With summer upon us it’s important to keep cool and stay out of the harsh rays of the South African sun. This is why today we’re looking at three beautiful evergreens to keep you out of the heat; best of all – they’re all indigenous! Not only does choosing a good shade tree keep you cool, it also keeps buildings, cars and houses cool. By treeifying your space, you’re also ultimately treeifying your temperature, leading to long-term benefits. For example, trees can reduce electricity and air conditioning costs by 25%, a worthy investment for so many reasons! So, here are some of our favourite indigenous evergreens, all of which we currently stock right here!
1. Trichilia emetica. This evergreen can be found all over Kwa-Zulu Natal, hence its common name: Natal mahogany, although it is also widespread in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. It thrives in clay and loam soil and likes a lot of sun, making it a perfect shade tree. The Natal mahogany can reach soaring heights with a large, round crown and should not be planted too close to buildings for this reason.
The beautiful foliage consists of thick, dark green leaves with white flowers blooming between October and December. This is the kind of feature tree that adds magic to landscape, the kind of sturdy evergreen that provides a cool
place for people to gather and for children to play under. With time, a single Trichilia emetica grow into an enormous green ceiling, keeping a house, office or building cool and breezy on those hot summer days.
2. Syzygium guineense is another popular choice amongst landscapers and landscape architects, partly because of its shade but also for its elegant beauty and pale grey bark. Also known as a Waterpear, this evergreen reaches less impressive heights than the Natal Mahogany but is still classified as a medium to large tree. With edible fruits, this tree prefers well-drained soil but is relatively hardy and fast-growing.
The fact that this tree is slightly smaller than the Mahogany yet also provides deep shade makes it a popular choice for planting alongside roads and hot tarmac, such as parking lots. Below to the left, you’ll see a picture from our project last year at Lourensford Estate with Keith Kirsten Horticulture International, where we provided trees for the car park areas. In a few years time these trees will be looming over the hot cars, cooling them (and their drivers) down.
3. Harpephyllum caffrum or Wild Plum is another winner evergreen that has become an increasingly popular choice for landscaping in South Africa. It’s easy to see why, this beautiful evergreen provides deep shade all year round and because it neatly keeps its leaves, it has been used widely as a street tree. It can tolerate very light frost but thrives well in frost-free areas.
The Harpephyllum caffrum can reach up 15m in the wild and attracts a wide variety of beautiful indigenous birds. Its main stem is usually straight and strong, with dark green glossy leaves and tasty plum-like fruit that can be enjoyed by animals and people alike. This tree in fact belongs to the Mango family and its fruit has been used to make jams, jellies and even rosé wine.
Below you’ll see a freshly-planted 1000L Wild Plum at The Vines, a project we did towards the end of last year with Life Landscapes and architects Uys & White. These were planted in Paarl at the Val de Vie Estate and will do a good job at keeping the surrounding houses cool and fresh during those hot summer Paarl days!