When it comes to plants I’m really a detail guy. The overall presence of a plant is cool but when you look closer that’s when the secret of its beauty can really be revealed! Take for instance this close up image of petals. They look like ivory streamers of satin spotted with jewels of ruby color. Absolutely fascinating. Looking at it makes me feel like i’m in a lap of luxury. So opulent. So vividly uplifting. Today’s object of beauty is called Calodendrum capense commonly known as the Cape Chestnut, however, it is not a true chestnut. It just looks like one. This majestic semi-deciduous tree comes to us from South Africa. I recently discovered it exploding with bloom nestled in a grove of large established leafy green tree canopies. There were so many flowers blooming on it I hardly noticed the foliage.
Beautiful pink petals appear like stars with rich ruby centers projecting decadently luscious streamers of petal-like spotted structures known as staminodes. When you see the profusion of bloom it makes you feel as though you are looking into the face of beauty. As an added bonus some say the flowers produce a light scent of either lemony-pine or, my favorite notion, a strawberry milkshake. Butterflies love ‘em!
Calodendrum capense can get as large as 30 feet tall and wide with a rounded canopy. They produce luxurious, glossy elliptical leaves of rich green. Where temperatures are cool during the winter months foliage takes on a golden autumn color. When early summer arrives, so do copious amounts of flower buds at the ends of stems. The buds burst open with such a display it’ll take your breath away! When flowers fade, a cool capsule forms containing seeds for a future generation. The bark of this tree is used as an ingredient for skin ointments and the seeds of the capsule are considered by the Xhosa people of South Africa to conjure skill and good luck.
Calodendrum capense likes full sun, well-draining soil, regular water, and is hardy to around 20 degrees fahrenheit/-6 degrees celsius. For my friends in South Africa, what a magnificent specimen tree you have! In my honest opinion, this needs to be a street tree that everyone is growing. It would create such an extravagant environment!