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Bolusanthus speciosus

Tree Wisteria

Species Information
My first project - the Bolusanthus Speciosus. A tree that is indigenous to Southern Africa, and more commonly known as the Wild/Tree Wisteria.

This beautiful species occurs in the Northern Province, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland and Zimbabwe in a variety of habitats.

The genus name of the tree honours Harry Bolus, a businessman and enthusiastic botanist. The specific name "speciosus", is Latin for "beautiful".

  • Height: In the wild this is a small deciduous tree, 7m - 12 m tall, sometimes up to 18m, usually multi-stemmed with an erect, slender growth form.
  • Bark: On older trees the bark is brown to blackish-brown and deeply longitudinally fissured.
  • Leaves: The leaves have a smooth edged margin, slightly and irregularly scalloped. They are alternate, compound with 3-7 pairs of leaflets plus a terminal leaflet present. Markedly asymmetric at the base, but broadly tapering and rounded with a narrowly tapering apex. They are yellowish green, with the midrib and lateral veins pale yellowish and conspicuous, bright shiny green above and dull green below.
  • Flowers: Beautiful pea-shaped, pale blue to violet in colour arranged in long drooping bunches. Bunches of flat non-splitting pods persist on the tree for a long time after flowering. Flowering September to October extending sometimes into November and even on to December or January.
  • Fruit: A flat narrow pod about 7-10cm in length with a light brown or straw colour, but sometimes they may even be grey or even blackish with age. Fruit usually appears February to March.

The Tree Wisteria thrives in a variety of environments but does not like cool wet summers.

This tree seems to be a fragile and delicate tree, but the appearance belies the facts. It occurs in gardens in Southern Africa which receive some moderate frost during winter, and it can survive long periods of drought. The wood of the tree is also borer and termite resistant. The seeds germinate readily, but the seedlings do not transplant easily. However, given a good, well-drained soil and a sunny position free from frost, they can be fast growing.

The Tree Wisteria is certainly one of the most beautiful trees in southern Africa when in flower, and certainly rivals the Jacaranda (Jacaranda Mimosifolia). Its biggest drawback is the fact that it is short-flowered. However, the neat growth form and glossy foliage makes this an attractive plant all year round. The wood is one of the hardiest of the indigenous trees and has a wide variety of uses, although the pieces are usually small. The local Africans use the dried inner bark to relieve abdominal disorders.

My Tree
Humble Beginnings

Humble Beginnings

I could not have started my journey with this tree any harder than by growing it from seed.

Planted from a kit on 28 December 2002.

Even though I followed the instructions about soaking the seed overnight before planting, my first attempt did not germinate.

But that did not stop me. So I planted another on 10 January 2003.

This time I did not follow the instructions. I just made a hole, dropped in the seed, watered and hoped for the best.

For the first 11 days I thought that the seed was not going to grow. The morning of 22 January, there was still no sign.

Seed Planted

The seed has been sown

First Sign of Growth

The First Sign of Growth

But then later that afternoon, there was a sign of life. A small shoot not longer than 10mm was peering through the soil. Just 2 leaves and a short stem. That was all it took to get me hooked.
This is the most recent picture of the seedling. Unfortunately it was attacked by a beetle overnight that left some damage. This shocked the poor thing and it started to look a little worse for wear.

After cutting back some of the leaves and moving it to a protected area, the seedling seems to be looking up a bit.

A Little Taller

A little taller

Unfortunately, I killed this tree. Next time I will take a little more care.
I am going to wait until next year before I try this tree again!

Last updated 2003.12.15