Vachellia xanthophloea

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Botanical Name
Vachellia xanthophloea
Fabaceae - The legume and pod-bearing family. (Pea & Bean Family)
vak-ELL-ee-uh zan-tho-PLEE-ah
Common Name(s)
English: Fever tree; Sulphur Bark
Afrikaans: Koorsboom; Geeldoring
IsiZulu: umHlosinga
Sesotho sa Leboa: mooka-kwena
Setswana: More O Mosetlha
Xitsonga: nkelenga
Tshivenda: munzhelenga
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
  • Medium to Large
    Tree15m to 20m
    Shrub2m to 3m
    Perennial/ground cover60cm to 75cm
    Bulb60cm to 1m
    Succulent60cm to 1m
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Deciduous to Semi-deciduous In warmer areas a deciduous plant may not lose its leaves during winter at all, or may lose its leaves for a very brief period, or may only lose part of its foliage.
  • Drought Tolerance: Moderate The plant is moderately adapted to arid conditions and can survive short periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Fragrant / Aromatic These plants posses a strong, usually pleasant odour.
  • Frost: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Roots Invasive Do not plant near pools, paving, walls or buildings.
  • Thorns / Spines / Prickles Thorn: A hard, woody, pointed branchlet. Spine: A modified leaf forming a hard, sharp-pointed outgrowth. Prickle: A small, sharp-pointed outgrowth growing from the bark of the plant.
  • Water Loving Plants need a regular supply of water and must not be allowed to dry out for any length of time.
Specific Information

Vachellia xanthophloea is invariably found near a source of water: either where underground water is found or in swampy areas. It has clean-cut branches, sparse leaves and an open, rounded to flattish crown, with a spread of 10 to 12 meters. Vachellia xanthophloea  is immediately eye-catching with its smooth, slightly flaking, greenish-yellow bark which is coated in a yellow, powdery substance. The long, white thorns are noticeable on young trees, but become inconspicuous on mature trees. Given the right conditions the Fever Tree has the potential to grow both tall and wide so should be planted well away from permanent structures. A popular tree for nesting birds for the protection it provides, it is also host to many butterfly species within its natural habitat. This may mean that some or all of the foliage will be stripped when the caterpillars hatch, but the tree soon recovers - it's the price you pay for the pleasure of the butterflies. I was intrigued by the fact that the tree's leaves fold up at night and during extreme heat. The sparse foliage creates a lightly dappled shade - very useful for plants needing just a little shade.

Scroll down the comments section for pictures of adult Fever trees, kindly submitted by William, to whom I am most grateful.

Image of root system kindly loaned by, and property of, Witkoppen Wild Flower Nursery in Johannesburg.

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Small clusters of sweetly scented, round, fluffy flowers.

  • Spring Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • yellow
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.
  • Very 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.
  • Provides light / dappled shade A tree with an open to sparse canopy, through which varying degrees of sunlight can penetrate.
  • Rock Garden An area constructed of larger rocks, arranged naturally, to emphasise the use of stones as a main element. Generally plants used do not need a lot of care.
  • 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

in Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, as well as Zimbabwe, Mozambique and north to Kenya, in depressions and shallow pans where underground water is present or surface water collects after summer rains, in low-lying swampy areas, along the margins of lakes and on river banks

Planting Suggestions

Vachellia xanthophloea needs plenty of water for rapid initial growth, and the plentiful use of compost and mulch is highly recommended. Under ideal conditions the Fever tree will grow up to 1,5m annually. Take care not to damage the tap root.
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

Lorraine's Garden Notes

2013: Sadly, the specimen I used for my photos has been defaced by graffiti scratched into the bark, completely ruining the main trunk of this striking tree.

Medicinal Uses

The bark is used for treating fevers and eye complaints.

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I have a Acacia about 2m high standing in a pot. Can I plant it out in the ground and if yes when would be the best time to do it. I was told you can't desturb the roots.
Would love to here from you.
Ps. I live in Muldersvlei westen cape.

Hi Andre

I would go ahead and transplant the tree. It is important not to disturb the roots so you will need to remove the whole thing from the pot intact, without disturbing the soil too much. Depending on the shape of the pot and how tightly the plant is settled in it, you may have to consider breaking the pot. The best time to do this is now. I am not sure how well these trees adjust to a winter rainfall area, as they are usually dormant at this time of the year. After planting, water well and regularly all through spring and summer, bearing in mind that the Fever tree grows best in swampy areas with summer rainfall and a high water table. They do not like wind either so choose a protected spot.

This said, there is no guarantee that the tree will thrive as it may be pot bound or stunted, but with luck, it shouldn't die. Fortunately it is not very old.

Hope this helps you with your decision. Keep in touch and perhaps you could email before and after photos to add to the site.


Hi Lorraine
Thanks for comming back to me.
Will do so!


I planted a fever tree in Durbanville, Western Cape in 2000. It is now a beautiful specimen of this species. It grows well in the northern suburbs of Cape Town as is evident of the many trees planted by the City Council along the streets.
It sheds shot branchlets, thus you have to pick them up regularly as they carry long thorns, but it is a lovely tree.


I posted a comment about my fever tree in the Cape some time ago. It is 13 years since I planted the young tree. Unfortunately, I cannot upload a picture.
A couple of months ago, it developed a fungal infection. My local nursery recommended a fungicide. After a few sprays, the disease seems to have been stopped.

What fungicide did you use to curb the growth of the fungus?

My fever tree has some disease around the base of the trunk. It has gone black, the bark is peeling and some glue oozes from the trunk.
How can I treat the tree?

Hi Johan

My apologies for not having replied to your query.

There are loads of posts with photos much further down this page regarding your problem. Briefly, here is the advice from a well-known tree doctor in the Western Cape:

"This looks like the common canker that fever trees get and I have seen often, caused by a fungus but difficult to treat. They say cut off and burn, which is difficult on the lower trunk. The lesions slowly get bigger over the years. I would say spray or dust with a fungicide 2 or 3 times a year and see what happens. I haven't seen it cured before, but the treatments must help to some extent. Once it is around the tree as below I would say it is too late."

Scroll down until you see a picture of a tree trunk that looks just like what you have described, and you will find other posts on this subject.

Kind regards

Hi Matt

Many thanks for this comment. I so appreciate getting snippets like this as it is most helpful for other readers. If possible could you please get a photo or two of your tree and, perhaps the street trees, and email them to me? As you see, I only have pictures of a very young tree and have long been wanting pictures of a mature tree and hopefully some time, one in flower. It would be most appreciated.

