Large-fruited Bushwillow [Combretum zeyheri]
Combretum zeyheri Sond
A wide spread, fairly common shrub, up to 4m tall, which grows on both deep sand and loamy sand. The leaves are relatively large compared to other Combretum species.
Flowers and Fruit
The flowers appear in greenish yellow axillary spikes mainly during September and are sweetly scented. It seems that they can flower for a long time or for a second time, as flowers were once observed during February and March. The usually 4-winged, light brown fruit is the largest amongst Combretum species in this area and remains on the shrub even after the leaves have fallen down.
Where they are found
Common throughout South African woodlands, and savannahs.
The shrub has so-called surface roots that are a few milemetres thick and run horizontally for 3 to 4m, about 20cm below the soil surface. These roots are used by women to make strong and decorative baskets. In former times these baskets have been used as plates, and when treated with a special plant paste they became water proof and were used for carrying water from one place to another. Today they are mainly used for storing purposes or are sold for income generation.
Individual designs are achieved by weaving geometrical patterns into the basket and by dying the normally beige roots either dark brown or grey. The dark brown dye is achieved using Kiaat Tree [Pterocarpus angolensis] bark and the grey dye using Wild Seringa [Burkea Africana] bark. Only a few Vasekele women still know the technique of producing these baskets. In addition, the roots are used for making the initiation necklaces for girls. The bark is used as a hair cosmetic. The dry bark is burned and the ash is boiled. The resulting solution is then applied to the hair to straighten it and make it appear longer.
The leaves are used to prepare an infusion against coughs. They are cooked in water and drunk three times per day. The roots provide a remedy for stomach pain. About half-a-finger thick up to an arm thick roots, are dug out and the brown skin of the roots is scraped away. The cleaned roots are then put into a pot with water. The water is only slightly heated by putting the pot next to the fire and a cup of the liquid is drunk three times per day until the patient feels better.
Finger thick branches of the shrub are used for making bows for children, because they do not break as easily as the bows of adults. The children use them to train to shoot with bow and arrow. As the wood is softer than those of the bows for adults, this bow cannot be used for hunting big animals because the shoot is not strong enough.
The Afrikaans name for the Large-fruited Bushwillow is the Raasblaar which means noisy leaf and refers to the rattling noise the leaves and seeds make when affected by wind.