Leucadendron argenteum

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Botanical Name
Leucadendron argenteum
Proteaceae - The Protea family
loo-koe-DEN-dron ar-JEN-tee-um
Common Name(s)
English: Cape Silver Tree; Silver Tree
Afrikaans: Witteboom; Silwerboom
Plant Group
  • Fynbos Certain plants endemic to the areas of the Western Cape of South Africa that have a Mediterranean climate of cold, wet winters and hot, dry summers.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
  • Wind Tolerant Plants able to withstand the effect of strong winds.
Specific Information

Leucadendron argenteum can grow to 8 m in 10 years but seldom lives beyond 20 years. The leaves are silver-grey, caused by thousands of tiny, soft, silvery hairs on both leaf surfaces. In hot, dry weather they are intensely silver as the hairs lie flat to protect the leaves from drying out and when blown by the wind, make an impressive sight. Male and female flowers are carried on separate plants.  Leucadendron argenteum needs a sunny position, with good air circulation, well-drained (sandy) soil, plenty of water, particularly in autumn-winter-spring and protection from frost. If you live in an area where you can grow this tree, do so - it will give you years of pleasure and be an instant hit with any visitors to your garden. 

Despite the many do's and don't in growing this species, it has adapted exceptionally well in my garden, being first planted some 40 years ago by my mother. It is completely water wise as my plants are situated far from any water source and has seeded freely. A present I have around forty self-seeded young plants that have come up during the past 18 months, following the death from old age of two trees. Rainfall is mostly in autumn and spring and my soil is of limestone origin, decidedly neutral to alkaline and often very dry. The area also has a good share of hot berg winds. Everything says they shouldn't grow here yet they are thriving. 

The Silver tree is classified as RARE (meaning that it has a small population and a restricted distribution range) and ENDANGERED (meaning that it faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild).  It is currently threatened by urban expansion, afforestation, inappropriate fire management, alien plant invasion, habitat fragmentation and susceptibility to root fungal infections.

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florets in rounded heads

  • 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.
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.
  • Provides light / dappled shade A tree with an open to sparse canopy, through which varying degrees of sunlight can penetrate.
  • 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

unique to the Cape Peninsula and Somerset West, in granite and shale fynbos on moist, south-facing slopes.

Planting Suggestions

Choose a sunny, airy spot with well drained soil. Clear the site of weeds and dig in a good mix of well-matured compost. Make a hole large enough for the root ball of the plant. The young tree must be watered regularly during the first two years, particularly in autumn-winter-spring. Mulch to a depth of 50 mm to reduce weed weed activity, keep the soil moist and cool and feed the soil with nutrients. Never dig around the base or inside the drip line of the tree. Root-rot fungus, fatal to the tree, infects the plant via broken or damaged roots. Protect from frost.

For detailed information go to http://www.plantzafrica.com

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:

Treehelp.com: 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

The silver tree was much used for firewood on the Cape Peninsula in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Have a large healthy Jester. It' very much in the wrong place in the garden. Can you successfully transplant a leucadendron of this size? Any tricks. Thanks

Hi Robert

Sorry Robert. No tricks and no transplanting. All of the Proteaceae family have, apart from underground roots, a wide network of tiny roots forming a mat, close to the surface of the soil. Disturbance of these or the underground roots, is likely to cause fungal growth, resulting in the death of the plant. I have previously tried transplanting some six month old Leucadendron argenteum. Of the six I transplanted, four died within a week, one lingered for 6 months before it died and the remaining plant survived but has remained small. Even if the plant evades the fungal growth, it is almost certain that a plant this size will die if disturbed.


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