Kind regards

Fever trees seem to do very well in the Western Cape and you can find them at most tree nurseries. I have a stand of 6 trees in my garden. Four of these were planted roughly 7 years ago and are about 6 meters tall with nicely developed crowns. One in particular is a prolific flowerer. The other two I planted last year and are doing very well.
The location is in the Winelands between Stellenbosch and Somerset West. My trees are totally exposed to the south easter as well as the north wester - perhaps this helps to balance the crowns! All 6 trees are irrigated and I give them a lot of water during the dry and hot summer months.
New growth is prone to infestation by aphids, but we are fortunate to be next to a vineyard and have an abundance of ladybirds and insect eating birds to keep the pests in check.
Lovely trees and very rewarding to have in the garden! They are popular with the birds and owls often use them as hunting perches at night.


Hi Pierre

Well that clears that up. Thank you so much for your input. This tree has gained much popularity in the past few years. It seems that good summer watering is the key to success with this species.

As I have no access to good specimens, would you please consider sending me a couple of photos to add to the website. Photos will be watermarked to prevent unregistered use and acknowledged with your name.


Hi Lorraine
What would cause a fever tree to suddenly lose its leaves and appear to be dying. All the tips are dead. I live in Sunningdale, about 4Km from the beach and 20Km from Cape Town on the West Coast. I have 13 trees and they all started off well, now one is sickly, will send you photos. There is an 8 year old one close to me, a perfect specimen, will send that photo shortly.

Hi William

This is not an uncommon occurrence in nature as well as in gardens. For what appears to be no reason at all, one or two plants from a group will suddenly up and die, despite being situated right next to or among others of its kind that show no stress at all.

However, I have seen this happen to my bagged acacia trees when they have been too dry. The tips die off and if not given water the whole plant dies. Given water, they recover remarkably well.

Is it possible that being right on the edge of the driveway, it is not getting quite as much moisture as it should? (These trees are greedy for water, especially in summer.) From the photos it seems that you are on a slight downward slope so the tree next to the driveway on the other side would benefit from runoff from the other trees, whereas the sickly tree has at least half of it roots under the brickwork and what moisture it does get is seeping away before it gets enough benefit.

From the photo it looks as though this tree is not in a dire state and there seems to be no sign of disease. If it were mine I would cut away any tips that are really dead - in other words the wood snaps if bent. There seems to be a fair amount of new growth along the nodes so cut back the dead wood only. I would also make a bank of soil or branches around the tree's base - at least a meter away from the tree trunk, sprinkle some slow release organic fertiliser and a layer of compost, then cover all with a thick mulch of leaves or bark and water deeply (once a week for two hours at a light trickle). This will help keep the moisture where it is needed and give the plant a bit of a boost to help it catch up to the others. Make sure that a space about the size of dinner plate is left open around the trunk at the base.

Oh, also check around under the soil at the base for ants. I have lost quite a few plants this way as they nest below the ground and the roots die off.

That's about all I can suggest. Perhaps other readers will have some suggestions. Do keep me posted and looking forward to the next photo.


Hi Lorraine,
As I am considering planting a fever tree in our garden, I too have a question in regard to fever trees planted in Sunningdale.
I recently discovered that our garden is situated on a clay belt - there is a clay belt in Table View running from Flamingo Vlei all the way through to Sunningdale. My current tree (which is not a fever tree) is dying as it does not like wet roots. I was unaware of the clay belt when this tree was planted.
Will a fever tree thrive in clay conditions? If affirmative, what would be the planting and maintenance criteria?

Hi Georgina

Fever trees grow naturally in alluvial clay and thrive with 'wet feet', so your situation sounds ideal. The only possible problem is that Fever trees get most of their moisture in summer, with a sort of rest period in winter. However, many people in the Western Cape are having great success with Fever trees, so this should not be a problem as long as the tree receives sufficient water during your dry summer months.

For planting, I suggest the following site - it puts it all the information you need in a nutshell:

A word of warning: Point 9 of the article talks about packing the soil. Make sure that the soil is not pressed down too hard, especially as you are dealing with clay. I often used my hands to find air pockets among the roots so I can press soil into the spaces. You will want the soil firmly packed, but not compacted.

You will also find watering guidelines on this site at:

Once the tree has been planted, water in summer as suggested in the article, ensure the layer of mulch is kept thick, keep an eye out for any sign of disease as well as for aphids, ants or other pests and take the necessary action. Choose a slow-acting organic fertiliser and apply according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Your query has spurred me on to write a blog about one of the pitfalls to avoid when buying a tree. I am busy with it now and will add the link here as soon as I am done.

Hope I've answered all your queries.

Kind regards

Hi i stay on the bluff durban
we have lost app. 8 no trees after they have taken off very well
our soil is sandy and damp after app 300mm
can i root/grow fever trees off slips
there is a number of trees 10m plus in the area

hope to be a healthy fever tree grower.

Hi Hennie

I am sorry to hear that your trees have died. I googled the area in which you stay. Is it possible that your trees get salt in the wind? This could be detrimental. Compare your situation to those that are growing well in your area and see if you can find a reason why yours died and the others have thrived. They may have had protection while they were young or the soil may be less saline.

I have researched a number of sites and it appears that most acacias do not grow from cuttings, and those that do, need to be kept in a heated misting unit. I found no suggestions at all that Fever trees can be propagated from cuttings or truncheons.

Our local mall is situated high on a hill a few kilometres from the sea They get strong winds off the sea. Initially the trees grew well but after a couple of years many of them have died and the rest are twisted little shrubs.

I hope you can find a solution but sometimes one has to accept that certain plants just don't like our gardens. I have had to give up on many plants that I would like to grow, the Fever tree being one of them. They just will not thrive in my soil.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine. I just caught your site by luck when I typed in Acacia xanthophloea...haha...I notice eveyone here spells it xanthoplea. I hate to be a know it all...but technically it does need that "h" in there. Sadly far as tres are concerned...I live in Canada....far away from the trees I am doomed to grow them in pots. I have some A.xanthophloea a couple of years old in small pots,...and just sowed about 10 more babies tonight. I grow about 20 species of Acacia. Some species i wiould love are imposible to find seeds of. They all become bonsais of a fashion.. and will never of course grow to full size. least thay have some kind of life which is better than none.

Hi Marlena

Gosh, is my face red! Thanks for pointing out this error. I don't know how I missed it as I do try to be accurate. I have made the corrections on the page.

I can only imagine how I would miss South African plant life if I had to leave it all behind. I assume you have contact with all the SA seed suppliers but you are right - there are so many plants for which seeds are simply unavailable. Even much of the plant information I gather is from sites ranging from the USA to Russia, as there is no reference to them on South African sites. It is a sad reflection that our flora are more appreciated overseas than in our own country.

