Vepris lanceolata

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Botanical Name
Vepris lanceolata
Rutaceae - The rue, buchu & citrus family.
VEP-riss lan-see-oh-LAY-tuh
Common Name(s)
English: White ironwood
Afrikaans: Witysterhout
IsiXhosa: umZane; Umdlebe; Umngamazele
IsiZulu: umOzana; Isutha
Xitsonga: Muruvula
Tshivenda: Muhondwa
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
  • 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: 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.
  • 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.
  • Wind Tolerant Plants able to withstand the effect of strong winds.
Specific Information

This is one of my favourite trees and a first choice for a small garden. The undulating leaves are a shiny green and shiver in the slightest breeze. Vepris lanceolata is happy to grow below the canopy of other trees. The attractive leaves have a lemony scent when crushed. The white ironwood takes well to pruning and shaping. Although drought tolerant and water wise in its natural habitat, this tree is not suitable for very dry areas. When the fruits ripen to black, the trees are alive with feeding birds.

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very small, star-shaped

  • Summer to Autumn Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • greenish 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.
  • Container Trees, shrubs and ornamental species that can adapt to growing in a restricted environment.
  • 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.
  • Provides light / dappled shade A tree with an open to sparse canopy, through which varying degrees of sunlight can penetrate.
  • Screen A tall hedge of suitable plants planted closely together and used as a windbreak, to block a bad view, to separate parts of the garden or as a backdrop.
  • 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

coastally, from the Western Cape, through the Eastern Cape, and Kwazulu-Natal, in dune, riverine and low-lying forest, as well as Mpumalanga, Limpopo and parts of Gauteng and the North-West Province, in woodland and escarpment forests

Planting Suggestions

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 powdered roots are traditionally used for influenza and colic. The leaves are burnt to dispel evil spirits.

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The White Ironwood is one of the Trees of the Year 2014 Your photos are stunning as usual - I have shared them on my Facebook page

Hi Amanda

Thanks for your comment. I owe you a letter.

I tried your facebook link but kept getting 'page not found', then I realised the 't' from 'nature' was missing so I have added it in.

Kind regards

Hi, I have tried twice to reply to your email, but it keeps bouncing with technical error. "The recipient server did not accept our requests to connect." So hope you get this message via your website. Please send me another email address if you have one, thanks.

Hi Amanda

This address was discontinued almost two years ago when we changed our hosting service. I can't imagine where it is still lurking! My e-mail address is, which is the address on my contact page. Sorry about that.


Please would you advise if this ironwood would grow well with clay about 1/2 metre deep. I am on a slope, so drainage should be good.

Hi Phyl

I am afraid I can't be of much help here as I have little experience in dealing with clay soil, but here are my thoughts.

You didn't mention the density of your clay. If you have a sandy clay or a light clay, there should be no problem. As your clay layer is not very deep, it is quite likely that the tree will be suitable.

I did some searching and have found a couple of sites that mention planting trees in clay soil that may give you some extra guidance and greater success in the long run:

Hope this helps

Kind regards

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