Rapanea melanophloeos

Family: Myrsinaceae
Common names: English: Cape Beech  Afrikaans: Boekenhout  Xhosa: isiQwane sehlati
SA Tree No: 578

This is an evergreen tree that can reach heights of  4 – 18m high.   The Xhosa name isiQwane sehlati, which means ‘Protea of the forest’, and describes the protea-like cluster of the leathery leaves at the end of the branches.  There is a young Cape Beech tree growing in the tree corpse closest to the Indigenous Gardens in Steenbok Nature Reserve. 

The Cape Beech is not related to the European Beech, but earned this name because the grain of its wood looks similar to that of the European Beech.  The flowers attract bees and flies, and the fruit is eaten by birds.



The mature leaves are leathery and dull, dark green, paler below. They are simple, oblong-lanceolate, about 100 mm long, have reddish leaf stalks are and clustered mainly at the end of the branches. When young, leaves are pale green and maroon.

It is surmised that the name Rapanea is derived from the Guinean name. The specific name melanophloeos can be interpreted as ‘dark bark’, but this is only the case in older specimens.

Small, whitish or creamy yellow clusters of flowers appear on the branchlets in winter, spring and early summer (June to December).

Thinly fleshed and spherical in shape, green when young and purple when mature