Guarri genus has a lovely taste and is very popular. Euclea crispa makes an effective screen and wind break, and can be used to create protective shelter for less hardy species. Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Western Cape

Euclea crispa
Euclea crispa