Hope that your collection continues to expand and thrive.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine. Wow! Thank you for such a quick response. Much appreciated. You're right...I do have contact with S.A. seed suppliers. My main one for years has been Rachel and Rod Saunders at Silverhill Seeds in Kenilworth. And there's a fellow in Port Elizabeth that sells online too...and one or two others from time to time. But even at that...its much of the same thing over and over. Mind you...I have just ordered from Silverhill 2 species of seed they happen to have that I could find anywhere else...which are Afzelia quanzensis....and Xanthocercis zambeziaca....and 2 species of Brachystegia. Naturally...they won't become much of what they were all destined to be... as they will be growing in pots....but I still have a strong fascination to grow them for some reason. I grow a lot of different trees Lorraine...but tend to lean towards the thicker based type trees with smaller leaves.. like many of the Commiphoras (which are really hard to get good seeds for).I grow a lot of the New World counterparts to the Commiphora which are the Burseras. From Africa I have some specimens growing of.. yes....Acacia.... but also Albizia, Boscia, Burkea, Celtis, Commiphora, Cussonia, Dichrostachys, Elephantorrhiza, Entada, Entandophragma, Erythropleum, Erythrina, Euphorbia, Jatropha, Kirkia, Moringa, pachypodium, Peltophorum, Schotia, Sesamnothamus and Sterculia ..... and on the non tree side of things...lots of Pelargoniums and succulents. I really need to be living in Africa but for some strange reason the Gods of Fate dumped me here!! I find it sad to hear that the enthusiasm for your tree life and other plant life in Africa is not so strong.Hard to understand... but even here in Vancouver..there is only me that I know of that grows these trees.

I also have a fever tree and live in Swakopmund Namibia, the tree is still young and has lost its leaves, is that normal.

Hi Sonja

As I am aware that Namibia has little rainfall, I checked the temperature and rainfall averages for Swakopmund, and the low rainfall average of around 20 mm annually, is probably the problem. You don't mention how much water your tree is given over and above the rainfall but fever trees need a great deal of water. They live in habitats with high levels of humidity and an annual rainfall of 250 to 2 000 mm. The sea fog which brings in some moisture may help, but I assume that this is slightly saline and dries quite quickly - not something Fever trees would appreciate.

Fever trees are evergreen but the cooler winter temperatures combined with the lack of humidity and low rainfall may have caused the tree to go into temporary hibernation.

Another assumption I have made is that the soil in your area is very well-drained so that any moisture you do receive quickly dissipates. Fever trees prefer soil that retains water over long periods to a great depth. This tides them over through the dry winter periods.

The only advice I can give you is to water the tree deeply and often, and spray the leaves with water as often as possible, especially when hot winds blow. To check if the tree is still alive, bend a twig. It should bend not snap.

Hope this information helps.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine,

I've been researching planting Fever Trees and have just come across your website, which is fantastic.

We've just moved to a new house and I would like to plant some Fever Trees. I would like to plant a grouping of Fever Trees (not in a straight line!) and was wondering if you could please advise how far apart Fever Trees should be planted.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Warm regards

Hi Patrick

I am hesitant to make any concrete suggestion as I do not know where you are living. In their natural habitat Fever trees can grow very tall and 10 to 15 meters across, but in drier areas they may reach only 5 - 10 meters tall with a spread of around 4 or 5 meters.

The planting distance from each other could be anything from 8 to 20 meters apart, depending on climate, available water, type of soil and the final effect you would like to create - open forest or shady grove. I assume you have plenty of space but do be aware that the canopy can grow very wide, so keep them away from any permanent structures.

I hope this has provided you with enough information to make a decision, but feel free to contact me with more information about your locality and climate.

Kind regards

Hi, my wife and I just bought a house in port edward, there is 4 fever tree's about 2meters tall, but about 1.5 meters away from our garage. Will it later lift my structure or do any damage? Hope not cause we really love the tree's!

Hi Roy

These beautiful trees have been planted in the wrong place and it saddens me to suggest they be removed. However....

Fever trees can grow very large with a wide-spread canopy, which can become invasive if too close to a permanent structure. With Port Edward's relatively high annual rainfall the trees are likely to thrive, with branches that could hang well over the garage roof, not only blocking gutters with leaves, pods and thorny debris, but with the added danger of a branch breaking and falling onto the building.

For myself I would not want a Fever tree planted any closer than 8 to 10 meters away from a permanent structure.

Unfortunately, although your trees are still quite small, it is unlikely that they would survive transplanting. Acacias have long, deep tap roots which, once damaged, result in the death of the tree.

I am sorry that I can't give you a more positive answer. If you have the space rather start out with one or two large specimens from a nursery, placing them in a position where they can grow to their full potential without invading your living space. If you feed them well and give them plenty of water throughout spring and summer, they will soon reach the size of those you have removed.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine. I have a Young Fever tree in my garden that I would like to replant into a big pot. Would this be a wise move?

Hi Isabel

I have my doubts about this. All Acacias have exceptionally long tap roots which, if damaged, will result in the death of the tree. To demonstrate this, I have included a picture of the root of a three day old Acacia seedling.

My feeling is that if you dig up the tree in the garden, you will have to cut the main root, so your chances of keeping it alive are slim.

Kind regards

I would like to plant this tree in my garden in the Johannesburg Highveld area.
Is this possible and how big is it likely to grow.

Hi Alan

It would depend on the amount of frost you get in the area. Fever trees are only half-hardy to frost, meaning that they can survive the occasional light frost, but icy winds, sustained frost or heavy frost will cause permanent damage or death. The tree would need to be covered in winter for the first 2 - 3 years, but this will not guarantee its survival if it is exposed to severe frost at a later stage.

As to size, the Fever tree may grow anything from 15 to 25 meters tall with a canopy spread of 10 to 12 meters. In colder conditions I doubt that it would grow particularly large but I'd be guessing if I gave you a more specific indication.

It is interesting to note that I was unable to find any indigenous nursery in the Johannesburg area with the tree for sale - an indication that it is not a suitable choice for the Highveld.


Hi Lorraine,
I saw in one of your posts that you could not locate any indigenous nursery's in the Johannesburg area.

I have two fantastic Indigenous Nurseries very close to me which stock the most amazing variety of trees etc. The one in Cedar Road also holds talks frequently on our local flora.

The first one is called Grow Wild and they are based in Dunmaglass Road, Glenferness, Kyalami AH (website: The second is Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery at at 363 Valley Road, North Riding (web site: www. have Fever Trees in stock). Both of these have been very helpful in my search for the appropriate flora for my garden.

I hope that this assists you.

Thank you for great advise



Hi Tracey

Thanks so much for your help. Nice to know. I do wish nurseries would keep their websites up to date. I checked the catalogues for both of the above nurseries before I replied to Alan in the previous post, and neither of them had Fever Trees listed.

You are fortunate to be situated so close to these wonderful nurseries. In my Jhb. days I had to travel from Mondeor - always a major undertaking with three small kids in tow. I could spend hours at Witkoppen, planning and collecting and counting my pennies. I always overspent!

And let's not forget Random Harvest ( - another excellent Indigenous nursery in the Muldersdrift area.

