Croton sylvaticus

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Local names:
Afrikaans (boskoorsbessie), English (woodland croton,forest fever berry), Xhosa (umfeze,umagwaqane), Zulu (umzilanyoni,umhloshazane,ugebeleweni,indulambahlozi)

Croton sylvaticus is a tree growing up to 30 m tall, with a dense spreading crown, bole straight, up to 1 m in diameter. Bark smooth on young branches; stems grey, roughly fissured and strongly aromatic.

Leaves simple, broadly ovate, alternate, smooth and dark green; 3-5 nerved, leaf margin shallowly toothed; leaf tip acuminate, base cuneate, rounded or subcordate, 5-15 cm long and up to 10 cm wide. Leaf stalk 10 cm long with 2 prominent knob-like glands at junction of stalk and leaf blade.

Flowers 3 mm long, cream coloured; placed on long terminal inflorescences up to 20 cm long, male flowers at top and female flowers at lower part of inflorescence. Male flowers are petalled.

Fruit a 3-seeded short stalked capsule; 1 cm long, surface slightly warted and salmon orange.

The scientific names summed up mean the ‘woodland croton’.


C. sylvaticus is normally found in coastal forest, evergreen woodland and stream banks.

Native range
Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, Uganda

Tree management

The growth rate of the forest fever tree is very fast, about 1.5 m/ year. Prefers deep shade conditions but can even survive full sunlight. The tree is vulnerable to cold wind, if planted in cold areas young plants must be protected against cold winds and frost for the first two seasons. Transplanting should normally be done at the 2-leaf stage.

The seeds take 14-21 days to germinate. Germination is even.

C. sylvaticus is normally found in coastal forest, evergreen woodland and stream banks.

Direct seeding is preferred, the seeds are sown in a mixture of sand and compost (1:2) then covered lightly with fine compost and kept moist.

Poison:  The bark is used as fish poison.

The fruits are very popular with birds and can be promising as poultry feed.

The wood is excellent fuel, burning even when green.

Timber:  Wood yellowish-white, streaked, soft, light and easily worked.

Shade or shelter:  C. sylvaticus is an important shade tree, the Venda name “muima-vanda” means ‘stand in courtyard’, however planting should not be very close to buildings because of its rather weak root system.

Medicine:  The root is a remedy for indigestion whereas the bark is used for chest problems and rheumatism. Leaves made into a poultice to treat pleurisy. In Kenya tree parts are used to treat malaria.

Ornamental:  C. sylvaticus is a beautiful shade tree suitable for avenues, parks and gardens.

Poles used in fence construction.