Maytenus undata

Botanical name

Maytenus undata

Other names

Koko tree; South African holly; kokoboom (Afrikaans)




An evergreen, often a much-branched shrub of around 3m; occasionally in dense forest conditions it may be an erect, single-stemmed tree of four to five times that height

Description of stem

The bark is dark grey to grey-brown and smooth, becoming rough with age and flaking in square patches;  young twigs purplish

Description of leaves

Variable leaf forms, although the toothing of the edges is a characteristic feature;  ovate, oblong, leathery, pale green or greyish, although sometimes dark green; a dark mark at the tips of the leaf toothing

Description of flowers

Small greenish yellow or pinkish white flowers in axillary clusters appear through spring and summer

Desciption of seed/fruit

Dehiscent reddish brown, three-lobed capsules expose bright yellow seeds

Description of roots



A very variable species, partly dependent on the area in which it grows

Propagation and cultivation

Grown from seed or cuttings, best in forest conditions with much leaf material or compost in the soil and regular watering


Better in medium to higher rainfall areas


Garden tree or shrub that attracts fruit-eating birds; the wood is used for making smaller items such as tool handles

Ecological rarity


Pests and diseases





Bushveld, riverine bush, forest edges and in dense forests


Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Free State, Gauteng, North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga


South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Madagascar, The Comores, Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen

Category: Trees