Kind regards

Urbanforest is another nursery in Midrand, Jhb, which also has a large number of indigenous trees for sale. They will also plant the trees for you. (

Hi Brent

Thanks for your information. I will definitely add this nursery to my list.

Kind regards

My emails to you are returned as "not able to deliver"

I have noticed that you say these trees have an invasive root system, they actually have tap roots and will not damage walls, they get big though. There are three nurseries here with large trees on their properties, no damage to paving after 12 years

Hi William

You are absolutely correct regarding the tap root, but the principal reason for the tap root is to anchor the tree deeply into the ground. Tap rooted trees get the bulk of their nutrients from the many horizontal roots they send out - often found in the first meter below the soil surface. It is these roots that become invasive - see the fourth picture above.

Many thanks for the pictures - much appreciated. I'll add a reference in the 'Specific Information' box above.

The email address you are using is very old and was abandoned some time back. The correct address is

Kind regards

I have so enjoyed and learnt from the fever tree discussions. Have been growing one on the north side of my double story cottage in Stanford, hoping the spreading branches will one day grow taller and give a treetop living feeling up - its getting there! However I was shocked today to see the base which has a small flowerbed round it, looks as though it has been ring-barked...I guess by some kind of insect, or could it be mice? The tree looks OK but will it eventually kill it? Is there any protective covering I can put on? Only the green outer bark has gone.
Incidentally the biggest and most beautiful fever trees I have ever seen grown on the shores of Lake Naivasha, Kenya
Would be grateful for your advice, Sara

Hi Sara

I'm stumped. Firstly investigate the soil around the base and under the soil, specifically for ants or termites, but also for signs of other insect activity. Make sure that any mulch is removed from the area directly around the trunk so that dry air can circulate. You may wish to spray with an insect poison as well as an anti-fungal mixture, just to be safe.

To prevent activity from small critters, place a 'collar' around the base of the trunk - something like a pliable asbestos roofing strip or even a cut up plastic bucket. This should be smooth and high enough to prevent small creatures from climbing over the top.

I have attempted ring-barking a few trees and have discovered that this must be done deeply into the trunk and in a wide strip of at least 30 cm. It seems that your tree is not so deeply affected as to cause permanent damage.

If you are unable to find a specific cause and the damage continues, I would suggest you get in touch with a 'tree doctor' - there is sure to be one in Cape Town - check the Yellow Pages.

Hopefully the problem will clear up. Perhaps another reader will be able to add some clarity to this matter. It would be interesting to have a follow-up if you do find a solution.

Kind regards

Thanks Lorraine for your speedy reply! Because this bark is missing off the trunk in places up as high as 8" and goes all the way around, I am really worried and will contact a tree person in our area as you suggest. We have one such person. Can the woodlouse be the problem, that is about all I could find that looked possible! The wood showing is oozing just a little gum. If I find out, will let you know.

Hi Sara

It does sound as though you need expert advice here. I don't think the Woodlice are to blame. They are a bumbling lot of critters, attracted to leaf mould, dried bark and dead logs - I have not known them to cause any sort of damage. I would really like to know what the problem is. Do keep me posted.


Hi Sara

We have the same problem (in Velddrif). Have you managed to find a solution for the problem as we would love to save our tree.


Hi Lorraine, I have found out the answer to the ring-barking on my lovely Fever Tree, as same thing has happened on the farm I lived for many years in our area...mice! Must be quite athletic but otherwise they stand on back legs. The tree had shrubs grown up close around it and I have learnt my lesson with that. They would likely be deterred if it was more open. Putting a piece of pipe around the bottom is apparently one solution. Sadly tho this tree is beginning to die back already and will have to find a new one.
Thanks for your interest and hope will help others!

Pat hi, the tree expert from our area hasn't got back to me unfortunately. Whilst the tree has green leaves on it I feel it will never grow well under the circumstances, if it lives. Someone with exactly the same problem said mice had eaten the bark in his case and that the tree had planting around the bottom so the whole process was hidden! I think this is very likely (perhaps its medicinal?!) however I am surprised they could reach as high as they have.
I was told the solution for the future is to put some piping around the base which can expand, at least in the beginning and I will do this if I have to replace the tree.
Regards Sara

I live in malmesbury, south africa and have 2 fever tree's . My problem is that the bark is dying off in a ring at the base of each tree. The one tree had an infestation of ants so I removed the dead piece of bark and the ants moved house but see that the bark is continuing to die off. Why is this the case? Kind regards, Catherine

Hi Catherine

As you will see from the previous comments, you are not alone with this problem. It seems that Fever Trees are sensitive to damage around the base of the tree. Ants are always particularly troublesome and are often found where a plant is already sickly.

Problems also arise when the base is covered with too much mulch, the tree has been planted lower than the surrounding soil surface or soil has covered the base because of subsidence. In this case the base of the trunk may be affected with fungus (which you may not necessarily detect) which can damage the bark and trunk. Once the damage has advanced so that the tree bark is affected all the way round the tree or has spread into the trunk, there seems little one can do to save the tree.

Check the previous two or three comments from previous readers with similar problems. If possible, send a picture or two of the damage - it may help to diagnose the problem.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine,

What a great site, yr advice and constant replies are awesome.

We wanted to plant a tree on our verge because we don't have a garden, only a deck that overlooks our road. We wanted the tree to grow quickly and attract birds. Fever trees were the natural choice, especially considering a few houses down a neighbour planted three of them on their verge and they absolutely took off!

So we bought a sapling from our local SPCA Nursery, which was about 1.5m tall with a trunk of about 3cm diameter (not circumference!) We planted him with the stake supplied in August 2013, and he seemed to take well. He didn't grow much in height, but new shoots of leave sprouted on the branches so we were happy. Then we decided to take the stake out and see if he could stand on his own, but alas he flopped over completely! I was stunned!

So I bought a thick dowel rod and drove it deep (35cm) into the ground right next to the trunk. I then used copper wire, about 2mm thick, to tie the trunk to the dowel rod. The tree is now standing nice and straight, but I used quite a few tie-points.

I just fear that the strong(ish) copper wire plus my multiple tie points could damage the tree or stunt its growth. I googled straightening a sapling with not much luck at all.

What would you suggest? Will this suffice or will I stunt this tree's growth?

Hi James

Thanks for your detailed description - it makes it so much easier to give you a useful reply. You have the general idea but a bit of background knowledge will help here.

The reason for staking is to allow the root ball to be held more firmly in the soil while the roots grow into the surrounding soil. Staking is not meant to immobilise the the trunk altogether. In nature, trees grow strong trunks in response to movement, i.e. wind, so it is essential to allow the trunk some movement. If a tree does not move, it does not develop a strong trunk - the stake replaces a supportive trunk and root system with an artificial support. The sapling responds by putting its resources into growing taller but not sturdier.

