Elaeodendron croceum, the forest saffron or common saffronwood, is an evergreen tree of tall or medium height, typically growing to 5 m, infrequently to 10 m (SA Tree List No. 415).
The simple leaves are opposite, sometimes sub-opposite on petioles of up to 1 cm long. Leaf shape is oblong to elliptic with tapering tip and base. The leaf margin is hardened with widely spaced spine-like teeth, sharp and conspicuous on young leaves, losing them as they mature.
Small greenish white flowers grow in small clusters from leaf axils, from spring to autumn. Fleshy berries, pale, ovoid and large, gradually becoming wrinkled, are seen as late as with the following year’s flowers.
The species distribution is mainly coastal in the Western and Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, also in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo Lowveld. Beyond the South African border the tree grows in Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The E. croceum habitat is moist evergreen, dry and dune forests. There is some concern about the future of this tree in habitat, as it is estimated that its population is declining early in the twenty first century (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Venter, 2012; www.redlist.sanbi.org).