An attractive small to medium sized tree that can grow as deciduous or evergreen depending on prevailing growing conditions. Although Heteropyxis natalensis now grows in many parts of South Africa, it originated from KwaZulu Natal. When crushed, leaves and twigs of this tree produce a strong lavender smell hence the common name ‘lavender tree.’
In cold environments, this tree displays a wonderful autumn colours before the leaves drop off. The lavender tree is mostly single stemmed with an attractive crown. Its glossy leaves are simple, alternate to spiralled and crowded towards the end of branchlets. The distinctive bark is brown or grey when the tree is young, becoming pale grey to tan with maturity. This bark also develops a rich texture and flakes off in large scales, leaving craggy, apricot coloured patches that provide shelter for a myriad tiny insects and ants. The yellowish green flowers which are borne in summer are sweetly scented. Fruits are produced from March to May and will be in form of small, brownish, oval capsules that contain many seeds. After dispersing the seed, the old capsules remain on the tree for many months.
The lavender tree makes a good container plant for the patio. It is also a good bonsai specimen. This tree also has medicinal properties, a decoction made from the roots is used to treat bleeding gums and noses. It is waterwise, fairly fast growing with a non-invasive root system.