Ideally, the stake should be somewhat thicker than you have used and should have been placed a bit further away from the sapling to prevent damage to the roots and to allow for movement. Next, it is vital that you remove the wire ASAP: it will chafe and slice into the bark.

This is what I would suggest:

Get a stake 2 -3 cm in diameter, two thirds of the height of the sapling plus the 35 - 40 cm which will be buried. Insert it just far enough from the base to avoid the root ball. A good source of stakes can be found at a builder's hardware. A fence dropper or a square piece of pine about 2.5 by 2.5 cm is perfect. (It would help if you can get one end of the stake cut at an angle to make a point - so much easier to hammer it into the ground.)

For tying the trunk to the stake, I'd use a strip of pantihose or a strip of plastic from a plastic bag, about 2 cm wide and 30 to 40 cm long. (I prefer to use the stronger quality type bag used by clothing shops. Cut the strip from top to bottom for maximum stretch.) Hold the trunk of the sapling at the lowest point possible, where the sapling is held upright - probably about two thirds up. Tie the strip of nylon/plastic to the stake at this point, leaving two ends free. Take the two ends of the tie, cross them over, take them around the trunk, cross them over again (like a figure 8)and re-tie the ends to the stake. Make sure the sapling is vertically parallel to the stake. The sapling is now supported, has plenty of free movement and is not constricted in any way. Spread the plastic/nylon so that it lies flat against the trunk.

The stake should remain just long enough for the sapling to stand alone - a few months but no longer than a year.

Sorry about this being so long-winded and I hope that I have not made a simple task seem too complicated.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine
Thanks for all the valuable information your site provides. I am a farmer in Namaqualand and have a permanent tented camp on my farm ( I would like to plant some trees in and around the camp and seriously consider planting Fever trees as it has all the properties I am looking for – indigenous, fast growing, edible, shade canopy, promoting birdlife (I would love to have more owls at the camp) and attractive.
Our annual rainfall is however only approximately 320mm per annum and can be as little as 220mm in a bad year. To make matters worse, we get up to 90% of this from April to September as it is a winter rainfall area. From what I’ve read, this will not be enough water for the Fever trees to survive. I do however have ample borehole water available to water the trees during the summer months, but the water is brackish. It is drinkable but you can definitely taste the salt in the water (makes great coffee though). Can you perhaps shed some light on how sensitive Fever trees are for brackish (salty) water? Amongst others, the Acacia Karoo seems to do just fine on this water.
We have well drained soil in this area. I therefore intend to excavate planting holes of about 2m x 2m and 3 meters deep for every tree. Do you think lining the sides with plastic and giving the hole a layer (250mm or so) of clay at the bottom of each hole to retain moisture before filling the hole with compost enriched soil will create an acceptable patch to plant a Fever tree in or do you perhaps have a better suggestion? Should you agree, do you think 3m depth is enough? I doubt if I will be able to go any deeper with the excavator at this site, even 3m will be challenging at some spots.
I would also like to know about the pods produced by the Fever tree. I understand that it may be tasty and edible for sheep, cattle and game. Can you perhaps give me any idea of quantity of pods produced by a fever tree (in whatever measure or by means of comparison)? In Namaqualand we are always on the lookout for possible sources of feed for our animals. Pods usually are of high nutritional value to animals and it will be very interesting to know to what extend the Fever tree can be considered to be a source of animal feed.

Hi Victor

The reply to your comment is a bit lengthy, so I have written it up on my blog. Go to:

Kind regards

I would like to plant a fever tree in a pot - we live in a complex and therefore need to contain the size it grows to,
We live in Hillcrest KzN. Is this a feasible idea or not?
Many thanks,

Hi Rob

I have not had much experience in container growing, but I have had a few Acacias that have spent too long in their bags and their growth was suitably restricted. Acacias have extremely long tap roots and with the constriction of the root in a container, the plant the plant is effectively dwarfed. The idea is definitely feasible.

Just a thought: Ensure that you are able to position the pot where it is well out of the way of pedestrian traffic so that there is no chance of injury from brushing against the thorns.

Kind regards

W,hat are the black and red banded caterpillars that eat the roots of the acacia xanthophlia and create a foul smelling sticky deposit in the soil? How to destroy them?thanks David

Hi David

I have not come across this problem before and I am mystified but fascinated. Before I begin research, would it be possible to send a couple of photos of the caterpillar if possible, as well as the deposit? Also let me know where you are as this may also narrow the field down a bit.

Kind regards

We are battling with lice on the trees what can we do? We would be grateful for your advice, Marietjie

Hi Marietjie

My sincere apologies for not replying to you sooner. I'm afraid I lost your comment among the sudden rush of Fever Tree queries.

There are a number of methods, both organic and chemical, that can be used to repel aphids on trees. There are too many suggestions to address here so I suggest you Google: 'control aphids trees'

You will find hundreds of sites dealing with this problem and I am confident you will find one that suits your situation. Although many of the sites are from overseas, the information is valid for any country and any tree variety.

Kind regards

Hi, ca i plant the trees in huge fruit crate type pots

Hi Anton

Your query led me to do some deeper investigation into the growing of Fever trees in containers. Growing trees in pots causes the plant to become in effect, a Bonsai, albeit quite a large one, so I researched the use and suitability of the Fever Tree as a bonsai. All the sites I found that even mentioned using the tree as a bonsai indicated poor results. Almost all attempts to grow the tree in reduced size failed and those that were initially successful died within a couple of years at most.

My impression is that this is not a suitable tree for container growth. They will probably be fine initially but I very much doubt that they will sustain this growth once they have become pot bound after three or four years.

If you do decide to give it a try anyway, I would suggest that they be watered very regularly in summer, bearing in mind that their favourite habitat is in or beside rivers or in flooded pans. The soil in containers can become extremely hot and if the roots dry out completely it is very likely that the plant will die.

For a list of other acacias suitable for container culture go to:

Kind regards

Dear Lorraine

We planted three fever trees in our garden in November 2013. At the time we planted them they were more or less 1.5m high and have taken off and stands above 2m now. I also have a problem with them falling over but have supported then now. The branches of the tree are a bit wild at the moment and growing in all directions and one of the trees with a y branch at the top have started splitting. My question is; when should I prune the tree, which branches and how much should I prune it back to get a neater tree and a less top heavy tree?

Your advice would be much appreciated.

Kind Regards,
Jako from Windhoek

Hi Jako

With reference to your trees falling over, it is very likely that the trees were pot bound, with the main tap root circling around the base of the original container. If this is so, it is quite possible that the trees will never have a strong root system, as the tap root will be unable to straighten itself and go deep into the earth to form a sturdy anchor.

