Pterocarpus rotundifolius

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Local names:
Afrikaans (dopperkiaat), English (round-leaved teak,round-leaved kiaat), Zulu (indlandlovu)

Pterocarpus rotundifolius is a multi-stemmed deciduous tree up to 20 m in height. Crown open and roundish, branching from reasonably low down. Bark brownish-grey.

Leaves compound, leaflets 1-3 pairs and a terminal leaflet, glossy, pale green. Nerves conspicuously parallel. Glabrous above and puberulous below. Leaf stalk 3-5 cm long and covered with velvety hairs.

Flowers fragrant, abundant, in terminal inflorescences, 15 cm long; petals yellow, crinkly.

Fruit a reddish brown indehiscent pod.

Pterocarpus is based on the Greek words ‘pteran’ meaning a wing and, ‘karpos’ meaning’ fruit.  The specific epithet “rotundifolius” describes its round or circular leaflets.

Ecology

P. rotundifolius is commonly found in open woodland and wooded grassland, sometimes on rocky hillsides. More common on sandy soils but also on loamy and clay soils. The tree withstands drought and some cold but mainly prefers frost free areas.

Native range
Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania

Tree management

P. rotundifolius grows relatively fast, up to 1 m/year.  Young plants should be protected against cold winds for the first two years and from browsing animals, overgrazing causes coppicing.

Soaking seeds overnight in water enhances germination.

P. rotundifolius is commonly found in open woodland and wooded grassland, sometimes on rocky hillsides. More common on sandy soils but also on loamy and clay soils. The tree withstands drought and some cold but mainly prefers frost free areas.

Can be propagated by seed, cuttings or truncheons. Direct seeding often fails because of seed damage by boring insects. Seeds should be sown after soaking in flat seedling trays filled with river sand. Transplanting into polythene bags is done at the 1-leaf stage, care should be taken to avoid injury to the taproot in the process. Nursery bag soil should preferably have sand, loam and compost composition of (7:2:1). Use of truncheons is the easiest, these are planted around spring when the sap starts rising. The truncheons measuring 10 cm in diameter and 2-3 m long should be planted in sand filled holes, this hastens rooting and dampens fungal growth.

Erosion control:  P. rotundifolius is an important soil conserver with a non-aggressive root system.

Foliage browsed by cattle and game.

Apiculture:  P. rotundifolius is a rich pollen and nectar source strongly preferred by bee farmers.

Timber:  Heart and sapwood indistinguishable, yellow with pale brown markings, moderately heavy (air-dry 848 kg/m³). The wood is used as a general purpose timber on the farm. Large pieces can be used for shelving, kitchen furniture and picture frames.

Shade or shelter:  Provides shelter for animals and nesting sites for birds.

Medicine:  Leaf infusion dropped into sore eyes.

Nitrogen fixing:  Nodulation and nitrogen fixing activity are confirmed in Pterocarpus rotundifolius.

Ornamental:  P. rotundifolius is a very worthwhile subject for gardens because of its profuse flowering.