Native to areas which receive summer rainfall, the velvet bushwillow is a single trunked tree characterised with spreading branches that form a moderately dense, rounded to irregular canopy. Its distribution in South Africa stretches from Free State to the North-west province, this tree is often found growing naturally on open woodlands and in bushvelds.
This fast-growing deciduous tree can reach a mature height of 4 to 13m when growing conditions are conducive. Its leaves are light pink or orange and velvety when young becoming dark green and smoother with maturity. The leaves are also oval to round and arranged in a opposite manner. During autumn, the leaves turn from copper to plum, thus bringing a beautiful autumn colour to the garden.
The bark of this tree is dark grey to black, rough and fissured into blocks that occasionally flake off. Creamy scented blooms produced from August to November are attractive to bees and other insects. After flowering, C. molle bears four-winged fruits (samaras) which may remain on the tree for a long period (December to September) if they are not browsed by animals.
Combretum molle does not have an aggressive root system and is thus suited for planting along boundary walls. When planted in groups on school grounds or parks, it can create a ‘bush feel’ to these places. The velvet bushwillow is medicinal, extracts from the bark of show antibacterial and antifungal as well as in vitro antiprotozoal activities. This tree is also frost resistant and suitable for bonsai.