Personally I am not in favour of pruning young trees at all as I prefer to allow them to retain their shape as nature intended. Also bear in mind:

As you can see from the pictures above, the fever tree already has a very sparse, open branch system, so pruning too much too early could result in a very sparsely branched mature tree; and

Most trees will sprout a number of branches at the end of each cut branch, resulting in even heavier growth.

Pruning your trees is actually quite simple although much of the process will need to come from your own judgement. Pruning should be done in late autumn to mid winter, when the trees are experiencing a rest period. Trim off any branches you feel are untidy and thin out the upper branches to prevent top heaviness. To repair the splitting branch, either cut below the split or brace the split. (Google: brace split branch)

If you feel you need more information you will find dozens of sites by Googling: prune young trees

Kind regards

Hi Jako I would like to just add to what Lorraine has said, I know this is old but it might help others understand. Primarily that in order to "retain their shape as nature intended" means in fact quite a complicated topic, but definitely means a lot of and in this tree's case a lot of quite heavy pruning. This is done by browsers in the wild that also give many of our trees and very most definitely including this one their characteristic ultimate shape.

We have to do this for them in domestic situations if we want a tree that looks as majestic as the wild ones. I will answer in detail as its worth growing them right.

Firstly have no fear at all about pruning V. xanthophloea, just make sure you do it right, and from the start. In fact most nurserymen constantly prune these to get a good shape on a young tree, at least for the first three or four years and in the ground a few years longer. After this time and usually well before three years in fact they should really be in the ground as the bag gets too big and they don't take off so well in the ground when planted out as mentioned because the tap root becomes established growing in circles and cramped under the trees weight. But even cutting the trunk in half of a sapling works just fine as I will tell later.
Primarily removing at least half of the branches off, these are the lower side branches at the end of the rainy season into the dry season is what should be done. The aim is to encourage a nice sturdy strong straight trunk at this stage.

In the dry season is when these trees primarily put on girth, in the summer (rainy season) they put on height, this is important to remember.

A tree can more than double its girth during the dry season and removing the lower side branches at this time positively encourages that. This happens in nature with various browsers, the tree responds by growing stronger. In the wet season they can then safely grow taller and not topple, mostly at this time they are in fact growing in standing water. A good dry season is thus very important. Most in the wild develop as a result of climate and browsers into a lovely vase shape on a tallish single trunk with few if any horizontal branches. A more or less flat top of ascending branches of equal height. When trees get very old this habit loosens up somewhat as browsers like giraffe can no longer get to the canopy and even elephants can no longer pull off the odd side branch.

I have seen trees not pruned in domestic situations and these look mostly most uncharacteristic of the species in the wild. With side branches that can be very long and low and as wide as the main trunk which itself then stays squat and short. Inevitably people cut these low wide branches eventually when they grow straight out and into the way, leaving huge saw wounds. At that size they are difficult or impossible for the tree to heal over. Interestingly the exposed wood turns pitch black which leaves an electrifying contrast with the sulphuric yellow bark. To me at any rate not a very attractive contrast because its such a very obvious reminder of damage.

However the fever tree is particularly quick at healing thinner side branch removal as it does in nature when young and for quite a long time in fact, even having them ripped off by an elephant is no problem. In a matter of two weeks they can heal over completely leaving that beautiful characteristic ripple like a stone in a pond effect on the bark and main trunk of wild trees.
Look for the swelling where the branch is attached on the main trunk of the sapling (very obvious in this tree) and cut immediately after it. What happens is the tree immediately seals the cut and grows thicker and also indeed grows huge thorns in response. Both serve to protect the young tree in the wild when this happens. The latter are no problem as the thorns tend to drop off the main trunk as the tree gets older and the thorns generally get smaller which to me is sad, but they are a nice flashy spiky feature in young well kept trees at any rate.

As far as young trees toppling over this is also very common in domestication. The reason being is they are fast growers, very fast and respond far too well to fertilisers or rich soils. They shoot up sending side branches out all over the place and simply fall over as a result in even the slightest breeze. This can and does happen with a lot our indigenous trees in domestic situations as they are slow growers in the wild but the fever tree is particularly prone as its already a very fast grower. This is even worse in sandy soil. If you are a feed happy type go for low nitrogen low phosphate and very high potassium as this gives the best results, less height and more girth. In fact some ash from burnt branchs, twigs and dry grass etc gives excelent resuts too, the tree seems to respond to what is in effect also as well as a fert a fire stimulus.

In response to your other problem of splitting, have no fear simple cut off one of the leading branches entirely, leave which ever is stronger, the wound will cover and the other one will continue. In fact as I mentioned you can also cut young xanthophloea trees in half and start again no problem, new branches will grow upright and away. Just cut just above a branch. Select that as leader and keep removing half the side branches bellow once or twice a year and it will gain meters in no time and look like nothing happened at all. So you can cut bellow the split no problem too right through the trunk. You can do this safely right up until the trunk diameter is about 10 cm, after which it should realy be sorted.

It is remarkably forgiving as a young tree and it has to be as elephants, black rhino, buck, larva all sorts tuck into it and it survives turning into a beautiful swan as it does.

Staking is vital in domestic situations at least until the tree has put on sufficient girth and side roots. Its also vital to train seedlings on a stake as they flop over very easily as they will be watered and fed almost continuously in a nursery setting and in the garden at that age, they wont survive otherwise unless your conditons are optimal.

Im amazed knowing how much they need a good wet humid steamy hot summer and warm to cool (slightly cooler) sunny dry as a bone winter at how many people say they grow so well in The Cape, Western Cape. Obviously a lot more flexible than I at any rate ever thought so obviously worth a try in places less than ideal. Though definitely cold and wet is not ideal for canker of the base and frost and cold winds of any sort are lethal for these of course.

Hi Anton

Thanks again for your help and advice. I will be adding your comments to my blog, as they are so useful not only for this tree, but for a wide variety of other trees as well.

Kind regards

I picked up from your threads that one should not attempt to transplant these trees. In my case I have no choice as the tree is planted 2m from my pool and although only about 18 months old, already growing at a rapid rate. Do you have any tips on how I should approach the transplant?
Many thanks,

Hi Anthony

As I have not done this before, I must refer you on to another site. I went through a number of sites until I found the following, which really gives an excellent explanation:

My main concern would be to keep as much of the tap root intact as possible. Instead of just digging from the drip line, I would start with a trench around the tree, wide enough to stand in, so as to be able to reach much further down into the earth. Of course, this means that the prepared replacement hole will have to be equally deep. From what I can gather, if your tree is 2 m tall, you will have to dig down about 1,5 m.

I would really appreciate some photos of the process, as well as a comment next spring, as to whether you were successful or not. This information would be most valuable to other readers.

Wishing you success in your endeavour.

