Nectaropetalum capense, the southern false coca tree, is a small tree commonly reaching 4 m in height, although specimens of 15 m do occur (SA Tree List No. 246). The bark is brown to grey and smooth, the branches are hairless.
The species is distributed along a coastal strip in the Eastern Cape that extends into southern KwaZulu-Natal. The habitat is forests and forest margins, often occurring in poor soil of coastal forests. The species is not considered threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century.
The tree is similar to N. zuluense that grows on the KwaZulu-Natal coast to the north, but the two distribution areas overlap in the centre, in southern KwaZulu-Natal. N. zuluense has leaf net-veining not translucent when held against the light; its flowers have long stalks (up to 1 cm long) and grow in clusters of up to four.
The specific name, nectaropetalum refers to the small nectary positioned at the base of the lower petal surface on some species of this genus. N. capense does, however, not have this appendage, while N. zuluense does. There are more species of Nectaropetalum in Africa that do not grow in South Africa (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Pooley, 1993; www.redlist.sanbi.org).