Clausena anisata

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Botanical Name
Clausena anisata
Rutaceae - The rue, buchu & citrus family.
klaw-SEE-nuh an-ee-SAH-tuh
Common Name(s)
English: Horsewood
Afrikaans: Perdepis
IsiXhosa: umnukambile; umtuto; isifuta
IsiZulu: Umsanga; Unukambiba
Tshivenda: Mudedede; Murandela
Plant Group
  • Tree A woody, self-supporting perennial plant usually with a single main stem and generally growing more than 6 meters tall.
Plant Size
  • Small
    Tree4m to 8m
    Shrub50cm to 75cm
    Perennial/ground cover10cm to 20cm
    Bulb20cm to 30cm
    Succulent10cm to 20cm
  • Very Small
    Tree3m to 4m
    Shrub25cm to 50cm
    Perennial/ground coverUp to 10cm
    Bulb10cm to 20cm
    SucculentUp to 5cm
  • Canopy Shade Canopy shade is found below closely grown trees where some light filters through. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Light or Dappled Shade Found below trees with sparse, open foliage. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Attractive fruits, berries or seeds Brightly coloured fruits or berries increase and extend the visual impact of the plant and are especially attractive to birds and other small wildlife.
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Fragrant / Aromatic These plants posses a strong, usually pleasant odour.
  • Frost: Tender A plant that will not survive any frost or low winter temperatures.
  • Roots Non-invasive Safe to plant near pools, paving, walls or buildings.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
Specific Information

A small, neat and attractive tree. Clausena anisata is often maligned, as the crushed leaves give off a strong aniseed-like scent which is considered by many to be unpleasant - in some plants the smell is pleasant but in others it's Arikaans common name Perdepis, meaning 'horse urine' is most descriptive. The ripening fruits which turn from red to black are much loved by birds and are very attractive. This tree deserves a spot in any garden - don't crush the leaves if you find the scent objectionable. 

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loose sprays of small star-shaped flowers

  • Spring to Summer Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • white
Growth Rate
  • Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Attracts Birds This plant will attract birds.
  • Boundary A plant useful for planting around the edges of the property to form a green or colourful backdrop, an impenetrable hedge, to hide walls or create privacy.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Pioneer for new gardens A very fast growing plant, able to withstand hardship, that can be used to populate land that has recently been cleared of natural vegetation. These plants pave the way for slower-growing species by adding nutrients to the soil and creating leaf litter.
  • Provides light / dappled shade A tree with an open to sparse canopy, through which varying degrees of sunlight can penetrate.
  • Suitable for bonsai A shrub or tree that lends itself to being dwarfed.
  • Suitable for coastal gardens Plants adapted to dry, sandy soil, forceful wind, limited rainfall and intense sunlight.
  • Suitable for smaller gardens Such plants do not have invasive root systems, remain small or controllable and can often be grown in containers.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

from Bredasdorp in the Western Cape, along the coast through the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal to Mpumalanga and parts of Mozambique and Zimbabwe, north through all tropical and sub-tropical parts of Africa and Asia, in the undergrowth of, and on the margins of, evergreen to semi-evergreen forests and woodlands

Planting Suggestions

Best planted in a lightly or partially shaded position in soil to which compost has been added. Mulch well to retain moisture.

The old method of digging a deep hole and filling it with soil and compost has resulted in many trees failing to thrive, dying, rotting at the base or worse still, falling over in later years due to poor root development.  Refer to the following sites for the best method of planting trees: Planting a tree

International Society of Arboriculture: New Tree Planting

Tree People: Plant the right way

For those of you who have a clay problem try:

Rod's Garden: Planting in clay soil

Medicinal Uses

Traditionally in South Africa, new-born babies are passed through the wood smoke to fumigate them and a leaf infusion is used as a steam bath as a deodorant, to cleanse the body internally, to cure rheumatism and to strengthen the heart.

The leaves, bark, wood and roots of ​Clausena anisata are used extensively across Africa and Asia for a myriad of ailments too numerous to list here, but including the treatment of fever, pneumonia, headache, sore throat and sinusitis, wounds, aching teeth, sores, abscesses, burns, haemorrhoids, whooping cough, malaria, syphilis, kidney troubles, diabetes and as an insect repellent.

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I always found it such a weird name growing up, Perdepisbos.
In all honesty, I think its a beautiful fragrance that comes from the plant. Its actually a smell that brings back many fond memories of family vacations and fishing trips etc.
I'm presently doing research to plant it in my new garden!

I found that, at my parents house, the scent masks general bad odours from keeping dogs etc.

Can't wait to get started :)

Thanks for the info

Hi Lester

I agree - I like the fragrance but most visitors to the nursery are immediately put off by the odour. I smell it as aniseed, but some people literally recoil from it in disgust. I'm going to try rubbing the leaves on my skin to keep flies away while I work - perhaps better done when the nursery is closed. If it works, I'll post it but I can't see many people wanting to follow suit.

Enjoy your new garden.


Please give more info regarding how these leaves should be prepared to use medicinally and how often it should be drunk.

Hi John

Apologies for not replying to your query for so long.

As I am not a qualified indigenous healer, I am unable to give you this information. You might get some enlightenment from a Muthi shop or you would need to visit an indigenous healer.

Kind regards

Does anybody know where Clausena anisata has its centre of diversity (i.e. where in Africa does it come from originally)?

Hi Pierre

Please read under the heading 'Distribution and Habitat' above.


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