Combretum erythrophyllum

Botanical name

Combretum erythrophyllum (SA No 536)

Other names

River bushwillow; vaderlandswilg (Afrikaans); C. glomeruliflorum




Spreading medium sized, sometimes large deciduous tree of up to 13 m in height; often multistemmed, some may recline at an angle

Description of stem

Light-brown or grey, smooth or mottled; flaking in patches; irregular markings where twigs have disappeared and unevenness in the surface becomes accentuated in older specimens

Description of leaves

Simple, opposite with entire margin; elliptic with tapering base and apex; usually on short lateral twigs; soft, light green and tend to be hairy when young, later leathery and dull green, smooth on top and velvety below; short hairy petiole; bigger and rounder on young trees; in autumn the leaves turn coppery or reddish, creating a strikingly attractive effect

Description of flowers

Creamy yellow axillary spikes, about 2 cm in length and 1 cm in diameter appear in  spring shortly after the young leaves sprout

Desciption of seed/fruit

Four-winged, yellow-brown papery seeds in clusters at the ends of branches remain on the tree through the winter; young fruits are light green and sticky

Description of roots




Propagation and cultivation

Grown from seed or truncheons; seeds germinate easily; the young trees are fast growing


Drought resistant


Wood as timber; popular for planting in (bigger) gardens, parks and on street pavements; the gum is used as a varnish; the poisonous roots still used medicinally as a purgative and for treating venereal disease; the dry seeds are used in flower arrangements

Ecological rarity


Pests and diseases

Insects eat into the young twigs in autumn, causing them to die and fall off


Erythrophyllum = red leaves; species similar to C. caffrum


Riverine forest, at the edge of open water; when away from water, often thrives where ground water is amply available

Distribution (SA provinces)

Northern Cape; North West; KZN; Mpumalanga; Gauteng; Limpopo


South Africa; Swaziland; Mozambique; Zimbabwe; Zambia


Category: Trees