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A picture of a White Milkwood

White Milkwood

Sideroxylon inerme

Also known as

Milkwood Tree, Witmelkhout, Melkhoutboom, Melkbessie (Afr.), Amasethole, Umqwashu (Xhosa), Amasethole-Amhlope, Umakhwela-Fingqane (Zulu)

Full Sun
Easy care
Moderate watering
Tender

8a-11b

USDA zone

-12°C

Minimum temperature

Expected size

Height
Spread

15m

Max

Min

5m

Flowering

  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has a strong fragrance

More images

A photo of White Milkwood
A photo of White Milkwood
A photo of White Milkwood
A photo of White Milkwood
A photo of White Milkwood

Overview

Sideroxylon inerme, a tree with a rich history, is a must for coastal gardens with its dense foliage, black berries and small, dainty white flowers. This small, evergreen tree grows to a height of 10 - 15 metres and has a sturdy trunk with a large, dense, rounded crown. Small greenish-white flowers with a strong, unpleasant smell are present during summer to autumn and purplish-black fruit are highly enjoyed by birds late summer to spring. The fruit and leaves contain milky latex. Indigenous to South Africa, this species is commonly found in dune forests, almost always in coastal woodlands and also in littoral forests (forests along the seashore). Sideroxylon inerme is a semi-coastal tree but direct sea wind can result in considerable burn damage from salt-laden wind, so it should be planted where a windbreak offers it some protection from the sea wind. People with homes situated where fires frequently occur, may consider planting a row of milkwoods, as this tree makes an excellent firebreak. Sideroxylon inerme is a protected tree in South Africa, meaning that no milkwood may be damaged, moved or felled. This is a common feature plant. ZA Distribution: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Western Cape.

Common problems

Generally problem and pest free.

    Harvesting

    Harvest fruit for seed collection during late summer to spring.

    Propagation

    Seed

    Removed seeds from the fruit's flesh; sow seeds in sandy loam mix in trays, keep in warm area well misted, germination takes 4-6 weeks; sow seed in summer.

    Cuttings

    Use only semi-matured side shoots for cuttings, root with bottom heat and misting, rooting takes 6-8 weeks, harden off for 2 weeks before planting out.

    Special Features

    Wind break

    It is a semi-coastal tree but direct sea wind can result in considerable burn damage from salt-laden wind, so it should be planted where a windbreak offers it some protection from the sea wind. A special feature of this tree is that it makes an excellent firebreak.

    Attracts birds

    Birds, like the Speckled mousebird, feed on the fruit in summer. Birds, bats, monkeys and bush pigs also enjoy the fruit.

    Uses

    Medicinal

    Bark and roots have medicinal value, used to cure broken bones, to treat fevers, to dispel bad dreams, and to treat gall sickness in stock.

    Timber

    The wood of the tree is said to very hard and fine-grained and is used as timber for building boats, bridges and mills.

    Edible

    Ripe purple-black berries are said to be edible, with purple, juicy flesh and sticky white juice.

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