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Searsia chirindensis (Rhus chirindensis)

(Red Currant)

The red currant is a semi-deciduous shrub to small tree, 6-10 m tall although it may reach 20 m. Young and coppicing branches are armed with spines, although the mature tree is spineless. The flowers are small, yellowish green and are borne in clusters at the ends of the branches from August to March. Male and female flowers occur on separate trees. The edible fruit, which is round, shiny, slightly fleshy, dark reddish brown are borne from December to March, in heavy clusters which can weigh down the branches. They are also enjoyed by people and fruit eating birds like pigeons, louries, bulbuls, barbets and parrots as well as monkeys. The leaves and the bark are browsed by Black Rhino, kudu, duiker, bushbuck and nyala. It can be grown in full sun or partial shade and should be planted in well-drained, composted soil. It does not have an aggressive root system. It will tolerate moderate frosts and is drought hardy. The sap of this tree is used in traditional medicine for treating heart complaints. The bark is also used to strengthen the body, to stimulate circulation and in the treatment of rheumatism and mental disorders. It is the larval host for the Macken's Dart, Burnished Opal, Mooi River Opal, Namaqua Arrowhead and the Pringle's Arrowhead butterflies. The wood is red and is used to make furniture. We have had Mopani worms on the tree in our nursery which delighted my staff as they eat them. A lovey shade tree. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. The name is derived from the Greek rhous, = red; referring to the fruits or the autumn leaves. Named for Paul Sears( 1891-1990) a US plant ecologist and professor who authored many books.

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