Kind regards

Anthony the best solution to this is to cut down the tree and plant another one. They grow very quickly and are a joy to see growing. Disturbing an established fever trees roots is not worth it. The tap root damage would set it back hugely and it wouldn't recover sufficiently to make the astounding ornamental it is when growing robustly and uninterrupted by root damage. They are far more resilient to damage above ground then bellow.

Ps I've and this is anecdotal evidence of course but I've known a giant fever tree growing that same distance from a pool without any trouble at all. Its been there for almost 50years at the infamous (: Hluhluwe Hotel in Zululand. They dont all grow invasive surface roots. This all depends on your soil etc. The often used picture of the famous surface roots of the one growing at Satara Camp in the Kruger are completely misleading. These are a direct result of irrigation of the lawns surrounding it. Shallow continuous watering and feeding has in the past encouraged the roots over the years to form a giant web of enormous roots at the surface. Very few wild trees have these even growing in seasonally swampy ground.

Hi Anton

Thank you for your knowledgeable advice and comments. I appreciate your clarification on the invasive roots issue and will alter the above information accordingly. As you can see, there is so much interest in this tree, but I have found little helpful content in my research. It is such a relief to get some hard facts.

Kind regards

Lorraine, tonight is my first venture into the world of planting fever trees In suburbia! I have wanted a fever tree in my small Cape Town garden for a while and my intention is to remove a large plane tree and replace it with a fever tree, alongside the thirty plus year old yellowwood tree, which is now growing skew because of the horrid plane tree. BUT the furtherest I can get it from the house is three meters. I can deal with the leaves, etc, in gutters, I have an indigenous Acer tree that drops LOTS of leaves, my concern is more roots, but I read above that fever tree have deep tap roots, do you think I will need okay wit it not too far from the house? Can you recommend
A nursery in the cape that can sell me a tree that is at least three meters tall ... Ie two meters of trunk, then canopy above that? Many thanks and look forward to you reply. Barry

Hi Barry

Thank you for your question. As you can see, I have had so many queries about the Fever tree and yours was the one that gave me the kick I needed to do a blog that I should have done long ago. The questions you have asked, plus a whole lot more, have been answered in the blog. Go to:

Kindest regards

I'm in California, USA. I planted a two fever tree 2 months ago it's really growing vigorously but the growth is just hanging down. Too much water maybe?

Hi Gabriel

What a fine, healthy specimen.

Seeing that a large part of California has a winter rainfall climate, I am going to assume that this is what we are dealing with.

I am hesitant to say that the tree has been getting too much water because they grow here beside rivers and in summer waterlogged 'pans' but they are dry in winter, which is their rest period. Obviously this is not the case in your climate of winter rainfall. However many people in the Western Cape of South Africa, also a winter rainfall area, grow these trees successfully.

I see that much of its growth is to one side - is this a result of wind? I would be tempted to put up a really tall stake and loosely tie that main branch into an upright position for a while - 6 months to a year at most. This will also serve to pull up the side branches into a better position. As for the thin branch that is hanging so low, I would consider cutting it back to the point where it is able to support itself in a better position, or even remove it altogether.

Do be aware that Fever trees like lots of water in summer and as this is your dry time, it will need to be watered. Although they have tap roots, they sent out a network of long roots just below the surface of the ground, so when watering, don't only water in the saucer, but all round, past the drip-line of the tree. It would also be beneficial in summer to cover the area all round the tree with an organic mulch (not lava rock!) so as to conserve water and keep the roots cool - but keep a good space round the trunk clear of mulch. This is a forest tree, so in its natural habitat, the roots are shaded by other trees.

Hold back any extra watering next winter to ensure the tree doesn't become waterlogged.

Hope this helps.

Kind regards

I live in Pretoria East , my Fever trees planted next to my driveway are eight years old and the roots are lifting my paving and every year this time they shed their leaves and give off fine white dew like drops. Is this normal.

Hi Abe

Firstly the roots. Go to the following link and scroll down to the heading 'Are the roots invasive?' for a description and a picture of the root system. This is something the nurseries don't mention to prospective buyers.

As to the dripping, I have not seen any mention of this in my research, nor has anyone mentioned it before. Fever trees do exude gum when the bark is damaged, but this sounds quite different. I can't give you an answer but here are some thoughts:

It may be possible that as the tree is going into it's winter rest period, it is dripping an excess of moisture as it seals off the leaves as they fall.
The only other explanation I can think of is that the tree is infested with White Fly or Aphids. These insects both produce honeydew which could explain the drips.

If you do find out, please let me know - you've got me fascinated.

Kind regards

I am building a house and wants to plant Fever Trees as focus points. The trees were part of my garden layout from the beginning. On the layout the trees are in-between the swimming pool and the house (3m from pool and 3m from building) Is this to close to the building and pool.....will the roots damage these structures? I have plenty of ground water (swamp) and the Fever Trees in the vicinity are huge.
Can I plant Them???

Hi Johan

I dealt with this problem a few weeks ago in my blog, as I have had so many queries about the use of Fever trees in gardens. Just for interest, in the comment just before yours, a writer spoke about his 8 year old Fever Trees that are lifting his paving - and that in a very dry situation.

With swampy conditions, you can expect your trees to grow very big, very quickly. In your position, I would not even consider it, but read the blog, look at the picture of the roots and then you can weigh up the pro's and con's before you make your decision.

Go to:

Please do get back to me after you have read the information in the article. I would like to know if it was of any use to you or if you have any more queries.

Kind regards

My once beautiful very high Fever Tree about 8 Years old is suddenly loosing its leaves and has a few dry branches.

I have noticed a few small ants and bark damage and wonder if this could be the problem... What should I do and how do I get rid of them?

Hi Tertia

To my admittedly untrained eye, this looks like the early stages of a problem about which I have been getting a growing number of queries. I contacted an expert and highly experienced Tree Doctor who kindly gave the following information concerning the specimen pictured below:

"This looks like the common canker that fever trees get and I have seen often, caused by a fungus but difficult to treat. They say cut off and burn, which is difficult on the lower trunk. The lesions slowly get bigger over the years. I would say spray or dust with a fungicide 2 or 3 times a year and see what happens. I haven't seen it cured before, but the treatments must help to some extent. Once it is around the tree as below I would say it is too late."

