Terminalia sericea has reddish-brown branches. The leaves are crowded at the ends of branches, narrowly obovate-elliptic with smooth margins, blue-green above, paler below, densely covered in silvery hairs. It flowers mostly in September–January. The flowers are in axillary spikes and are pale yellow to creamy white. The fruit is an oval nut surrounded by a flat wing. The fruits are often parasitized and form deformed masses of thin round galls.
Distribution and habitat
Terminalia sericea occurs in a variety of types of open woodlands particularly on sandy soils. It may grow as a dominant or co-dominant species in mixed deciduous forests such as Brachystegia, mopane, Combretum or Acacia forest. It occurs from Tanzania and the DRC southwards to Angola and Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. A good place in South Africa to find silver cluster-leaf is the Kruger National Park (KNP) area.
Uses and cultural aspects
Terminalia sericea is important in traditional medicine. The leaves and roots are boiled in water and the infusion is taken orally for the treatment of coughs, diarrhoea and stomach aches. The leaves can be used as an antibiotic for wounds. In case of bleeding, a paste can be made by cooking the leaves in water and placing them on the wounds. The wood is used as a source of energy for cooking and boiling water, for constructing huts, for fencing material and for solid structures. Leaves are food for caterpillars during the rainy season.