Characteristics of White Stinkwood (Celtis africana) Trees in the Wild

White Stinkwood (Celtis africana)
White Stinkwood (Celtis africana) is a species of tree in the Cannabaceae family, native to Yemen and throughout much of southern Africa.

White Stinkwood is a tree common in southern and eastern southern Africa, where its aroma and woodcut are similar to that of Black Stinkwood (Ocotea bullata).

This tree can grow in a variety of habitats from wet forests to coastal scrub, mountain gorges, and open areas, usually savannas. Its range extends from the Western Cape, east and north around the southern African coastline, extending inland in warmer and wetter areas, and further north into Ethiopia.

White Stinkwood is often grown as a garden ornamental tree and many bonsai artists use it as a bonsai subject because this tree is tolerant of various types of soil and easy to grow. Because of this, outside its natural habitat, White Stinkwood is traded as an ornamental tree and prebonsai.

Characteristics of White Stinkwood Leaf

Celtis africana Leaf
Photo credit: Craig Peter

The leaves are simple, alternate, ovate to tapered with three distinct veins from the base. Leaf margins are slightly toothed towards the apex, while the basal third tends to be intact. The young leaves are bright, fresh green, and hairy on the upper surface, then they turn dark green and become more delicate as they mature. The leaves are 10 cm long and up to 5 cm wide.

White Stinkwood is a deciduous tree if it grows in cooler areas, but it becomes a semi-deciduous tree when planted near the coast or in tropical climates. In spring, it produces new, soft, light green leaves that contrast with the pale bark.

Characteristics of White Stinkwood Flower

Celtis africana Flower
Photo credit: Mahomed Desai

The inconspicuous, small, greenish, star-like flowers appear in early spring (August to October). The male and female flowers are separate, but they are produced on the same tree.

Characteristics of White Stinkwood Fruit

Celtis africana Fruit
Photo credit: magdastlucia

The fruit is long and thin, yellow or brown, and about 4 mm in diameter.

Characteristics of White Stinkwood Tree

Celtis africana Tree
Photo credit: fayne

White Stinkwood usually grows as an individual and a medium-sized tree between 10-12 meters tall in shrubs, on open ground, and occasionally on rocky soil.

The branches are dense and often close to low, and the canopy is dense. In favorable locations, White Stinkwood can grow to 25 m tall, with a single, branch-free trunk, although such large specimens are usually rare.

In an open and rocky position, White Stinkwood grows as a low shrub. The trunk has a smooth, pale gray to white bark that will peel off on old trees.

How to Cultivate White Stinkwood

White Stinkwood is easily propagated from seed, although for best results it is best to collect ripe fruit from mature fruiting trees, as fallen fruit is usually insect-damaged. It is best to separate the seeds from the pulp before planting, as the pulp inhibits germination.

White Stinkwood seedlings are best planted in nutrient-rich soil that gets ample sunlight.

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