Cussonia sphaerocephala

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Botanical Name
Cussonia sphaerocephala
Araliaceae - The ivy and cabbage tree family.
kus-SOH-nee-uh sfay-ro-SEF-uh-luh
Common Name(s)
English: Natal Forest Cabbage Tree
Afrikaans: Natalse Boskiepersol
IsiZulu: Umsenge
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
  • Large
    Tree18m to 25m
    Shrub3m to 4m
    Perennial/ground cover75cm to 1m
    Bulb80cm to 1.2m
    Succulent1m to 1.5m
  • 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
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate The plant is moderately adapted to arid conditions and can survive short periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Frost: Tender A plant that will not survive any frost or low winter temperatures.
  • Sand tolerant Plants adapted to survive in nutrient poor, very sandy soils.
  • Water Moderate These plants will need some extra watering compared to water-wise plants. Plant them together, in at least some shade and in a convenient proximity to the house so that grey water can be utilised during times of drought.
Specific Information

Cussonia sphaerocephala is the largest of the South African cabbage trees, reaching up to 25 meters in height in its natural habitat but only 5 - 10 meters if planted in a garden. Tall, slender and sparsely branched, this decorative tree is suitable for large, sheltered, shady gardens, containers or as a bonsai. Each branch bears its own rounded crown of large, shiny leaves which are red when they first appear, darkening to bronze and maturing to dark green. The individual leaves are decorative, forming a complex geometrical pattern - difficult to describe without using complicated botanical terms. The small, purple, fleshy and densely crowded fruits ripen from winter to mid-summer and are highly attractive to birds. Suitable for USDA Zones 9b-10. 

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inconspicuous flowers, densely packed on a candelabra-like head of 8 - 16 thick spikes, each 8 - 14 cm in length, 

  • Autumn to Winter Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • creamy-green
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
  • Accent or Focal Point A plant used to attract the attention because of its colour or form.
  • 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.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • 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.
Distribution and Habitat

from East London in the Eastern Cape, through KwaZulu-Natal and into Mpumalanga, in coastal dune forest ad moist, wooded mountain ravines

Planting Suggestions

Plant in well drained, garden soil mixed with some well rotted compost. Apply a good layer of mulch around the tree, making sure that the area immediately around the base is kept clear to prevent any chance of rot or disease. Keep moist initially until the plant has adjusted to its new environment and shows signs of growth. Water deeply no more than once a week thereafter, but only when necessary - rather err on the dry side as waterlogged soil will cause the caudex-like root to rot.

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

No data found.

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