The pretty Noltea africana is becoming very popular as a landscaping tree, due to its versatility.
Evergreen, the fast growing Soap dogwood can grow to a height of 2 to 6 m tall, depending on climatic conditions. Indigenous to South Africa, the tree is best known for its glossy foliage. The leaves have a finely toothed margin with a dark green colour on top and paler green underneath. New growth has a reddish colour and the branchlets are purplish red in colour. Interestingly, the leaves and twigs become soapy when rubbed in water, hence the common name.
Small, white flowers are visible on the tree from July to September and are borne in loose clusters, attracting insects and birds to the garden. The flowers are followed by fruits in the shape of woody capsules that split to release the tiny, black seeds in early summer.
Noltea africana is hardy and frost resistant, making the tree a good specimen for the Highveld where it provides a splash of colour in the otherwise brown, winter landscape. Ideal for a small garden, the tree grows well in sun or semi-shade and is often useful for screening or windbreak purposes.