For the first time in its 10-year life our White pear tree (Apodytes dimidiata) is absolutely covered in a profusion of beautiful tiny white flowers – the bees are ecstatic and I can’t wait to see the berries that follow and the birds that will enjoy them.
According to the late Elna Venter’s informative Trees of the Garden Route it only flowers so profusely after good rains, producing sprays of the most delicate little white scented flowers. If you look closely you can see the petals curling backwards, making the flowers look like dainty ballerinas dancing among the leaves.
The berries are shiny and black with a fleshy red covering that can be peeled away – hence the scientific name Apodytes which comes from the Greek ‘apodyteon’ –‘to be peeled off’ while dimidiata means to split in half – another reference to the fruit.
This evergreen tree with its glossy bright green leaves makes a good small garden tree. It grows to about 4-5 metres in the open, unlike in the forest where it can reach 25 metres. The root system will not lift up paving stones or foundations so it is safe to plant near the house and the fruit is hard and not messy.
These trees were once very abundant in the Knysna forests and were an important source of wood for making ox wagon wheels and rifle butts. Today the pale, light brown and close-grained wood is much sought after for furniture making.
Contributor: Leonie Twentyman-Jones