Commiphora marlothii is an indigenous tree native to Southern Africa [Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe] characterised by bark peeling in yellowing papery pieces to expose the green under layer. In the past, the bark of this tree was used by natives as writing paper, this feature brought the common name of paper bark, or papierbas in Afrikaans.
This small to medium sized deciduous tree grows to a height of 9m and is often a very striking and attractive tree on mountain slopes and granite kopjes. The paperbark corkwood tree has a rounded crown and yellowish- light green hairy egg-shaped leaves clustered at the ends of branchlets. The leaves are also compound and alternatively arranged. The strongly aromatic bark is dark green or grey and very smooth. Female and male reproductive organs on this tree species are on separate individuals.
Flowers appear with the first new leaves in October to November and will be in clusters. Produces a semi-round drupe fruit covered with fine short hairs from November to March. The fruits are edible and can be eaten fresh. Fruits of Commiphora marlothii can be processed into a good quality jam. The succulent roots can be chewed as they contain lots of sweet juice that can be extracted.
A paperbark corkwood is attractive during summer months because of its soft light green leaves and also during winter when the green bark and peeling yellow pieces form a beautiful focal point in the landscape. The roots of Commiphora marlothii are not invasive, hence it can be grown successfully as a container plant. It is also a popular species for bonsai specimens.