Nuxia congesta is a small, evergreen tree or shrub whose specific name ‘congesta’ was derived from the dense bunches of fragrant flowers it produces during the winter season (March to July). Widely distributed from Tropical Africa in the North to Eastern Cape in the South, the common wild elder is normally found growing naturally in rocky grasslands, various types of woodlands and in forest margins.

This fast growing tree is multi-stemmed with crooked stems and grows to a mature height of 3 to 8 m or even higher. Its hairy dark green leaves are whorled in groups of three and crowded at the end of the branchlets. Nuxia congesta is also characterised by a pale grey-brown to dark brown bark which is fissured and peels in longitudinal strips on larger branches. Its long-lasting cream-white flowers attract numerous insects which in turn attract many insect eating birds to the garden. The hairy, woody fruits are produced from August to October.

It is fairly hardy and grows happily in full sun or shade conditions. Nuxia congesta flourishes in a climate with warm summers and cold winters. This tree makes an excellent focal plant and neat little tree for a small garden. Its non-invasive root system makes it a good container plant and a preferred choice for training as bonsai.