Brabejum stellatifolium in flower
Brabejum is a genus of a single species of large evergreen tree, Brabejum stellatifolium in the [Proteaceae]], commonly called wild almond, bitter almond or ghoeboontjie. It is restricted in the wild to South Africa’s Western Cape Province, where it grows in thickets along the banks of streams. The plant is of botanical interest as being Africa’s only member of the large grevilleoid subfamily. It is a bushy small tree with branches widely at ground level and numerous erect vigorous stems. Leaves to 6 in (15 cm) long, narrow and bluntly toothed, appear at intervals along the branches, mostly in whorls of 6. In summer, the plant bears white flowers densely crowded on spikes arising from rusty buds at the leaf axils. The fruits to 2 in (5 cm) long, magenta to reddish brown, similar to an almond, appear in autumn. The nut is too bitter to eat; however, in earlier times it was boiled, roasted, and ground to make a “coffee” drink.
This tree has special significance in Cape Town’s heritage, as it was used to make Van Riebeeck’s Hedge – the Cape’s first formal boundary. Parts of this original hedge can still be seen growing today at Kirstenbosch.
4 Growing Brabejum
7 External links
Despite its common name, this tree is not a member of the almond family, and is in fact a type of Protea. It acquired the name “wild almond” simply because its fruits vaguely resemble almonds. The part-Khoi local name “ghoeboontjie” also refers to the fruit kernels and their use in traditional coffee.
The origin of the tree’s genus name is uncertain, but its species name “stellatifolium” (meaning “star-leaved” or “stellate-leaved”) is a reference to the star-shaped whorls in which its leaves grow. This is sufficiently unusual among tree species, that its whorled phyllotaxis is the most conveniently diagnostic characteristic of Brabejum stellatifolium in regions where the tree is common.
The Brabejum is a spreading, multi-stemmed, well-shaped evergreen tree. It may grow as tall as 15 meters, but has wide spreading branches and a sprawling habit. The smooth bark is pale greyish-brown and attracti