African Holly – ‘Solanum giganteum’

I came across this small tree growing on the mountain quite close to the tar road. I only noticed it because of the Christmas red berries that have started their lovely display. It is called ‘Solanum Giganteum’ and although it is a distant cousin of the invasive bugweed – the African holly is meant to be here and is very much an indigenous tree occurring in all provinces as well as Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

It is typically found in forest margins and clearings, also shady riverbanks as it prefers a damp spot or high rainfall areas. The bright red berries start out green changing to orange and finally red. They remain on the tree for many months thus providing food for a no of birds in the winter months. The stems and branches are spiny and a little scraggly.

The African Holly can be cultivated easily from seed. It grows quickly and can bear fruit  in it’s 2nd year already.  It is useful at the back of a border especially for the display it’s bright red berries make and for attracting bird life.

It is highly medicinal and another common name for it is the ‘healing – leaf tree’. The leaves and berries were once used to treat wounds and throat ulcers.

I have saved some of the berries and will plant out the seeds in Spring – hopefully they will germinate.

It is SA tree no 669.4 – not sure what the .4 means.

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