The hard pear, an evergreen tree, occurs in forests, coastal scrub and on exposed hillsides from the Cape Peninsula to just above the borders of the Transkei. Under forest conditions it has proven itself to be the fastest growing of the indigenous trees.
The bark is smooth and grayish in young trees, becoming rough and scaly with a reddish tinge as it ages. The trees are spectacular when in flower (Aug to Oct), for although small, the white flowers are borne in profusion and are sweetly scented. The red, berry-like fruit are eaten by birds such as mousebirds, louries and doves. Seeds are only produced every 5 to 7 years and do not germinate easily - perhaps this accounts for why this beautiful tree remains relatively unknown.
All parts of the tree smell strongly of almonds when crushed, and the dead wood gives off a glorious incense when burnt. The Xhosa name for it means "tree without embers", indicating that in spite of its perfume, it does not make good braai wood! The timber is hard, heavy and comparable to walnut. It was used for telegraph poles and wagon-making in the past. Today it is mainly used for furniture and musical instruments.