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Gymnosporia arenicola


Water Needs


Gymnosporia arenicola
Shrub large
Dune Spikethorn

5 - 7 m


Light Conditions

shade; semi-shade




white March to November; autumn winter spring

Garden Situation

dry shade; shade; light shade; screen security; wildlife flies birds butterfly host; shrubbery;


woodland forest; coastal kzn


subtropical east coast

Rain Season


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Gymnosporia species. Many gardeners are familiar with the scrambling shrub or tree, Maytenus heterophylla, a large scrambling shrub carrying attractive flowers, fruit, and seed for much of the year. 10 years ago, though, it re-classified, placed into the Gymnosporia genus, and further divided into a variety of other species. This has caused some confusion regarding which of the butterfly and bird species that favoured the old M. heterophylla now feed on these new categories. Why not plant a specimen and see who feeds from the banquet they all offer? Two of the best species discussed here are the Dune and Common Spikethorns. This beautiful family boasts a selection of large shrubs or small trees and is well represented throughout much of the country, offering seed and fruit to South Africa’s wildlife. Gymnosporia arenicola: Dune Spikethorn, duinependoring: (arenicola – dwelling on sand). M heterophylla subspecies areniaria is now Gymnosporia arenicola. The Dune Spikethorn, Gymnosporia arenicola, is a coastal species occurring in dune scrub and forest from Hibberdene on the South Coast, up along the KZN coast into Southern Mozambique. This beautiful scrambling shrub has a long flowering season, from March, as autumn begins, and continuing through to September and even November in a good year. Adding to its attraction as both a garden beauty and wildlife food -plant is the simultaneous fruiting and seed displays, often seen year round. Mature size ranges from five to seven meters, and while it can take the shape of a small tree, it often grows as a somewhat straggling shrub. The pale brown trunk is covered in a flaking bark with branches, initially red-brown when young, maturing to grey. Insect gall causes small sections along the bark to become thicker than surrounding areas but does not appear to cause the plant any problems. Long, vicious spines(10 – 15 cm) make the Dune Spikethorn an excellent security barrier and nesting site. Foliage is dense, formed by thick clusters of leathery leaves; leaf margin is irregularly toothed, and new leaves are a glossy russet and green mix. These are round to oval in shape, and leaf tips vary from rounded to slightly pointed. Flowers form delightful white to yellow clusters at the ends of fairly short flowering stems that keep the display tucked in among the leaves, and exude a musk-like scent. Stamens and style protrude beyond the petals. Fruits glow pale yellow to peach with blushes of red, splitting open to reveal tiny red seed pips partially covered by a white aril (an extra seed-covering, typically coloured and hairy or fleshy). In full flower or ripe with fruit and seed, this shrub creates a quite beautiful display that is enjoyed as much by the gardener as it is by birds. Previously Maytenus heterophylla subsp. areniaria. arenicola means dwelling on sand.

Gymnosporia arenicola
Gymnosporia arenicola
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