Common Name: Cape chestnut
Origin: Kenya to South Africa
Features/Uses: Calodendron capense grow as a single trunk medium sized tree with a dense, deep green canopy. They make for excellent specimen trees or small shade trees. In early summer the foliage is almost completely eclipsed by profuse pale pink flowers. SDBG staff have recently been working with the City of Encinitas in efforts to see more of these trees planted throughout the city.
Growth Habit: Cape chestnut trees will grow quickly in conditions similar to eastern equatorial Africa. In San Diego they’re a bit slower because of it being cooler and drier. Ultimately these trees develop into picturesque specimens of dome shaped, deep green foliage atop a squat single trunk featuring smooth gray bark. Generally evergreen but producing delicate yellow fall color in more challenging areas. Panicles of pink flowers grow at the terminals of each branch, temporarily obscuring the large shiny green opposite oval leaves. The large woody fruit represented in this plant’s common name is rarely produced in southern California.
Bloom Time: Early Summer
Cultural Requirements: Calodendron capense does best where there is deep, fertile soil and plentiful moisture. Trees in habitat are often found in ravines similar to the way oak populations behave in our area. A deep layer of organic mulch will help to foster the fertility and maintain the moisture levels needed to make these trees thrive. Planting Cape chestnuts in a hot location will encourage the best flower displays from this species. Pruning need is minimal and should emphasize structural thinning cuts. Pest pressure is negligible. Young trees will need to be protected from frost, but established trees can tolerate down to 20°F. Trees grown from seed will need 7 or 8 years to produce flowers but plants can also be propagated via cuttings.
Where in the Garden: South African and Rainforest gardens
Photos: Rachel Cobb