Plant indigenous, be planet friendly

2016-09-20 06:00
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Pteroxylon obliquum – Sneezewood


ONE of the outstanding flowering trees of spring, flowers of the Sneezewood, so named for the peppery smell of cut bark said to induce sneezing, are a striking pale gold against the surrounding spring greens.
Flowers give off a sweet scent attracting a variety of insects, including bees and butterflies. A member of the Citrus family, flowers are popular with the Citrus Swallowtail butterflies, and the Sneezewood is the food plant for larvae of this species, and a large hatching of caterpillars can defoliate the tree.

The Sneezewood has a slim form, but height is variable depending on the habitat it grows in; forest trees reach 10 m to 35m, but around 10m in a garden situation. The attractive dark grey to brown bark has slightly raised horizontal fissures that crisscross each other. Dark green leaves turn a combination of yellow and red before falling though the amount of leaf drop depends on its habitat. Flowering begins before the flush of new leaves, lasting from August to December. Flowers hang in dense bunches from the tips of branches when the tree is almost leafless, each flower is five to seven millimetre in diameter. Fruits follow from December to February, oblong capsules that turn red-brown before splitting open to release winged seeds. Flowering starts at five years of age - teroxylon is a dioecious species with separate male and female trees, so plant at least three of them to ensure pollination.

The wood of this tree is exceptional, heavy, durable in water, with insect repellent properties, significant quantities of Pteroxylon have been felled to make railway sleepers, furniture, fence poles, and firewood. Unfortunately, its popularity as a timber source means that natural stands are declining. It is now a protected tree in our country.

Growth is moderately fast depending on its growing conditions; flowering begins at around 5 years old. The Sneezewood can withstand a moderate frost and a severe drought. - Anno Torr

• Anno Torr is the editor of The Indigenous Gardener Digital Magazine.

Email anno@theindigenousgar dener.co.za

- Supplied.

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