Rhus (Searsia) pyroides is a very hardy, deciduous, drought-resistant tree that tolerates extreme conditions of drought and cold and makes a wonderful pioneer. Depending on how harsh the conditions are it can grow anything from 1m in very dry cold conditions and up to 6m in more temperate conditions.
Large, stout, woody thorns are borne along the stems which make this a good addition to a security hedge. The bark on mature stems is dark brown. It has attractive, velvety, light grey-green, trifoliate leaves that turn a lovely shade of yellow in autumn.
The inconspicuous sprays of tiny white flowers are borne from August to March, and attract insects and birds. These are followed by a profusion of large attractive bunches of edible fruit that turn reddish brown. They are so heavy that they make the tips of the thin branchlets droop, giving the female plants a ‘weeping’ shape when in fruit.
Only female plants bear fruit as male and female flowers are on separate plants. The profusion of fruit attracts birds to the garden. In fact, I battle to collect seeds on the many specimens on the farm as the birds seem to beat me to them most of the time.
It is the host plant to the Foxtrot Copper butterfly. In natural areas elephant, impala and kudu browse on the tree. For cattle farmers, it makes a useful fodder tree.
Plant in sun or semi-shade.
Size: 2 to 6m