Dovyalis caffra is a thorny evergreen tree or shrub with a moderate growth rate and usually reaching a mature height of 3 to 5m. This tree is found growing naturally in open bushes, wooded grasslands and Acacia woodlands. It is widely distributed all over Southern Africa.
The leaves of Kei apple are glossy and oval with a leathery feel, this distinctive characteristic shows that this tree is drought resistant. The bark is rough, corky, white to pale grey and is longitudinally fissured with strong straight spines on the branches. This tree is suitable for bee keeping as the creamy green flowers produced from November to January will be heavily loaded with nectar. The yellow-orange fleshy fruits are only born on female plants and are edible to both humans and animals.
Kei apple can grow well in a wide range of climates but when plants are young, they need to be protected from frost. When planted close together in a row, these trees can be shaped into an attractive hedge thereby making a beautiful security barrier. Due to the non-invasive nature of its root system, this tree is suitable for many applications in the garden ranging from screening, container plant to bonsai. Dovyalis caffra grows well in well drained soils and once established can be considered waterwise and would only require watering during very dry periods.