Ptaeroxylon obliquum may grow to 20 m, although it is usually much smaller; in drier environments sometimes only a shrub (SA Tree List No. 292).
Depending on the climate the tree may either be evergreen or deciduous. The bark is pale grey to whitish and smooth when young, darkening with age while becoming longitudinally fissured and flaking on mature trees.
The Xhosa name for the tree, umThathi gave the town of Mthatha, previously Umtata, its name. It also grows widely elsewhere in South Africa, from the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape to the eastern parts of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The distribution beyond South Africa is even larger, the tree being found in at least Angola and Tanzania.
The habitat is varied, including woodland and dry scrub forest to evergreen forests. The species is not considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century.
The wood of Ptaeroxylon obliquum is hard and durable. It has been used in many ways, among other things to manufacture railway sleepers. The wood also burns very well and was in the distant past used to start fires by stick friction. In Mozambique it is the preferred wood for the manufacture of xylophone keys. The tree also features in some traditional medicine remedies (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Schmidt, et al, 2002; http://redlist.sanbi.org).