Namibia's Tree Of The Year 2023: Silver Cluster-leaf

18 Oct 2023

Its wood is not only yellowish, but also hard and termite-resistant. This is why it is often used as a building material and for making fence posts and furniture. Namibia officially unveiled the Silver Cluster-Leaf (Terminalia sericea) as the Tree of the Year 2023 on Friday.

The occasion was the national Arbor Day, which is celebrated in Namibia every year on the second Friday in October. In Okahandja, about 80 km north of Windhoek, 100 trees native to the area were planted on Saturday, including a Silver Cluster-Leaf, according to the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI).

Okahandja marks the western boundary of its range, which stretches from Tanzania through the Democratic Republic of Congo down to South Africa. In Namibia, the Silver Cluster-Leaf is found mainly in the north, north-east and east of the country, according to the Tree Atlas of Namibia. It needs sandy soil and is found on plains and dunes as well as along dry river courses.

Silver Cluster-Leaf Terminalia sericea Tree of the Year 2023 Namibia
Namibia's Tree of the Year 2023: The Silver Cluster-Leaf (Terminalia sericea). 
Photo (October 2014, Seringveld, South Africa): JMK, Wikipedia

The wood of the tree is used as firewood and for the production of charcoal. In the north and north-east of Namibia, people extract a substance from its bark to seal boats. They also make ropes from the bark.

In addition, the Silver Cluster-Leaf is a true traditional pharmacy. Leaves and roots help against stomach ailments. A decoction from the roots is used to treat bilharzia, diarrhoea and pneumonia. And the bark helps against diabetes and is used to dress wounds.

Leaves with silky hair

The genus name Terminalia [in italics] comes from the Latin word 'terminus' ('boundary') and indicates that the leaves are mainly attached to the very end of the twigs. Sericea [in italics], the name of the species, is derived from the Latin word 'sericatus', translated roughly as 'clothed with silky hair', which describes the downy foliage (see also Wikipedia).

The bluish-green leaves are ovate and have silvery hairs on their upper and lower sides. The bark is reddish to grey-brown and peels off in strips. In forests, the Silver Cluster-Leaf grows up to 9 metres high. Solitary trees reach a height of up to 23 metres.

The tree's white flowers grow in short, axillary panicles. With their unpleasant smell, they attract flies for pollination. As fruits, the yellowwood tree develops small nuts that contain a single seed and turn dark pink as they ripen. The nutlets have small lamellae to be carried away by the wind.

NBRI plants Bird Plum tree  

tree planting Bird Plum Eembe Phyllogeiton discolor Leevi Nanyeni NBRI BOTSOC Botanical Garden Windhoek Namibia
Tree with a view: Botanic Garden curator Leevi Nanyeni plants a Bird Plum tree (Phyllogeiton discolor [in italics]) at the new viewpoint on Namibian Arbor Day. 
Photo: Sven-Eric Stender


The NBRI and the Botanical Society of Namibia (BOTSOC) planted a wild date in the National Botanic Garden in Windhoek on Arbor Day. Visitors will find the young tree on the western crest of the hill, which offers a beautiful view of the grounds and the city.

More about the Bird Plum tree (Phyllogeiton discolor [in italics]) can be found on Wikipedia and in a blog post of the Gondwana Collection Namibia.

Sven-Eric Stender

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