Where to find it:
The evergreen Euclea crispa is found on both the south and north facing slopes of the Magaliesberg. This single stemmed tree grows in the rocky exposed slopes, in the kloofs, along the river paths, the forest margin areas and in the open and sheltered woodland regions - quite a well adapted tree. If you are in the Eastern Cape, travelling up the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast or in Swaziland, expect to see it there and further northwards to South Africa's northern border and beyond towards the more tropical regions of Africa.
General description and features:
Did you know that the Blue Guarri is a member of the Ebony family that has 35 tree species growing in South Africa? The 'crispa' refers to the wavy edges on the leaves.
The first thing that you should notice as you approach a Bloughwarrie is the dense round canopy of blue-green leaves. The leaves are smooth and leathery to the touch. The leaf edges can be either smooth or wavy. Notice how they point upwards. Hold a leaf up towards the light and look at the transparent veins against the opaque leaf.
October through to February is when you should see the green-white bell shaped flowers, and their sweet fragrance should attract both you and the bees to them.
The fruit of the Blue Guarri grows in small grape-like bunches and when ripe they are blackish in colour and eaten by people, other mammals and birds. Look out for mongoose and antelope feasting on the fruits, together with Speckled Mousebirds, Black-eyed Bulbuls, Glossy Starlings, Black collared and Crested Barbets.
Trunk and bark:
The bark of the Euclea crispa is interesting in that it is often covered in lichen. The texture of the bark in a mature tree is rough and often breaks into uneven block shapes on the trunk while on a young tree the bark is smooth. The bark colour varies from rusty-brown on young branches and trees to dark brown on the mature trees.
What people use this tree for:
During the fire season, branches of the Blue Guarri could be used to fight veldfires. The wood is used to make furniture like stools, and in times past, to make yokes to fit the oxen for pulling the ox wagons. Traditional medicine was made from the bark and leaves to make a purgative/laxative and was also used as a remedy for diabetes and in the prevention of rheumatism. The roots are made into an infusion to treat epilepsy by drinking the infusion each day. For those readers who need to stimulate their appetite, then a few leaves eaten is said to ensure a good appetite!
The 'provider' for other creatures:
Apart from the birds, mammal and antelope species mentioned above, Black Rhino enjoy browsing the leaves and bark of the Euclea crispa.
How to grow your own Euclea crispa:
The Blue Guarri grows quite easily from seed, so if possible, get a few seeds from a friend's tree. Put a mix of rich soil and compost into your seedling trays and place the seeds into them. Cover the seeds to a depth of 5mm with the soil and mulch. Keep moist during germination.
If growing in the summer months, then water the young sapling regularly, and if growing in the winter months, then lessen the frequency of watering at least for the first year.
When the seedlings get to a "2-leaf" stage, plant them out into larger black nursery bags.
Protect from harsh windy conditions and from frost especially during the first two years. This tree is frost resistant and is a slow growing tree. The average size of the Blue Guarri gets to approximately 6m x 5m and can even reach 15m if growing in forest margin areas.
(Tip: When ready to plant the sapling into the ground, position a 50 mm size x 1m length of plastic piping vertically near to the sapling, leaving +- 5 cm above ground level. When watering around the sapling, also pour water into this pipe, as it will encourage the roots to grow downwards looking for the moisture below. Keep the ground around the sapling well mulched with dry leaves etc to assist with water retention above ground.)
If you don't find this tree on your property consider growing one!
Wouldn't it be rewarding to contribute to maintaining the tree diversity within the Magaliesberg mountain range by planting a Euclea crispa?
The Committee is interested in hearing from members whether they have this tree growing on their property or whether they would like to plant one.
Have the Vervet monkeys visited to eat the fruit?
Which butterflies or other insects have you noticed?
Have you seen the bees with their pollen sacks full of flower pollen?
What birds have you seen coming to this tree?
Tel (014) 576 2323
Val Thomas and Rina Grant. 1998. SAPPI Tree Spotting, Highveld & the Drakensberg.
Pitta Joffe. 2001. Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants, A South African Guide.
Vincent Carruthers. 1990. The Magaliesberg.
Joan van Gogh & John Anderson. 1988. Trees & Shrubs of the Witwatersrand, Magaliesberg
Braam van Wyk & Piet van Wyk. 1997. Field Guide to the Trees of Southern Africa.