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Friday, 17 October 2014

White Stinkwood (Celtis africana)


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A perfect tree for suburban gardens. This tree is very popular in South Africa and it quickly and easily tolerates wind and drought. Unfortunately not evergreen, but with a graceful habit and neat crown – won’t get too big or untidy.
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If you need a medium, fast growing shade tree you can't go wrong with this tree that will give shade in about four years. It naturally has a low branching habit but can be pruned into a single stemmed tree. The trunk of Celtis africana is easy to distinguish by its smooth, pale grey to white bark. It may be loosely peeling in old trees and sometimes has horizontal ridges.
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A few Celtis africana sharing space with Acacia karroo in a forest-like setting at my pond in my garden
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This beautiful deciduous tree grows up to 25m tall in a forest habitat, but in a garden it can be treated as a medium-sized tree, expected to reach a height of up to 12m.
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In spring Celtis africana is very lovely, with its light green, tender, new leaves that contrast beautifully with the pale bark. The leaves are simple, alternate, triangular in shape with three distinct veins from the base, and the margin is toothed for the upper two-thirds. The new leaves are bright, fresh green and hairy, and they turn darker green and become smoother as they mature.
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In autumn the leaves turn a lovely yellow. Celtis africana leaves are browsed by cattle and goats, and are food for the larvae of the long-nosed butterfly.
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Tiny inconspicuous green flowers are borne in spring and summer. The flowers are followed by small yellow edible fruits that ripen to a reddish colour in autumn. Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, and only the female plants bear fruit. 
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It seems there's some disagreement on the internet as to whether or not C. africana's roots are invasive or not. It thrives if grown next to a water garden, dam or river but should not be planted near any buildings or swimming pools due to its size. It is an excellent shade tree for small gardens, and in larger gardens it looks lovely if planted in groups.
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Because of its dense growth habit it makes a most effective windbreak or barrier for large properties.  The fruit is relished by many fruit eating birds, including ground birds like guinea fowl. The leaves serve as an important food source for game, especially in times of drought.

Info from PlantzAfrica

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40 comments:

  1. Thank you for the information, got one growing in my garden and needed some info.

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    1. My pleasure Nakki and thank you for stopping by!

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  2. One of my favorite trees Maree. I have planted a few and recommend this tree as a fast grower and a pleasing looking tree. It is one of the most satisfying things to be able to sit in the shade of a tree you planted yourself.

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    1. All so very true Karin, they are superb in summer with their shade! And beautiful too! En baie dankie dat jy ingeloer het!

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  3. Informative article, thank you. I have a self seeded CA that came up about 0.5m away from the house in a sheltered area...and compared to the other 3 in my garden, really seems to be thriving, having shot up over a season (and a bit)...but I'm concerned about roots and house foundations - would the roots steer around the foundation or would you recommended moving the tree? Thanks ...Roy (Krugersdorp)

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    1. Hi Roy, 0.5m from the house is definitely too close as the tree has a lovely wide branching system, therefore the beautiful shade. The root system is not aggressive but may become invasive under favourable conditions. If it's not too big, I definitely would recommend moving it. The CA is frost hardy, but maybe you could protect it just for a couple of seasons until it is well established again. I wish you luck, I hate moving anything that seems to be happy where it is!

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    2. Thanks for your reply Maree - I feel the same about moving a tree (previously moved a happy CA that then lost it's vigour and remained stunted)...but your advice is sound - not sure if waiting for the dormant season would be best, but I'm worried about the amount of growth that may still occur this summer:-(

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    3. Dormant would probably be better Roy, the growing seasons will be slowing down very soon now. But I think right at the end of winter would be your best bet and with a nice big new hole, plenty of food and compost and it should have a great start to spring. Good luck!

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  4. Hi - Are you sure the tree is evergreen?

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    1. No, it is not evergreen, it is deciduous, meaning it loses its leaves in the winter. Thanks for stpping by!

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    2. From the first paragraph:
      "Evergreen, graceful habit & neat crown – won’t get too big or untidy"

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    3. Sorry about that Anonymous, a typo, will fix it. Thanks for pointing it out!

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  5. Hi Maree,

    I have a large C.Africana in my garden - the roots are now becoming invasive under the paing area, and it is lifting in two different directions. I have opened the rootsw partially to inspect. One is about 10cm in diameter. Are these the main root system or does it have a tap-root system, and will it be possible to cut the roots which are growing in the direction of the house as i do not want to have damages in the foundation. I also would hate to lose this tree which has been my shade for the last couple of years - would say it is between 10 - 12 metres high already.

