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Ask Ernst | Trees for Transvaal gardens

Published on February 23rd 2020
A large tree in a park
This week, Ernst van Jaarsveld shares on indigenous trees suitable for a Highveld garden. If you're planting a new garden or would like to add some shade to your garden, keep reading to find out which trees are suitable for planting in this frost-prone area as well as which trees are best for planting close to boundary walls.
A question from Pretoria: We're building a retirement home in Midstream and I would like to know what indigenous trees will be suitable for planting there. I was thinking perhaps the following trees would be suitable: Fever tree, Tree Wisteria, Cabbage Tree, Small Ironwood, Oldwood, and the Coral tree. Of course, the old Sweet Thorn, White Stinkwood, Wild peach and the Wild Plum.
Then I would also like to know, which of these trees has an aggressive root system? I have heard that one should rather not plant a Fever Tree and a Coral Tree close to a wall. I am considering planting some trees on the sidewalk - about 4 meters from the building? Will it be possible?


The only thing that can cause difficulty is frost and would depend on the location of the yard - if it's on a slope, you're pretty safe. The trees you have listed should work well planted there. You will have to protect the trees for the first few winters during the coldest times of winter.
Tree Wisteria (Bolusanthus speciosus) is quite cold resistant and very beautiful with its purple flowers in summer. The Mountain Cabbage Tree (Cussonia paniculata) should preferably be planted there as it is frost resistant. You can plant the Small Ironwood (Olea capensis) if you are able to get hold of it.
Bolusanthus speciosa

Tree Wisteria

Bolusanthus speciosus

Cussonia spicata

Cabbage Tree

Cussonia spicata

Ironwood Tree. Olea Capensis. Cape Town.

Small Ironwood

Olea capensis

Oldwood (Leucosidea sericea) is actually more of a large shrub found on the highveld and very frost resistant. In addition, it is the only tree that grows into the Drakensberg peaks.
The Coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon) is also easy to grow but is frost tender. White stinkwood (Celtis africana), Wild Peach (Kiggelaria africana) will thrive here and the Wild Plum (Harpephyllum caffrum) will also be ideal. Coral Tree and White Stinkwood are deciduous trees.
Harpephyllum caffrum, Wildepruim
The Sweet Thorn (Vachellia karoo) is fast-growing and a pioneer who has nitrogen-binding nodules on its roots and is friendly to everything that grows under it.
Of these trees, it is only the Cabbage tree that has roots that swell and should not be planted near construction. The roots of the Fever tree and Coral tree are similar to the other trees, but one is never guaranteed as there are always exceptions.
You can also keep the following trees in mind: White Cape Beech (Pittosporum viridiflorum), White Pear (Apodytes dimidiata), Pompon Tree (Dais cotinifolia), Pride of the Transvaal (Galpinia transvaalica), Wild Olive (Olea europaea subsp. africana), Mountin Hard Pear (Olinia emarginata), and the Paper Bark Tree (Vachellia sieberiana var. woodii), all frost resistant choices.
Wild olive tree, Olienhoutboom