The Apple-leaf is a semi-deciduous protected tree of South Africa characterised with an open rounded crown and a flaking bark. Its distribution in Africa stretches from Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania in the North to KwaZulu-Natal in the South. Although this tree occurs on all types of soils, it mainly favours sandy or alluvial soils.
This medium to large sized tree can reach a mature height of 15m when growing conditions are favourable. When branches are young, they are smooth, grey and covered with dense hairs. As the tree matures, the bark begins flaking on older branches and stems. The hard-glossy leaves of Philenoptera violacea are unevenly compound with one to three pairs of opposite leaflets and a larger terminal one. This tree flowers from September to December. The flowers appear in dense terminal sprays of 120-300mm long at the tips of branches. These fragrant mauve flowers normally appear before or together with new leaves. After flowering, fruits are produced in form of flat pods tapering on both ends.
Philenoptera violacea makes an excellent fodder tree for cattle and game. It is also a good of pollen and nectar for honeybees. Although this tree is moderately slow growing, it can make an interesting street tree because of the stunning display when in flower. This tree is not frost resistant but can survive in colder regions if properly protected during the first 2 to four years of establishment.