To the gardener who likes variety in the garden, Searsia pyroides should not be left out. This is a good species to provide textural variation in your garden. You will not be alone in choosing this tree as it has been chosen as the Tree of the Year for 2007 together with Pavetta schumanniana.
This is a deciduous shrub or a small to medium-sized, multistemmed tree, frequently with spines. The bark is rough and grey. The leaves are compound, composed of three leaflets (tri-foliate). The leaves are borne on slender stalks, which are furrowed above. The leaflets are oval, narrowing at both ends, sometimes with a short tip. The largest leaflets are up to 70 x 30 mm with a round or a flat tip. They are smooth or velvety above, the lower surface is usually slightly hairy. The midrib and the secondary veins are conspicuous and raised below.
The flowers are inconspicuous and greenish in branched bunches in the axils of the leaves and at the end of the branches.
The fruits ripen in summer to late autumn. They are borne in such quantities that the branches bend with the weight. The fruits are round and small, white and red when ripe.
Searsia pyroides is ecologically important in South Africa as are many other species in this genus. As it is found in many vegetation types, it plays a role as a pioneer species in the cycle of plant succession. Birds are particularly fond of the fruits. Wattled Starling and Red-eyed Bulbuls have been seen gorging on them. Elephant, impala and kudu eat shoots and young leaves.
Uses and cultural aspects
The wood is used to make hoe handles. The branches are used to build kraals. The fruit is edible, with a pleasant, sweet-acidic taste. As herdboys we used to enjoy fruit from the wild, among those were Searsia pyroides, Scolopia mundii, Grewia occidentalis and Ziziphus mucronata.
This is a wonderfully decorative tree in a garden. It can also be used as a hedge.