Prunus africana

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Botanical Name
Prunus africana
Rosaceae - The rose family.
PROO-nus af-ri-KAHN-uh
Common Name(s)
Plant Group
  • Bulb / Corm / Rhizome / Tuber / Epigeal bulb Bulbs: are made up of fleshy scales as in an onion Corm: a short, swollen, underground stem that is hard and not fleshy as in a gladiolus Tuber: a solid, fleshy, underground, storage organ as in a potato Rhizome: an underground, horizontal, swollen stem at the base of the plant as in an iris Epigeal bulb: bulbs that rest above the ground with only the roots anchoring the plant to the earth as in albuca
  • Tree A woody, self-supporting perennial plant usually with a single main stem and generally growing more than 6 meters tall.
Plant Size
  • Medium
    Tree10m to 16m
    Shrub1m to 2m
    Perennial/ground cover40cm to 60cm
    Bulb40cm to 60cm
    Succulent40cm to 60cm
  • 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: Half-hardy The plant is able to survive low temperatures and some frost but requires protection against severe frost.
  • Water Loving Plants need a regular supply of water and must not be allowed to dry out for any length of time.
Specific Information

The leaves of Prunus africana are shiny green and similar to the leaves of a peach tree. When crushed, they have a faint smell of almonds. It can grow very large in its forest habitat but remains much smaller in gardens. In the dry environment of my garden it barely reaches 4 meters and is semi-deciduous, losing most of its leaves briefly during winter.

Prunus africana is classified as Vulnerable, indicating that the species is facing a high risk of extinction due to over-exploitation of bark for the traditional medicine trade. In KwaZulu-Natal it is now locally extinct in more than half the forests in which it used to occur. It is a protected tree in South Africa.

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long, loose sprays of small scented flowers

  • Spring 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
  • Moderate to 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.
  • Provides light / dappled shade A tree with an open to sparse canopy, through which varying degrees of sunlight can penetrate.
  • 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 the Eastern Cape to Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West, as well as Swaziland, Zimbabwe, north into central Africa, and in Madagascar and the Comoros, in evergreen forests near the coast, inland mistbelt forests and afromontane forests

Planting Suggestions

Mulch well and water regularly for optimum growth. For a successful result, try to mimic the tree's forest environment and provide plenty of water.

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

The bark is exploited in Africa on a large scale where it is used to treat chest pains. It is also reputed to have magical properties and to be very poisonous. The bark is now also exported to Europe, America and Japan for use in the treatment of prostatic hypertrophy (noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland).

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Is this the same as pygeum?

Hi John

Yes it is. Prunus africana was previously named Pygeum africanum and before that it was known as Laurocerasus africana. It's hard to keep up with the name changes!

I have updated the photographs.

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