    Thanks

    Leon

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    1. Hi Leon, it seems there's some disagreement on the internet as to whether or not C. africana's roots are invasive or not. Many say it is not, but seeing as you are experiencing it first-hand, I would go with those that say it is invasive. There's also general consensus that this tree, due to its size, should not be planted near buildings or a water source. It does have a tap root, so I'm fairly certain you could chop off the offending root without any harm to the tree, but I would get a second opinion from a nursery that's clued up on these indigenous trees.

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  6. Hi Maree,

    On further investigation i would not really say it is invasive. When the paving was laid, a plastic layer was put down to prevent the growth of weeds etc. from below. unfortunately this also caused the tree roots to grow on top of the plastic layer, so this may be self-inflicted.......i have now looked at an alternative - will extend the flower bed and remove all plastic in the vicinity to once again allow the roots to start growing down again. - lots more space for new Clivias and surface roots which does not look bad at all. I will however employ the plastic strategy on my C.Africana bonsai to get more roots on top of the soil.

    Thanks a lot for the reply.

    Regards

    Leon

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    1. I tend to agree with you Leon (why do we DO these self-inflicted things?!) and I wish you luck with the project!

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  7. hi. Is 5m from house and swimmingpool too close for witstinkhout. francois

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  8. hi. Is 5m from house and swimmingpool too close for witstinkhout. francois

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    1. Hi Francois, I would say 5m from the house is probably OK. This tree has a spread of about 4m and I've always said that, if it does not touch the house, then it's far enough away.

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  9. HI I love these trees and the bird life that it attracts, saying this I just bought a nice tree (25L) from a local nursary and planted it this weekend using a good compost , soil and bone meal mix in the soil, the tree looked fine for a few days but yesterday when I cam home all the leaves are shriveled and incredibly dry, I have been watering the tree since I planted it into the ground, what could be the issue? Is the tree a gonna or can I still revive it?

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    1. Hi Anonymous, sorry for the late reply! It sounds like you did all the right things and your tree should have survived with such good care. The shrivelled up leaves sounds like a sign of air between the roots. Maybe the soil subsided after you planted it, although regular water should have taken the soil down and covered any holes. All I can think is that the tree was not healthy when you bought it and maybe you should contact the nursery with your problem. Hope you manage to sort things out. Regards

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    2. Hi, I find the best way to plant any tree and other plants from the black nursery bag is to cut off the bottom and remove, place your hand underneath the plant trying to keep as much of the soil as possible undisturbed. Next place the plant in the hole and cover with soil, take the remaining plastic sticking out and slide it up around the stem of the plant and remove by sliding over the top of the plant or cut it off.

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  10. HI Maree
    I have a large white stinkwood in my back garden. every spring millions of little stinkwoods come up all over my garden - even in the front yard! I have so many little stinkwood trees growing in the most obscure places and i dont know what to do with them. I surely cannot leave them to grow into huge trees?? but the roots are so long it is almost impossible to take them out of the ground.. is there any way to train the stinkwood to stay small??
    thanks
    Megan (megan@photoworkshop.co.za)

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    1. Hi Megan, I have the same problem, but I just pull them out when they're very small. Have kept one or two and tried cultivating them in pots, but they didn't make it, maybe next time. If their roots are strong already, you will have to dig them out with a spade. I'm sure one could train a Celtis into a Bonsai, but preferably in a pot. In the ground there is too much space and soil to contain the roots successfully to keep it small. Good luck with the removal and/or potting some of them!

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  11. Hi Maree,

    We have a large white stinkwood tree of 30 years at the back of our garden. Last year we build a boma under the tree and now the tree is shedding a black spray all over the place. I have never seen this before. The same black spray is not from the stinkwood tree in front of our house. I would appreciate any explanation/advise.

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    1. Hi Arrie, I have never heard of (or seen) the black "spray" you're referring to. The tree has small, rounded, berry-like fruits from October to February, which turn black when they are ripe. Is it not the fruit that you're seeing? One of my trees had an abundance of fruit one year which totally covered the ground under and around it. These fruits are of course loved by all the birds! If it is not the fruit, have you checked your leaves to see if they have any black residue which might be causing this? Sorry I can't help any further and thanks for stopping by!

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    2. My tree also.does this "spraying". Very iritating as the residue is sticky and dificult to remove.

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    3. All the stinkwoods in our area are spraying black spray suddenly and if you shake a branch there are thousands of tiny white moth like insects in them?? Anyone else got this?