More than that I cannot tell you. All I can suggest is that you contact a Tree Doctor to make a definite diagnosis and perhaps provide a solution. It is possible that you have noticed this early enough for successful treatment or that it is something altogether different.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine,

I see from your diligent responses to prior bloggers that the condition many of my 18 fever trees seem to have is what your Tree Doctor suggested was a canker. I planted them out of 200l bags over a year ago and they have been looking very healthy - in Constantia, WC. They have endured winter rain and are getting good summer irrigation now; there is a bit of clay in soil. However, one has died entirely (possible root damage when harshly tethering to straighten) and another is now looking poorly and has gone introducing a shock of seed pods. This has made me look more carefully. To my horror I notice that most of them look similar (or worse) to the pic you posted on 06/21/2014 at 11:37. One or two has the bottom debarking and darkening like in the pic you posted, PLUS more shallow damage from bottom to about 50cm up. (Image 4801 shows this well).This additional damage seems to be the elimination of an "outer" layer of bark leaving a yellower but still bark layer underneath - whereas the damage at the bottom is deeper and seems to have exposed the core of the tree which has darkened to dark brown - here for sure it seems to have caused ring-barking of most of the trees. Amazingly all but one of the trees (plus the one that is certainly dead) look in pretty good shape otherwise. It seems unlikely that as many as 8 trees could all have had this damage occur so recently that they still appear healthy but will soon die due ring-barking?
Please see pics attached.
Would you be so kind as to pass on the name of your Tree Doctor so I can make contact directly as I am obviously very worried.
If anyone else has any advice to help save the trees, that would be appreciated.

Thanks very much

Hi Matt

This really does not look good at all and I would expect the trees to start showing signs of stress as the disease progresses. You can go to the following website to contact the chap who provided me with the information: I really hope that you will be able to save at least some of your trees.

(Do bear in mind that there is a charge for on-line diagnosis and a somewhat greater charge for a call-out)

Kind regards

I have planted seedlings in bags with a mix of river sand and compost 1:1.what ph value is best for these trees.

Hi Paul

I have found no reference in any of my sources as to an ideal ph for this species so a ph of 6.5 would probably be a good choice.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine
We live in Rondebosch, Cape Town and have recently planted 3 fever trees (about 4m high) in our garden. I was told by a landscaper to avoid buildup of soil/ mulch around the base of the tree and to watch for black spots that may appear on the bark as this would kill the plant. He suggested placing sandstone chips around the base of the tree to absorb excess moisture.
Please could you comment on this and provide me with more information. Am I doing the right thing by placing the stone chips around the trees? How often should the trees be watered in summer months?

Kind regards

Hi Jeanne

The advice you have been given is sound. The black spots referred to are the early signs of a canker that is reportedly common to Fever trees. Refer to the two previous comments for more about this. If you notice the slightest hint of a problem seek immediate help from an expert.

The problem seems particularly prevalent in the Western Cape - I am pretty sure it's a result of the winter rainfall, as I have had no queries about this from other provinces. Although the trees are water loving, this is only in summer - during the dry winter months in their natural habitat, the pans and streams where they live dry out and the trees have a rest period.

As a preventative measure I would make every effort to ensure that the trees have the best possible drainage for the winter. (Perhaps some sort of furrow to drain water away from them.) Planting very thirsty types of plant beneath them may also be a help. Erica caffra, Arum lilies, Agapanthus, Clivias or water loving reeds (Restios) such as Elegia come to mind.

During summer the trees need a great deal of water so water deeply and regularly, especially during very hot, dry spells. I would stop watering altogether in autumn.

Kind regards

I planted a fever tree approximately 2 meters tall in my garden in northern johannesburg last spring and it grew very well all through the summer. In May of this year it lost all its leaves and they are yet to return even though all the other fever trees I've seen in the area are bursting with new growth already. The ends of some branches are dark brown and I think got frost. The trunk is still beautifully green a it always was as well as the thicker branches of the tree. Will it make it or has it died during our harsh highveld winter?

Hi Greg

As long as the green branches are not brittle, breaking with a dry snap when bent, there is hope. The dark brown tips are definitely dead but if the green branches are still pliable, the tree should recover. I have noticed that when thorn trees die, they do it very quickly and the whole tree turns brown in a very short space of time. If it survives it will leaf when the weather warms up.

Kind regards

Hi there

I have recently bought a house in Garsfontein and there is a large Fever Tree on the pavement. I need to remove the tree (although it is beautiful) as I fear damage to my swimming pool a few feet away and it is taking away all the sunlight from my house. Does anyone buy large fever trees in Pretoria? Who can I contact? Thanks.

Hi Gabriella

There are a number of Big Tree Nurseries in Gauteng who may be interested, although I have not previously heard of any of them buying large trees from home owners. (They are more likely to charge you to remove it!) Google 'Big Tree Nursery Gauteng' or 'big tree removal Gauteng'. There are quite a few companies listed that you can contact. I'd be interested to hear if anyone is prepared to buy the tree from you. Do let me know as this information would be useful for other readers.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine

I got hold of the Tshwane City Council in Pretoria and they said that any Fever Trees on pavements in Pta need to be removed, due to the roots which can damage pools, houses, walls and roads.They came and removed the tree a week after I spoke to them. They said it could take between a day and 4 weeks for them to come. They even removed all the rubble and 2 thorn trees on the pavement. Apparently Thorn trees have a 25 year lifespan and after that they die and can fall down... many times on houses. My Thorn Trees were apparently at that age. Oh and you are not allowed to remove trees on your pavement, the council has to do it.

Hi, I bought two little fever trees today - they are only about 50cm in height. I am not allowed to plant permanently in my complex so I have potted them. Their root systems are small but from what I have read, they grow quickly? How often would I need to repot my trees in order to make sure the tap root stays strong and doesn't curl? I will eventually move and then plant them into my own garden but until then I want to do the right thing! Thank you, Leske

Hi Leske

In practice, there is a limit to how deep a container can be so unless you intend to move in a year or two, the tap root is bound to curl to some extent. However, if planted from the start in the biggest container you can provide, the trees will also be able to develop stronger side roots. Trees with tap roots are reliant on the long root principally for anchorage, not for gathering nutrients and water - this is done by the horizontal network of roots found below the surface of the soil surrounding the tree.

The reason for the immediate use of a large container is that each time the young tree is re-potted, it suffers a stressful setback. At best, Fever Trees do not like being in pots and if re-potted there is a strong likelihood that the tree will die.

My impression is that this is not a suitable tree for container growth. They will probably be fine initially but I very much doubt that they will sustain this growth once they have become pot bound after three or four years.

A further pointer that Fever Trees do not like their roots being interfered with is that this tree cannot be used as a bonsai. Where they have been used, they have died within two years.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine.
I previously wrote that I was concerned that our Fever Trees (3) planted in April this year may have canker. I dont think this is a problem that they have, but one of the trees in particular seems to have lost most of its leaves and not showing signs of new budding as yet. The tips of the branches are not brittle or dead, and are sill green inside if cut. Perhaps the tree needs some hot sunshine after a very wet Cape winter. When should the tree get its new leaves for Summer? Is there anything else I should be doing?

Hi Jeanne

There is almost no literature about growing this tree in the Western Cape so any further advice I could give you would be mere supposition. It doesn't sound as though the tree is dead so you will just have to wait and see.

I would be most interested to know if there has been any change in the areas you thought might be canker - have they grown or changed in any way?

Kind regards


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