An interesting, slightly controversial tree, Catha endulis is a lovely small to medium specimen to have in the garden. Indigenous to South Africa, it occurs from the Eastern Cape northwards to Mpumalanga and the Northern Province and further into Africa.
Reminiscent of a eucalyptus from afar, the tree grows to a height of 2 to 5 m and even higher under favourable conditions. Deciduous, with bright green leaves that turn yellow in autumn, the Bushman’s Tea has a straight stem with a narrow crown and it has a slight drooping habit.
The foliage consists of oblong to elliptic leaves positioned opposite each other on older branches or spirally arranged on young twigs. The new growth appears brownish-red in colour, maturing to a glossy green. The leaf margins are evenly toothed and the leaves have a distinctive smell.
Small lemon-yellow or white flowers appear in clusters during spring along the twigs. Fruit, in the form of three-lobed capsules follows and splits open in late summer to release narrow-winged seeds.
Catha edulis is drought resistant and will happily grow in poor soils with good drainage. The leaves and twigs of the tree have historically been ingested by indigenous people as it has energising and appetite suppressant qualities. In addition, it is used against respiratory ailments and flu. The tree is protected in South Africa, but the fresh leaves contain cathinone, which is a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances act. Therefore it is illegal to use the leaves as a stimulant although it is legal to cultivate the tree.
This is a beautiful, small tree that will provide height and year round appeal in your garden.