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    4. Hi Marc, see Gerhard Steyn's "solution" below for the 'black spray' problem As far as all the tiny white moths are concerned, I cannot tell without seeing them. It could possibly be whitefly, but according to the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, "The threat of diseases and pests to trees in South African forests, both in
      plantations and natural ecosystems, has certainly never been as evident
      as it is at present. In the last few years, pine plantations have been ravaged by the onslaught of the Sirex wood wasp. The unbelievably rapid spread of the bronze leaf bug, Thaumastocoris perigrinus, has been nothing short of shocking.The pitch canker fungus, Fusarium circinatum, has made its first appearance in established plantations and as I write this note, I am looking over an area of self sown white stinkwood
      (Celtis africana) that are dying of an undetermined cause." So best you enquire at your local nursery about the moth.

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  12. Gerhard steyn
    I have the same with both my Witstinkhout trees (Centurion). The paving has turned black, and the plants underneath have black sticky spots on them. I see there are white lice on the tree's leaves. Maybe it's a secretion of the lice? Is there a type of poison to get rid of the lice .

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  13. SOLUTION:
    I've been informed by someone that had a nursery, that this is Black Mildew.
    This is due to the large amount of rain which we had. It's ok I f it is only on the leaves. The leaves will fall of in the winter and in the summer it should all be fine again.
    On the other hand, if the mildew has gone into the stem, you might need to get a poison from the nursery, mix it with water, and pour around the stem of the tree.
    I think I'll just wait for the winter.... C

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    1. Well, it's wonderful that you seem to have solved the problem Gerhard! None of my trees are showing any of these symptoms, so I was actually a bit stumped. And we have also had a LOT of rain. Waiting for winter seems like a good idea seeing as one doesn't want to unnecessarily use poison.

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  14. Hi Maree, I notice our tree has the same problem looks white mildew on some of the brunches and a sticky subtance on the leaves and is dripping on the ground. Is this perhaps due to excessive watering during the summer period?

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    1. You've got me there Raguel, I really don't know what it is. Maybe taking a couple of leaves along to your local nursery might solve the problem?

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    2. PS : However, I did find this article on the web -
      The hackberry woolly aphid (Shivaphis celti), sometimes called Asian woolly hackberry aphid, infests the widely planted Chinese hackberry (Celtis sinensis) AND OTHER CELTIS SPECIES. Often, the first observed sign of a hackberry woolly aphid infestation is the sticky honeydew it produces, upon which blackish sooty mold grows, creating a sticky mess on leaves and surfaces beneath infested trees.

      These aphids also secrete pale wax, which covers their bodies. Woolly aphids on shoot terminals and leaves appear as fuzzy, bluish or white masses, each about 1/10 inch or less in diameter. Winged forms have distinct black borders along the forewing veins and their antennae have alternating dark and light bands.

      So check for Aphids and then take the appropriate action.

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  15. Hi Maree, we are also in Centurion and have an old tree. The "resin" on the leaves is very sticky. Want to know whether this resin is toxic or can the leaves be used for compost? Normally I leave the leaves on the ground and spread in my flower beds for mulch, and they break down easily. Just don't know what to do now....

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    1. Hi Anonymous. I have never encountered your "resin" problem, so don't have an answer for that. Maybe your local garden centre could help you with that...?

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    2. PS : However, I did find this article on the web -
      The hackberry woolly aphid (Shivaphis celti), sometimes called Asian woolly hackberry aphid, infests the widely planted Chinese hackberry (Celtis sinensis) AND OTHER CELTIS SPECIES. Often, the first observed sign of a hackberry woolly aphid infestation is the sticky honeydew it produces, upon which blackish sooty mold grows, creating a sticky mess on leaves and surfaces beneath infested trees.

      These aphids also secrete pale wax, which covers their bodies. Woolly aphids on shoot terminals and leaves appear as fuzzy, bluish or white masses, each about 1/10 inch or less in diameter. Winged forms have distinct black borders along the forewing veins and their antennae have alternating dark and light bands.

      So check for Aphids and then take the appropriate action.

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  16. Our white stinkwoods in Howick KZN are also spraying black and sticking to the car paint. I would like to know how to identify the Australian white stinkwood which apparently should not be planted in built up areas because of its aggressive root system.

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    1. Hi Anon, read Gerhard Steyn's comment above, he seems to have found the solution to this problem. I do not have any experience or know of the Australian white stinkwood, maybe Google would turn up an answer for you.

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