The 21st of March marked the annual ‘International Day of Forests’ globally and in this spirit we are looking at Rawsonia lucida, a lesser-known indigenous tree that naturally occurs in semi-arid to moist and humid evergreen and semi-evergreen forests. Typically found in the Eastern parts of South Africa, this small to medium sized tree forms part of the understorey vegetation in the forest environment.
Growing to a height of between 3 and 11 m, the Forest peach is evergreen and has a slow to moderate growth rate. The tree has a neat growth habit with spreading, sweeping branches and the foliage consists of long, shiny sharply toothed leaves. The leaves are alternate with a fresh, green colour and a leathery texture.
In sharp contrast, the flowers are creamy to greenish white and appear on the tree from September to November. The blooms are clustered closely on young stems and develop into beautiful fruit from November to February. The flowers attract many insect species and the fruit will lure monkeys, bushbabies and other small mammals that feed on the sweet flesh. Fruits have a vivid, yellowish colour that change to caramel brown when ripe.
The Forest peach is not tolerant of hot, dry conditions and prefers to be planted in shade or semi-shade. It can endure mild to moderate frost, but not for long periods of time. It is an ornamental tree that will flourish in a temperate, protected area. It does well in shady areas where other trees might struggle and as it is a slow grower it is suited to a smaller garden.