Virgilia divaricata

Common names: pink Blossom Tree, pink Keurboom (Eng.); keurboom, amakwasboom (Afr.)

Family: Fabaceae
SA Tree No: 221

This small to medium sized tree is a very affective pioneer plant.  It has a bushy, rounded to broadly conical growth habit with branches growing close to the ground. V. divaricata rarely exceeds 10 m in height.  The bark is silver-grey and smooth in young trees; as the tree gets older the bark turns grey and rough. The trunk can grow up to 600 mm in diameter. The leaves are pinnately compound and have 5-9 pairs of leaflets plus a terminal one.

The keurboom has beautiful, sweetly scented, sweet-pea-like flowers in dense terminal sprays about 100 mm long. V. divaricata has pinkish mauve to violet-pink flowers and the keel has dark purple tips.  The long, velvety, flat, brown pods are 50 – 80 mm long and becomes black with age.  The pods then split into 2 valves releasing 2 – 6 seeds.

The Afrikaans common name was inspired by the beauty of these trees,and means ‘the pick of all trees’ (keur meaning’ choice’ and boom, ‘tree’, pronounced to sound like cure bwoom).

The flowers are rich in nectar and attract many insects and birds, such as sunbirds, carpenter bees, honey bees and ants.  You might even find a dove or white eye nesting among the branches. In the forest, the large handsome ghost moth, Leto venus, lays its eggs at the foot of the keurboom so that the hatching caterpillars can bore into the wood. The blue butterfly, known as the Lucerne Blue, Lampides boeticus, breeds on lucerne and on keurboom trees.