Indigenous to South Africa, the hardy Ehretia rigida is a familiar sight on the N1 north towards Bela Bela where it acts as a security and screening barrier between the lanes.
This haphazard looking, deciduous small tree or shrub has tangled droopy branches and an untidy rounded crown which gives it the name of ‘Deurmekaarbos’ or Puzzle Bush. It is a fairly fast grower and can reach a height of up to 5 m. The foliage consists of grey-green leaves which are clustered on short side branches and the new growth that appears in late winter has a tender, green colour. The light green leaves are quite rough and leathery and the bark is a uniform grey. From July to November, small sweet smelling lilac-white flowers are borne in dense clusters and attract bees and insects. The male and female flowers are carried on different plants.
Fruiting takes place from December to February and the small, orange berries that mature to a black colour, are a favourite of fruit-eating birds. It is also an important source of food to domestic and wild animals like the Kudu, Nyala, Bushbuck, Impala and Grey Duiker.
This is an ideal tree for a wildlife garden as it attracts birds and insects with its flowers and berries. The tree is hardy and drought resistant and can be used as a screening plant. Even though the tree is multi-stemmed, it can be trimmed into a neater shape.
The Puzzle bush is trouble free when it comes to pests and diseases, making it ideal for a hassle free garden.