Tree of the Year: 2008
This is a small, evergreen tree occurring from the Western Cape up to Ethiopia in the north. It is found in forests, mountain slopes and shady kloofs. In Platbos Forest, the bladder nut is mostly found as a small, understory tree. Creamy-yellow scented flowers appear from July to November and are followed by red berries encased within a papery calyx. The fruits are enjoyed by many birds such as rameron and African green pigeons, barbets and bulbuls. The attractive glossy green leaves are browsed on by many buck as well as livestock.
The wood is heavy and evenly grained and is excellent for making small household articles and implement handles. The seeds are roasted and used as a coffee substitute and the tree has a number of medicinal uses: bark extracts are administered in the form of enemas to treat infertility, impotency and menstrual pain and leaf and root infusions are used to treat skin rashes.
The bladder nut is a popular bonsai subject and it is used increasingly in landscaping - its neat form and attractive foliage make it a good choice for city gardens.It grows happily in the shade and in containers and is excellent as a clipped hedge.