Indigenous to South Africa, Myrsine africana is a small tree or medium sized shrub that is found throughout the country. Also known as the African Boxwood, the tree can grow to a height of between 1.5 to 2 m with a spread of approximately 1 m and has a compact growth form.
The Cape Myrtle is slow growing and evergreen. It grows happily in shade or full sun and provides year round attraction with its colourful foliage. When the leaves first appear they have a deep red colour which matures into a glossy dark green. The older leaves are dense and round with a leathery texture and the upper edges are slightly cut with fine teeth.
The tree has small white to pinkish flowers in spring, followed by red/purple berries that attract birds galore. The Cape Myrtle can be pruned very successfully into a hedge or topiary shape which makes it suitable for a formal garden. This tree has a daintiness to it, with its small leaves and scrambling form (when not pruned), which will make an impact as a rockery plant or even in a Japanese style garden. The Cape Myrtle is a versatile, long living tree that can also be used as a pot plant or for bonsai.
Overall, Myrsine africana is a tough, water wise specimen that adapts well to different climates. It is relatively frost resistant, but should be protected when young. It will attract insects and birds to the garden and is ideal as a low maintenance plant that can act as a border, formal hedge and even a small specimen tree.