South Africa2

KKL-JNF's 50 acre Gilat tree nursery in the south is a testing ground for trees from all over the world to see which species are suitable for growing in Israel.

The Crimson King – Schotia Tree from South Africa

Scientific (Latin) name: Schotia brachypetala
Common name: Weeping boer-bean, African walnut
Country of origin: South Africa
Aliya to Israel: about 20 years ago
Schotia brachypetala is native to South Africa. It can grow to a height of anywhere from 5 to 15 meters, depending on planting conditions. The tree gets its new leaves in spring, and they are a very showy bright red as with many savanna trees. The red colour fades through bronze to dark green over a period of 7–10 days.

The exceptionally deep red flowers are produced straight after the new leaves during September and October and are very attractive to bees. They sometimes produce so much nectar that it drips out of the flowers. The waxy, crimson flowers and copious nectar attract a wide variety of birds and insects to the tree. When they are ripe, the large seed pods burst open and various birds come to eat its seeds.

The schotia tree is very suitable for the Negev desert, and is very popular in Kibbutz Revivim. Since it grows slowly, it demands relatively less care and lives longer. As Gilat Nursery Director Pablo Cherkeskey noted, "it's the same with animals, the slower they grow, the slower is the rate of their heartbeats, and the longer they live."

The city of Beersheba, the capital of the Negev, is currently undertaking a project to plant schotia trees to line the city streets. This tree is ideal for this purpose, since it has a wide canopy, its branches don't break easily, and it provides shade for passersby.
The Schotia brachypetala tree. Photo: Tania Susskind